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Do We Still Know Our Audience? July 24, 2009

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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This article is a guest post by Steve Pena, Instructional Designer and Implementation Consultant, SyberWorks, Inc. Thanks, Steve!

We’re all fond of saying “Know your audience.” But how many of us track our audiences’ rapidly changing demographics? If you’re like me, it’s not a daily action item. But I just received a reminder of how much the audience for my work (and perhaps yours too) may change in the coming decade.

Every year since 1998, Beloit College has published its entertaining and revealing “Mindset List,” ® which “…is an effort to identify the experiences that have shaped the lives-and formed the mindset-of students starting their post-secondary education this fall.” And Beloit has dubbed the latest class (of 2009-2012) the first “Net Generation.” In only four years, these students will join our work force, and according to Beloit’s mindset list:

  • Drink electronic media like water, and breathe broadband communications like air.
  • They may have been given a Nintendo Game Boy to play with in the crib.
  • GPS satellite navigation systems have always been available.
  • Electronic filing of tax returns has always been an option.
  • Caller ID has always been available on phones.
  • The Hubble Space Telescope has always been eavesdropping on the heavens.
  • IBM has never made typewriters.

To these, I’d add:

  • AT&T has never enjoyed a telephone monopoly.
  • They do much of their phoning for free over the Web.
  • The Web has always existed.

As each college year begins, this list is a good reminder of how dramatically and rapidly our future e-Learning audiences are changing. And as Beloit reminds us about this year’s group:

“The class of 2012 has grown up in an era where computers and rapid communication are the norm… These students will hardly recognize the availability of telephones in their rooms since they have seldom utilized landlines during their adolescence. They will continue to live on their cell phones and communicate via texting. Roommates, few of whom have ever shared a bedroom, have already checked out each other on Facebook where they have shared their most personal thoughts with the whole world.”

This means a lot for the e-Learning community. The class of 2012 may not be the first to habitually seek much of its information from Web blogs, Wikis, Google, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. And it won’t be the last.

This doesn’t mean that we must immediately revamp the way we create and deliver e-Learning (or as some are now calling it: “Emerging Learning”). But it does remind us that:

  • New electronic channels and Web media are opening every year for our products, services, and promotional information.
  • The world’s next “movers and shakers” will increasingly expect us to deliver content over these new channels, and will seek out our content and services there.
  • They won’t allow themselves to remain bored for long by e-Learning materials that don’t grab and hold their interest.

And these are things we all should keep in mind, regardless of how we do things today!

About the Author:
Steve Pena is a Senior Instructional Designer and Implementation Consultant at SyberWorks, Inc., Waltham, Mass.

Interested in writing for eLearning Weekly?

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