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e-Assessment Strategies for Engaging Millenials

e-Assessment Strategies for Engaging Millenials

by Bryan D. Eldridge, M.Ed., eCom USA/eCom Scotland

The “generational differences in the workplace” conversation seems to be hotter than ever. The buzz created by this topic is primarily due to the fact that for the first time in history, five distinct generations are represented in the workforce (age ranges provided vary slightly by source):

  • The Traditionalists – born between 1925 and 1945
  • The Baby Boomers – born between 1946 and 1964
  • Generation X – born between 1965 and 1980
  • Generation Y – born between 1981 and 1994
  • Millenials (aka Generation Z) – born after 1995

The core questions that this generational diversity brings to organizations are: 1.) how to fit this nontraditional workforce mix into a typically traditional workplace, 2.) how to strategize for a growing skills gap/shrinking talent pool created by the voluminous and highly-experienced Traditionalists and Baby Boomers leaving the workforce in droves, and 3) how (typically) Generation X managers can leverage the best of the tech that Generation Y and Z newcomers know and love, to make the workplace better.

Millenials are often the target of derision and skepticism in these conversations but the fact of the matter is that by 2020, 40% of the workforce will be comprised of this generation. Understanding the unique pre-boarding, selection, onboarding, training, and assessment needs for Millenials is a business execution challenge that cannot be responsibly avoided by organizations for much longer. Failing to address this challenge in a purposeful manner is not only a failure to the Millenials but a failure to the value of the business as well given some of the unique skills and other contributions their members are bringing to the workplace.

Although some, very little actually, has been written on how organizations can provide education and training to Millenials effectively, significantly less has been written on e-Assessment strategies for this group. Before exploring ways to provide tailored e-Assessment strategies for Millenials, consider some of their key characteristics:

  • Likes to feel special (over 70% think that they will be famous someday)
  • Multitasking specialists
  • Goal-oriented
  • Digital natives (making them extremely techno-savvy)
  • Self-reliant BUT not hesitant to seek out experts
  • Like to have the work piled on them
  • Desire the freedom to do it “their way”

So, how can we as practitioners take these characteristics to task and begin to forge new e-Assessment strategies? At first glance at the inventory of common characteristics, a project-based assessment strategy seems to be a logical place to start.

In a project-based assessment strategy, learners would be provided with a selection of projects or case-studies to choose from as the context for their e-Assessment. At key junctures in completing their assessment, they would need to provide sufficient evidence to validate mastery of the related learning objective or competency. This provides them the freedom to provide evidence in a variety of ways including open badge, essay, video, project synopsis, blog post, subject matter expert validation, or other multimedia/Internet modalities. These myriad options truly do allow them to “do it their way” and in a manner that allows for ultimate self-expression and differentiation, both extremely important for maintaining engagement.

This project-based approach is also in complete harmonization with the widely adopted practice of delivering differentiated instruction. The core tenets of differentiated instruction are that 1.) learners learn in different ways and 2.) learners provide evidence of  their learning in different ways as well. This type of personalization in instruction and assessment is gaining importance in teaching and training contexts across all age groups and modalities of delivery.

In order to enable this approach to work, the e-Assessment markers must have access to detailed rubrics that accommodate the evaluation of a broad type of evidence, similar to what one might find in an e-Portfolio environment. These assessors will likely require a thorough orientation to this approach and, preferably, some type training and related certification on using the rubrics and supplying constructive and remedial feedback for the myriad of evidence item types produced by learners.

Some other techniques to consider when building e-Assessment strategies for Millenials:

  • Gamification of e-Assessment via a names-withheld leaderboard
  • Personal analytics dashboard to show improvement and knowledge gaps
  • Progress charts toward weekly/monthly/annual/KPIs and evaluation targets
  • Allowing those demonstrating strong mastery of content to act as mentors and even instructors of others – across generations
  • “Token” for highest test score that can either be a simple tangible object or something that can be exchanged for a simple treat (e.g. a small plastic trophy or a Starbucks gift card)
  • Clearly demonstrate how outcomes of assessment is input into personal development plans that are tied to KPIs and employee evaluation criteria

Remember, in the end, these Millenials are likely going to be a key part of your organization moving forward, if they are not already. Planning for integrating their needs into your e-Assessment strategies and other areas of employee training and development should not be looked at as an area of compromise but rather as a key step in the evolution of your organization’s ability to better meet the needs and retain the skills of this bright and talented generation of employees.

by Bryan D. Eldridge, M.Ed., eCom USA/eCom Scotland


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