Explaining Elearning to Non-Digital Natives

When I started my role with Learnkit, I was eager to share the good news of my new job with my parents. They’ve always been supportive of my career path and understand the importance of training and development for every type of organization. However, there was a bit of a struggle when I told them I was now an Elearning Instructional Designer.


The conversation I had with my father went something like this:

Me: Dad I got that job I was telling you about!


Dad: Great work son, what will you’ll be doing again?


Me: I’ll be developing elearning solutions.


Dad: What do you mean by elearning? Like, online videos that people would watch? Or putting books online so that we can download them?


Me: Not really – it’s more creating interactive digital material, that gives you the hands-on experience that you need to gain new skills, and in a lot of cases can replace in-class instruction.


Dad: OK so like YouTube but I can also do activities?


Me: ….yeah something like that.


For the past 5 years, I’ve had the opportunity to teach a variety of students in an in-person, facilitation environment. In my last role working for a college, I taught in a blended learning atmosphere, which combined in-person facilitation with technology and elearning solutions. During this time, the college made a switch to become completely digital, which meant a switch from all students receiving textbooks, to receiving tablets. Instead of students learning particular topics or skills from an instructor, they would learn them through interactive elearning.


The college student population ranged from millennials to baby boomers and was a mix of digital natives and others who were technologically challenged. Those who were non-digital natives (not used to technology or elearning) found the switch to digital education a difficult jump. When I say non-digital natives, I mean people who may not be as well versed using online tools, social media, or technology in general.


An example of an experience I had with an extreme case of a non-digital native was where a gentleman at the college asked me to help him sign up for his student loans. I told him, I’m not really a financial services expert but I’ll do what I can. He replied with “Oh no not that, I mean I don’t know how to use these”. He was pointing at his mouse and keyboard – fortunately, I was able to help him through that.


Most people aren’t that disconnected from technology, however, there are many people who may be returning to school, or working for companies where the use of technology and learning is becoming more prevalent. For those individuals, technology may have never played that large a role in their daily lives, and, therefore, isn’t intuitive to use. In an ideal situation, every person would immediately understand how to use elearning solutions, and would be able to use them with ease. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.


At the college where I worked, there was a lot of resistance from the digitally illiterate to use the new technology and learning solutions we put in place. This is the case with many other educational institutions and companies out there – there are students and employees who, for a variety of reasons, are not familiar with elearning. As learning professionals, it is our job to help ease the transition to these new ways to learn and help learners get excited about learning, whether it is online or in-person. The first step in achieving that goal is simply explaining elearning in a way that makes sense to them.

Here are 3 ways you can successfully explain elearning to these non-digital natives, and begin to drive adoption:

1. Explain where technology is going today.

Regardless of whether you’re a computer programmer, or you’ve never used a smartphone before, the one common thing everyone can agree on is that technology is gaining momentum in the prevalence of our lives, and it’s gaining it fast. Letting learners know that this is where their industry is going and it will only make things easier, can help them understand how important it is to increase their confidence and competence with using technology.


2. Contextualize the learning.

Another point that can be agreed on by pretty much anyone who has learned anything is that it’s easier to learn by doing rather than watching, listening or reading. Blended solutions are in most classrooms and companies, and it may be easier to explain that technology isn’t replacing the traditional model, but complementing it.


3. Relate it to the technology they’ve already used.

I realized that my dad comparing what I create at work to YouTube videos really wasn’t such a bad thing. Things like YouTube, ebooks, and additional media are being used by more of the population every day. Something you could say is, “Think of how easy it is to find that YouTube video you searched for, and how easy it was to control it, and maybe even email the link to friends and family. Elearning can be just as easy to navigate, but with a lot more cool features.”


Explaining elearning to non-digital natives can be challenging, but it is very important that we remain positive when we are helping others with their adoption of elearning. Less of the “we’ll be doing things this way going forward, so get used to it”, and more of “with these new solutions, you will be able to learn just as much, have a much more hands-on experience, and you will still have the support from coworkers whenever you need.”


This is the first of a series of blogs I’ll be writing on elearning for non-digital natives. Stay tuned for my next posts on technology in the learning space and strategies to drive adoption of elearning.


Have you run into the challenge of explaining elearning to people who are not so tech-savvy? What was the situation like and did you learn any strategies that helped bridge the transition to a digital approach to learning? Tell us about it in the comments below.


Mitchelle Boyle

Digital Marketing Specialist at Learnkit
Learnkit works with industry leading businesses and top academic institutions to create innovative custom elearning that delivers measurable, real world results
Share this post
  , , ,

/* Add alt to logo image */ /* Add alt to earl image */