Generations of Learners

originally posted on April 16, 2015

Learners are typically grouped in generations. Veterans, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y, Generation Z.

According to Learning Solutions, Veterans (born 1925-1945) grew up in times of economic hardship, are disciplined, self sacrificing, respect authority, are loyal, hard-working and dedicated as workers. Baby Boomers (born 1946-64) grew up in economic prosperity. They are competitive, optimistic, and focus on personal accomplishments. They are ‘workaholics’ who often take work home. They have no work-life balance – their job defines them. Generation X (born 1965-1979) divorced parents and a mother at work was the norm. They are resilient, independent, and adaptable. They move in and out of the workforce to accommodate their family and children. Generation Y (also known as Millenial’s) (born 1980-1995), generation Y grew up in good economic times, and spent more time in full-time education than any previous generation. They do not fear unemployment. They are self- confident, self-reliant, questioning, and social. They like to multi-task. Work for them is a means to an end; not their identity. They want flexible working hours, to be able to work from home, and to have time off for travel. Gen Y are happy to leave a job if it does not come up to expectations. They are happy to job hop until they find what they want. ( Generation Y read more online than in books, write more online, send texts rather than call, and believe they can do anything they set their mind to. ( Generation Z (born 1996 onwards), technology, and particularly the Internet, has been a major influencing factor in their lives. The oldest of this generation is now entering the workforce, and/or attending college/university. (

Veterans, Baby Boomers and Gen X are also classified as “Digital immigrants” – those that learned to use technology vs. Gen Y and Z, “Digital Natives” who grew up with technology. (

It is of course important to find ways of engaging all different ages, cultures and learning needs, regardless of their defined generation. It is also important not to make assumptions e.g do not assume that all gen Y and Z are technology wizards, or that a baby boomer is technologically incompetent.

For digital immigrants printed information and very clear instructions might be important.

For digital natives the following might be useful: shorter chunks of information, visual content,  opportunities to construct their own learning, graphics, videos, games, group activities. (,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf). Gen Y and Z are Experiential – prefer to learn by doing rather by being told what to do; social – they like activities that promote and reinforce social interaction; achievement oriented – they like structure and want to know what it will take to achieve a goal ( Have small group discussions like a forum, team projects, clear structure and provide lots of feedback (—The-Millennial-Generation).


Coates, J. (2007) Intuit, Inc. Generation-Y—The-Millennial-Generation Retrieved from—The-Millennial-Generation

Erickson, T. (2008). Managing Generation Y. Retrieved from

Learning Solutions Magazine. (2015). Understanding Today’s Learner. Retrieved from

Oblinger, D. and Oblinger, J.eds. (2005). Educating the Net Generation. Retrieved from

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. Retrieved from,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf


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