When we look to the next generation of learners, indeed the next generation of e-learners, we cannot help but be impressed with the level of computer savvy that they will bring into the workforce. As we watch them multi-task online -- doing their schoolwork, downloading music, having multiple instant messenger conversations, playing highly sophisticated games, and searching the web -- we cannot help being impressed. We need to be ready to deliver learning that meets the way these new workers live and learn on the web. Although classroom training will continue to be important, these new learners will reject a single solution, especially one that does not play to these multi-tasking, highly interactive abilities. Even more traditional e-learning that is primarily focused on pushing formal instruction at them will need to be augmented by new approaches that play to the strengths of these new learners.
This is why we must pay close attention to totally involving learners in their own learning. Learners are demanding a higher level of interactivity than ever before. Immersive games and simulations, social networking (think of MySpace, Facebook and others), instant communications and easy access to vast repositories of knowledge must become integral parts of our future e-learning repertoire.
Thus, this e-learning conference, and especially its three important themes, is so appropriate for for considering the opportunities that the next generation of worker/learners present to us. For the first time, these new learners will enter the workforce with an understanding and acceptance of what it means to work and learn online, to be truly mobile, and what it means to collaborate, discover and communicate via the web. We will not have to convince them to take part; they are already there. The danger is that if we do not live up to their expectations, they could walk away. It is they who can show us a thing or two about digital and social cohesion, the knowledge society and e-learning value and quality. The challenge for us is to listen.