How can edtech prepare to train the workforce of the future?

Brad Tombling explores changing in learning styles that training providers will need to consider for future generations

There has been a lot of talk recently about Generation Z, more affectionately known as the ‘iGeneration’.  Known for being technology obsessed, Gen-Zers are those born between 1995 and 2010.

Whilst Gen Z are shaping the immediate future, a look ahead to this future generation (those born after 2010) indicates that some changes in learning styles may be on the horizon.

Generation Alpha is predicted to be the most influential generation of the 21st Century. By 2025, Generation Alpha will account for 2 billion of the global population. As the most technologically infused generation, they use smartphones and tablets as easily as previous generations used a crayon and paper. Siri and Alexa are household voices for Generation Alpha and artificial intelligence is expected to be mainstream by the time these youngsters reach their twenties.

It is predicted that Generation Alpha will be the most diverse, educated and technologically literate in history. In fact, technology is considered so important for this generation that 27% of Gen Alpha parents think their child values their iPad or iPhone more than anything else.

Generation Alpha are pioneering the use of technology, seeing it as part of the furniture. The real challenge for training providers, therefore, will be catering for this forward-thinking generation. How will providers best communicate with them? How will Gen Alpha learn best? What will be the best tools to enhance their learning experience?

Communicating with Generation Alpha 

As we look to the future, it is vital that we learn how best to communicate with Generation Alpha. Training providers need to understand Gen Alpha’s thought process, ‘learn their language’, and understand their preferred communication methods. It is thought that the traditional hierarchical communication style associated with learning will become redundant and a more collaborative approach will work best for this generation.

Generation Alpha are thought to benefit from mentors who engage, equip and entrust learners. Simply lecturing at Generation Alpha is likely to have little benefit. This generation need to be involved in the learning process, and this learning style certainly lends itself to apprenticeships and other forms of vocational training. With on-the-job training allowing learners to experiment and learn from their mistakes, apprenticeships are going to be a vital learning style for this generation.

Generation Alpha are used to learning through self-discovery. In order to maximise their chances as learners, we need to provide tools and training in a style that suits them, for example through bite sized videos or interactive platforms.

Delivering the best learning outcomes for Generation Alpha 

Generation Alpha are going to benefit from technological advancement, and it is critical that the training industry adapts accordingly. We have already adopted augmented reality and simulation within some apprenticeships such as engineering where there is risk associated with experimentation, but perhaps yet more disruptive technologies could be utilised – technologies that will allow this generation to explore their critical thinking skills and provide them with the opportunity to learn through doing.

Educators are going to find it challenging to cope with the demands of Gen Alpha if they fail to evolve their offering and adopt a new approach to education. As we emerge from the pandemic, the automatic response may be to return to traditional learning methods. The learnings around digital delivery from lockdown, however, should not be forgotten. If we have learned anything through this process it is that a blended style of learning can be hugely productive. Not only does this teaching style allow learners to have a means to collaborate and to feedback in the moment, but it will also allow for the latest technologies to be utilised.

It’s predicted that Generation Alpha will co-live with Artificial Intelligence. It is important that training providers learn to do the same.  Perhaps artificial intelligence, which learns through data, could be used to determine the most effective style of learning for every apprentice. Artificial intelligence may, for example, be able to determine the best times for learners to study and add tasks and reminders throughout the day based upon this information. It may also serve personalised content to learners in a way that best suits their learning style, such as with short videos, articles or more hands-on tasks.

How can the training industry prepare? 

Some of these adaptations to learning structures are already slowly evolving. We are already seeing the benefits of more data-driven insights for each learner. But with Generation Alpha set to be the most diverse generation yet, we should be preparing ahead for a more personalised learning journey. We expect to see even more significantly that what works for some learners may not work for others. Excitingly, we fully expect that technology will individualise training and give young people the best possible start in life.

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