Understanding Millennial Learners


Key Points:

  • No precise birth dates but roughly span birthdates from 1980's through early 2000's
  • Have always used computers and other digital devices, a.k.a. "Digital Natives" or "NetGeneration" 
    • Have always had instant access to facts
    • Being prohibited from using devices has a strong negative association with parental punishment
      • Example: "If you don't do your chores, I will take your cell phone away."
    • Are habitual digital multitaskers
      • More effective at digitally multitasking than older generations
      • May experience distress at not having data access
      • May resent being told what they should and should not be accessing on their devices
  • Strong sense of self, also known as "Generation Me"
    • Publicly share their personal and professional lives via social media
    • Tend to give very direct, unedited feedback
      • Have dimished sense of potential retribution from speaking in a way that is considered disrespectful by older generations
    • May have gotten awards or recognition just for attending or participating in events, as opposed to having to win them
    • Many were intensely attended to by their parents
      • GPS tracking of phones allowed parents to know their location at all times
  • Experienced more disappointment in role models and sports heros due to public knowledge of poor behavior
  • This generation most actively supports equality for all, compared with other generations.
    • Are quick to respond publicly to perceived inequalities of any kind to anyone
  • General learning preferences include:
    • Having a structured environment that tells them what to be doing or studying
      • Prefer learning resources prioritized for them
      • Prefer specific time schedules
    • Having access to learning 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
    • Having learning be fun, "gamification"
    • Being engaged through social networking
      • Incorporate team-based learning
    • Giving short, specific answers
    • Having aesthetically pleasing content delivery



  • Employ strategies to engage Millennial learners
  • Alter personal reactions to the behavior of Millennial learners based on knowledge of their generational characteristics


Recommended Resources: 

Brief Review


Millennials -- why are they the worst? TEDx Talks. 12 minutes.

Millennial Learners. Dr. Bobb Darnell. CoreStand. 4 minutes.

Generational Differences: Teaching the Millennials. PCMdoctor's channel. 9 minutes.

Millennials 101 with Paul Taylor. Big Think. 7 minutes.


Novotney A. Engaging the millennial learner. American Psychological Association.

Roberts DH, Newman LR, Schwartzstein RM. Twelve tips for facilitating Millennials' learning. Med Teach. 2012;34(4):274-8. doi: 10.3109/0142159X.2011.613498. Epub 2012 Jan 30. PubMed PMID: 22288944.

Berk RA. Teaching strategies for the Net Generation: Transformative dialogues. Teaching & Learning Journal 2009; 3:1-24.

Sandars J, Morrison C. What is the Net Generation? The challenge for future medical education. Med Teach. 2007 Mar;29(2-3):85-8. PubMed PMID: 17701615.

Chretien KC, Farnan JM, Greysen SR, Kind T. To friend or not to friend? Social networking and faculty perceptions of online professionalism. Acad Med. 2011 Dec;86(12):1545-50. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3182356128. PubMed PMID: 22030752.

Twenge JM. Generational changes and their impact in the classroom: teaching Generation Me. Med Educ. 2009 May;43(5):398-405. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2009.03310.x. PubMed PMID: 19422486.

Bart M. The Five R’s of Engaging Millennial Students.


Principles of Medical Education: Maximizing Your Teaching Skills. Harvard Medical School. CME course given twice per year. $Fee required

How Millennial are You? Pew Research Center Quiz. 


In-Depth Review


Millennials: Who They Are & Why We Hate Them. TEDx Talks. 21 minutes.

Making Learning Meaningful for your Millennial Students through RWLDs. University of Northern Iowa. 1 hour and 6 minutes.


Price C. Why Don't My Students Think I'm Groovy?: The New "R"s for Engaging Millennial Learners.

DiLullo C, McGee P, Kriebel RM. Demystifying the Millennial student: a reassessment in measures of character and engagement in professional education. Anat Sci Educ. 2011 Jul-Aug;4(4):214-26. doi: 10.1002/ase.240. Epub 2011 Jul 6. Review. PubMed PMID: 21735557.

Garner JB. A Brief Guide for Teaching Millennial Learners. Triangle Publishing 2007. $7.78


E-learning and Digital Cultures. Coursera, The University of Edinburgh.