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NogginLabs was founded on the notion that custom e-learning design and development is the ultimate horizontal industry. Time and again, each new project, client, and industry proves it. The biggest advantage of the e-learning horizontal is cross-pollinating ideas from two wildly different domains. A restaurant service simulation for iPad may influence a high-fashion online retail challenge. E-learning for financial advisors in a bank could inspire a mobile outreach program for cancer survivors. This variety also keeps the creative folks at NogginLabs fresh. Fresh learning ideas and designs come from a set of constantly changing constraints.

Millennials are not the problem; your terrible e-learning is.


Millennials are not the problem; your terrible e-learning is.

Lindsay Bland

In case you haven’t turned on the interwebs lately, it’s very “in” to complain about Millennials right now. We’re going to ruin the world, haven’t you heard? As a Millennial myself, I’d just like to say on behalf of Millennials everywhere that we suck and we’re sorry.

Now that we have that totally genuine and heartfelt apology out of the way, let’s talk about Millennials some more because that’s what us Millennials love to do. The title of this blog post is actually a direct quote I overheard in a meeting recently. The source? None other than the founder and fearless leader of NogginLabs, Brian Knudson. Naturally, I dusted off the ol’ soap box and sat down with him to learn more about his views on the ever-popular “Millennial issue."

We hear a lot of buzz words in the e-learning industry, and there’s a lot of buzz lately around the idea of the “Millennial learner.” Should companies be considering Millennials first when they are working on new training initiatives?

BK: Let me talk like a politician for a little bit. The short answer is yes, you should be considering your audience. If you have an audience of a particular age group, you should consider what’s interesting to them. But no, there is nothing special about Millennials as a generation over every other generation. So, yes and no.

The general idea that by some kind of artificially assigned birth date you are stereotyped into a particular generation is an invention of the old. If anything, what needs to be stereotyped are the older generations. It’s so amusing as I get older, watching this happen. My parents said weird things about us playing video games when we were growing up. Now my generation is running all the businesses. Now as my generation gets older, we’re talking about how kids these days can’t stay focused and need constant recognition.

Is that true of some people or even many people within an age group? Yes, but it’s also been true within every single generation. In my opinion, it’s an absolute fallacy and it’s a sign of getting old that you think that the generation or two generations or three generations behind you are somehow fundamentally different. It’s the “I walked two miles in the snow” type attitude.

It’s very closed-minded to think that Millennials as an entire group, one of the largest generations since the Baby Boomers, all think the same way and act the same way. 

Millennials make up roughly one third of the workforce today, but here at NogginLabs Millennials make up a large majority of our staff. Does that impact the way you run the company?

BK: We recruit a huge part of our workforce from that group and I haven’t changed our recruiting style since we started the company in 1997, before Millennials were part of the workforce. We look for people that have a good work ethic, are interested in creating the best, enjoy being told they are doing a good job, and are interested in working on projects that intrigue them.

Do Millennials learn differently from other generations?

BK: Everybody wants to have engaging, interesting learning. Millennials want it, Generation X wants it, the Greatest Generation wants it. Bad e-learning is fairly universal. Even as successful as NogginLabs is, we represent a small sliver of a percentage of the online learning market. If you combine all the custom e-learning companies together, ours would still be less than 5% of all the learning that people take online, and most of it is terrible. So should you think about what would engage your learners all the time? Yes. Will gamification, business simulations, and social competition keep Millennials engaged? Yes. Will these same learning approaches keep Baby Boomers engaged? Yes.

Everyone is craving something that is engaging, and it’s frankly demeaning to design a course that you think Millennials will like, assuming that they are incapable of concentration. That’s one I hear a lot. They need such small snippets of information in order to pay attention. Yeah, if your stuff is crap. If you have powerpoints that drone on and on then yeah, they can probably only suffer through five minutes of that. But if you put them in an immersive simulation, guess what? I bet they could handle hanging out for an hour or more. I bet they’ve done it on a few video games they’ve played. 

So why all the hype about Millennial learners? Where is this coming from?

BK: It’s just a ludicrous concept. The people who come up with these ideas are folks that build bad e-learning. They are trying to figure out, “How can I continue to build bad e-learning but have Millennials like it? I know, let’s put a leaderboard for how many times you can take my bad e-learning. Millennials will love that!” People want and crave engaging online experiences. Just dumping content online and forcing people to take it is never going to work, no matter what generation you’re in.