Friday, June 22, 2018
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Millennials and learning preferences

IT IS OFTEN cited that the median age of Filipinos is 23. This means that for the foreseeable future, most of the new hires and young professionals will be in this growing age group.

This fact presents new challenges and opportunities, among them ensuring the proper training and development of these so-called “millennials.”

But choosing the most effective way to teach them has been more complicated than anticipated.  What most educators have assumed would be the most natural fit for millennials, that is, online learning, has not always proven to be a hit with this age group.


The more traditional “face to face” interaction is still popular, and even preferred.  (I should also explain that this pertains only to the millennials’ preferred mode of learning; the best way to “sell” such courses is still through social media and online sites.)

This preference has been a surprise to educational institutions that have spent a fortune on curriculum conversion to online.   After all, shouldn’t this new generation, the first who grew up totally online, prefer all things online?

Reasons are plentiful, but are still mostly hypotheses, such as the perception that the Internet is “free” therefore, if one pays, one has to “see” someone. Another explanation is that there are less distractions during traditional classes, whereas there are so many other sites to look at when online.

Intrigued by this paradox, I decided to run a short experiment with some of my younger friends and staff.   The premise was: An uncle gives you P5,000 to spend on a short course, say Effective Writing.  You already know a traditional face to face provider, with a good curriculum and reputation.  However, you’ve also found an alternative: An online course on the same topic, with an unknown provider, but cheaper at P4,000.   Your uncle is ambivalent, so you get to keep the P1,000 difference.  What would you choose?

True to the contradiction I outlined earlier, 9 out of 10 respondents chose the more expensive P5,000 alternative, rather than learn online and save.   Some quotes explaining their chosen option: “If I want online courses, there are tons of YouTube videos available. Why would I pay?” Also:  “I will get lazy with an online course. Having a face to face discussion is an assurance for me that I will stay in the course all throughout.  I’m still willing to forgo the P1,000 savings to maximize learning.”

Other interesting reasons given for their choice include:  “Internet service is sometimes unreliable” and “I’m more comfortable learning in a classroom setting than online class.”  And finally, “I find it easier to ask questions face to face.”

So there you have it.  Based on our short survey (admittedly more anecdotal than scientific), traditional learning is strongly preferred by millennials.  Something for HR practitioners and learning providers to take note.  But maybe we should extend this research to the public out there:  Dear young professional, based on the scenario described above, what would you choose? Let us know at

Glenn San Luis is Executive Director of Inquirer Academy.  The Inquirer Academy will soon offer a series on Understanding Millennials at Work, starting May 13, on the topic “Developing Career Resilience” followed on May 24 with “Enhancing Maturity at Work.”


Contact 8341557 or visit to know about the Academy and upcoming workshops.

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