Age is More Than a Number: Blended Learning Educates Learners of All Generations

As every staff educator knows, each learner has different learning preferences and abilities. These differences pose a challenge:

Educators must work to ensure that learners master certain skills and acquire the knowledge they need to practice safely in the healthcare environment.

Fortunately, educators can develop quality educational programs that reach a diverse group of learners through a blended learning approach.

Blended learning refers to education by various means for a single purpose. In most hospitals, blended learning combines traditional live classes with alternative methods, such as online learning, skills labs, and simulation activities, for the purpose of staff education.

The variety of online learning choices addresses the needs of a diverse group of adult learners. Technology provides various tools for blended learning, including:

  • Media, such as audio and video on tape or DVD
  • Simulation labs
  • Computer-based training, such as:
    • E-learning or web-based training
    • Online collaboration
    • Synchronous and asynchronous chats
    • Webcasts and telecasts

To blend online learning with other types of education effectively, carefully consider who your learners are. For example, consider using generational learning principles to guide the development of your lesson plans. Although every learner has different needs, research suggests that members of each generation tend to respond in certain ways to different learning situations.

Veterans (born 1922 to 1945)Veterans like to be recognized for their extensive experience. With their varied backgrounds, they may contribute greatly to group learning, which validates their value. Because veterans may be less comfortable with e-learning and have less advanced computer skills, consider using a traditional classroom setting with group discussions to engage them.

Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964) Most Baby Boomers prefer a traditional classroom setting or computer-based education that is led by an instructor.

Generation X (born 1965 to 1980)Generation X learners are independent and self-directed and have solid computer skills. Try using self-paced learning and computer-based education with this group.

Generation Y (born 1981 to 2000)Learners from Generation Y are highly skilled in computer-based learning because they grew up with this technology. For them, prepare to use self-paced learning and computer-based education. Because Generation Y learners also are accustomed to working in groups or teams, plan to include group discussions too.

No matter who your learners are, evaluate them on the continuum of generational preferences. Also consider having them complete a learning preference assessment.

Colleen Seeber-Combs, RN, MSN, Senior Clinical Editor at Elsevier | MC Strategies, notes that “It’s much easier to develop a blended learning program using specialized tools, such as the Blended Learning Assessment Tool, that are available in AACN’s Introduction to Blended Learning course. These tools help staff educators identify the characteristics of the target audience to create the right mix of blended learning experiences, which can provide quality education in less time and with fewer resources.”

For more on blended learning and its application, check out AACN’s Introduction to Blended Learning course. Call 866-416-6697 or email [email protected] for details.

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