The transition from traditional to virtual and hybrid workplace environments has proven to be irreversible. Reports by Google data on Generation Z behavior indicate that a significant majority of this population has become accustomed to online-based learning through visually rich, technology-based, and socially interactive platforms. Many Generation Z learners have expressed a high preference for virtual and blended learning over traditional programmes that usually require them to enroll and attend physical classrooms to attain certain qualifications.
Learning is ubiquitous and second nature to Generation Z employees. Markedly, the period spanning the last three years has seen an accelerated rate of employees enrolling for various L&D programs, most notably online courses, which offered the convenience and accessibility needed amidst health safety threats and inconveniences caused by the pandemic.
Anca Gosling, Aeroclass’s Director for Content Development, notes that Generation Z, colloquially known as “Gen Zers” or Zoomers, grow up immersed in technology, hence they value technology solutions, inclusivity, and construct their identities around self-reliant and pragmatic solutions. It is not surprising that Gen Z prefers ‘learning at the point of need’ using modern technologies, smartphones, or personal computers. At Aeroclass we use technology to anticipate and cater to the needs of the next generation to create a unique and personal learning experience.
In 2020, Gen Z learners interacted with digital learning content 50% more than in 2019. Most generation Z learners consider learning indispensable to build a flourishing career. Unlike traditional programs, virtual learning options provide a set of learning and development pros, from increasing internal mobility for individuals pursuing up-skilling and re-skilling courses to providing opportunities for leadership development, management development, and virtual onboarding.
A survey conducted by LinkedIn in 2021 reported that over 86% of Generation Z have enrolled in online courses to build hard and soft skills. Further, the report showed that this population spends 12% more of their private time on online-based learning platforms building skills than the average learner.
The past 2-3 years have offered significant lessons for many organizations – lots of unexpected challenges and considerable opportunities to capitalize on. In fact, the learning and development industry has moved to the forefront. It is now a matter of interest for many individuals, including those in employment and those looking to secure jobs in different sectors, including the aviation industry. Many employees and those seeking employment have recognized that learning is a “must-have” requirement to succeed. Therefore, they are exploring learning options that can provide the opportunity to further develop their careers and access C-suite level. This has led to a tectonic shift toward digital learning options where this generation of learners can access quality content and interact with a wide range of information pertinent to the challenges and complexities that characterize contemporary workplace environments.
Besides offering convenience and access to quality content, online learning increased robustness as a learning solution, providing superior coverage regarding instructional materials and reach. “Compared to classroom training, online learning offers a more inclusive option. Leave no one behind (LNOB) is the transformative promise of the United Nations (UN) 2023 Agenda for Sustainable Development and can be achieved only by empowering people through education. Technology is a powerful tool that allows people to access information that otherwise they would not be able to access.” explained Anca Gosling.
From an economic perspective, virtual training has presented a cost-effective alternative, enabling students to access L&D programmes at a lower budget than they would incur if they were to enroll in classroom-based courses. Two years ago, over 38% of individuals taking learning and development courses projected less spending on classroom-based learning, and 57% anticipated bigger budgets for online learning. In 2022, these figures have changed significantly, with current statistics indicating a high predisposition toward online learning. Today, 73% of learning and development professionals predict less spending on classroom training, while 79% have estimated higher budgets for online learning.
Furthermore, online learning offers a smart and innovative way for learners to evaluate themselves and quantify the learning outcomes from various programmes. Employees can use online-based engagement surveys to measure program effectiveness and assess their value in producing the desired learning outcomes and satisfaction.
Anca Gosling emphasizes that organizations must develop robust L&D programmes and infuse a continuous learning culture to build a future-proof workforce. Considering the complex business environment that we are currently facing, investing in employees will surely pay off. At the same time, organizations should consider aligning their learning strategy with the core business objectives. This will increase retention, and motivation and ultimately the business will perform better. As Gen Z represents the dominant cohort of employees in the workplace, online-based training comes as a natural choice and a feasible solution for organizations to imbue a strong learning culture.
Research shows that the pandemic had a strong effect on Gen Zers. For those that are looking for a career change, perusing other opportunities or simply learning a new skill, online learning provides an effective way to develop skills that can connect them to their new career paths and offer the desired job. Besides, online training shifts learning from the static, one-off classroom courses to an impactful, flexible, and sustainable environment. Simply put, the sky is the limit!