How to train Digital Natives ?

3 Digital Natives uses that should inspire your learning strategy.

©Team One USA, Saatchi & Saatchi

Who are the Digital Natives? This group is composed by those born in a mature digital environment. In numbers, they now represent 35% of the working population, which will rise to more than 50% by 2020. You understand better why any learning manager should examine the topic closely!

At the same time, the context of the job market may seem paradoxical: on one hand, companies are struggling to recruit because the positions are constantly changing and on the other hand young European people don’t find a job that fits to them. As if supply and demand each evolve in spheres that rarely meet. One of the solutions to address this is to open up the companies to the behaviors of these digital natives. And it is not just a matter of copy & paste these good practices into the company, but rather to globally rethink the learning strategy.

In fact, the uses of digital natives are simply bringing into line technological advances with their desire to access information for and by themselves. They have a totally instinctive relationship with information and communication technologies (ICT), which should serve as a basis for learning programs to stem the processes of disengagement and demotivation. We will focus here on three of their uses: advanced search (method), video as the spine of learning programs (content) and adoption of the video game rules (experience). These uses respond to three distinct needs: agility, identification and interaction.

  1. advanced search > seek and find are now one

The recent evolution of the web solutions shows the expectations and the behaviors of the next to rule generation. The quest for speed is one of the predominant expectations, and that goes too for the acquisition of knowledge. Therefore, NLP (Natural Language Processing, chatbots, mobile first social networks, predictive search engines, memory of user path, show a visceral need to erase the distance between research and result.

Likewise, the trigger of a learning action is mostly today related to an immediate need : unlock a situation by mastering a new tool, software or process… The ever-increasing performance of the digital environment generates a culture of immediacy, and therefore impatience.

Moreover, digital natives have a relationship to employment that completely integrates shift in career guidance. They are no longer life long employee of a single company but builders of their own career path. Access to knowledge should adopt a continuous, modular and above all reactive process. Corporate learning should reflect opening, plurality and availability like in a regular Google search or an standard order on Amazon. The learner should be able to develop skills he will bring into the line first for himself then for the company he chose to join.

This culture of speed is reinforced by the improvement of transfer and storage capacities enabling video for example to fully integrate the digital learning sphere.

2. video> the media of digital learning

Video is the favorite media of the digital natives, it moved into all the spheres of their digital communication : it fills their moments of boredom, answers to their questions and their information needs and invades gradually the other instant messaging media (text and voice) via instagram and snapchat stories, periscope lives… Why such an appetite for this media and why to implement it quickly as the spine of your digital learning strategy ?

First of all and even if it’s a little bit depressing contextual statement, several studies have shown that the 20–35 yo generation deserted reading on digital devices : they read even less than the average internet user who reads very little. Chronic adoption of multitasking may be an explanation because it generates vey short attention cycles. Video by its inner immediateness allows a much more instinctive access to knowledge. Video is though the most efficient in the ratio knowledge access / effort to access it. The emergence of short to very short videos (less than one minute) or digital solutions aiming the chaptering of content to enable its modularity, reinforce its seizure of power.

Today digital natives exchange live videos, they share, record and watch it on the go and it changed drastically the paradigm of its use. With video people may indicate immediately a contextual change without having to explain or justify it. Digital natives are the champions of authenticity and video is by nature the medium of emotion and values. Text has long ruled on internet as the medium of expertise and efficience but now video is gaining ground as the vehicle of instantaneous naked reality mostly because it emulates the two most used senses in cognitive process (sight and hearing). In video for a learning purpose, the message is often embodied enabling identification and projection. Desire is therefore naturally added to the learning process easing acquisition and memorization of notions.

To conclude, the success of video testifies of its power. Therefore it’s crucial to put it as the spine of digital learning strategies and some solutions are already doing it: Udacity, e-doceo, Udemy, Coursera… Though to allow video to reach the expectations in terms of memorization, modularity and reactivity, we need to digitalize it too. And to do this, it’s a good idea to take a look to the pioneer of the field that is to say video games.

3. gamification > the metronome of the learning path

Game has massively invested digital uses. Gaming is not anymore stuck to electronic games. Today we speak of gamified video interfaces accompanying users in their journey on a web page or a social network.

In the beginning, electronic games were about ONE individual Vs ONE electronic device with a screen (oscilloscope, arcade, consoles), and the objective consists in beating the machine or doing the high scores. Gradually as machine capacities increased, the challenges of the games became more and more complex. Notion of levels are added and experimentations of first person perspective and immersive views begin that put the player at scale in the provided virtual universe. In the same time appear the simultaneous second player that either replace the machine or help the first player completing the game.

In the 80s, the rise of personal computers with scriptable memory change game time measure: it becomes possible to stop the game and to resume it later. Narrative dimension turned to become a crucial aspect, offering the player real adventures in which his choices change the rest of the story. Game and level design become more complex: video games move from simple challenges to real enigmas whose resolution requires the elaboration of complex strategies. We also witness the rise of “end-of-chapter” bosses whose victory validates the passage to the next level. Progression indicators are multiplied: life, force and power gauges, acquired trophies, unlocked successes,… Beside, personalization gives the player the ability to create an avatar as his own image realistic or fantasized. The player is now in front of centralized dashboard that will be a dream to manage your daily life.

Since the new millennium, simulation games has new horizons via the creation of huge virtual universes: a city, a country and even a potentially infinite space as in the game “No Man’s Sky”. Thousand of players from all over the world, can now connect simultaneously, we enter the MMO era, the persistent and massively multiplayers universes. Video games become a social experimentations lab where players come to exalt, let go or create social links. These universes aren’t limited by the home screen, they adapt to all our digital interfaces, following the player anywhere, anytime and on any device (ATAWAD).

What are the keys to success of digital gaming ? Its interactive, creative, collaborative dimensions and the definition of clear goal in a near future, aka “the quest”. In short, these ingredients are becoming the markers of an efficient digital learning program!

These indicators are already at work in most of the e-learning platforms: short modules with path, score, final quiz, interactions with a “digital teacher”. Beside various initiatives are emerging: team project mode, problem solving mode, mobile augmented reality, interactive video programs…


To train Digital Natives is a challenge for all companies willing to understand their behaviors and by the way the new benchmarks of the working population: for most of them frontiers either geographical or between private and professional spheres tend to blur. They have a strong will for personal growth and want to embrace the values of society or a company. Theses new learners are fast, they are centered on decision making following by immediate action and it’s not just about impulsiveness of youth. They are just better prepared to a world perpetually moving and in where digital tools are the only way to accompany fast paced evolutions. Furthermore, the Digital natives are co-creators of this world. In fact, to rethink learning strategy by taking account of their behaviors will benefit everyone regardless of age, position or field of activity.

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