Teaching millennials is not easy. But that is not a bad thing. These social media savvy, smart, flash fast smartphone tappers’ generation of humanity was born in an age dramatic technological transformation. Their attention spans may seem shorter but their insights are often sharper. What I have also noticed is that you cannot make them do things they are not interested in or don’t find useful. For two long days, my job was to prove to a bunch of millennials that analytics was interesting and useful. To add to it all, I had never taught millennials before. While it is quite common for trainers and educators to feel a bit demotivated in the modern classroom, it is also a great opportunity to get a grip on what works and what does not in terms of pedagogy, teaching methodology and teaching styles while teaching millennials. In short, it’s a great learning opportunity for people in the business of knowledge sharing.
So this is what I experienced when I recently went to Gurgaon for a training assignment on Analytics, not something I do that often. The institute offers a one-year Post Graduation programme in MBA. I was assigned two topics to teach and there were two batches that needed to be taught both. I taught topic 1 to batch 1 in the morning and then to batch 2 post lunch. This continued with topic 2 on the second day.
I had designed a delivery system which was a mix of short lectures and intensive hands on sessions which were based on a case study. My students already knew the basics of Statistics and were conversant with statistical tools like SPSS, MS Excel and Tableau.
However, only Batch 1 had undergone course in R/R-Studio. Batch 2 did not know anything about R whatsoever. This made quite a difference because I had prepared my material with R. While Batch 1 was highly engaged with some even giving good verbal feedback in class, Batch 2 proved to be quite a challenge for obvious reasons. So for Batch 2, I had to improvise with MS Excel, something I had not anticipated. While this could be attributed to some miscommunication between all parties involved, the facts were, I had two days in which I had to teach Advanced Analytics to a set number of students.
After the first day’s fiasco, the next day a decision was made by the faculty that the students of Batch 2 would solve the case study using SPSS. I went in that day happily feeling sorted, with no idea that not one student had SPSS installed on their machines :). They had all somehow used a 30-day trial version for their previous training and it had expired now. Some tried to download a new copy but the internet was rather slow. Subsequently I was faced with a class of very disengaged students. In the end there were just two students who had SPSS and used it and then there were the rest trying to improvise with MS Excel but far from interested. This was also far from ideal.
While my two days were over, their education was not. What I noticed in Batch 2 irrespective of the software glitch was that the majority of them did not really want to learn analytics. They were just part of system that mandated that they should. Most of them had their futures already sorted out with job offers from various companies once they finished their final semester.
In India education and training is very pathway specific. So if a person wants to become a marketer, the person generally ends up going down the MBA route with no prior industry experience. In two years, the said person is taught everything about how a business runs, made to do a short internship and wham the person can now put on a suit. Along the way the educational institution might decide that the person needs to learn analytics. Now, I am not saying this is a bad way of getting an education and equipping the next generation of business leaders. But maybe, there is a better way.
If I train millennials again, I will be doing a lot of things differently. And I will start by asking them how they want to learn and why they think it will be useful for them. The much used Hebrew proverb ““A child is not a vessel to be filled, but a lamp to be lit” is actually even more true for millennials. As educators we need to be dynamic in adapting our teaching and training styles according to the changing environment. Millennials are a lot surer about what they want from life and the future. It’s time educators began respecting that about them, while leveraging this confidence to educate better and smarter. Because any knowledge sharing fails if those who are there to learn, don’t, for whatever reason. Teaching millennials well is important because they are the future. What do you think?