This can be a problem in the workplace. Older workers in the workforce are at an all-time high as boomers choose not to retire or financially need to remain employed. Recently Wolfson, Cavanagh, and Kraiger (all now or formerly of Colorado State University) published a very insightful and important review of older workers and technology-based instruction. Increasingly technology (computer-based, web-based, etc.) is the means by which organizations deliver training. Wolfson and her colleagues argued that technology-based instruction poses different challenges for older adults. Older adults often face a gradual decline in information processing capabilities, although there are large individual differences. They suggested that it is reasonable to acknowledge differences in learning between older and younger workers and make adjustments in delivering technology-based instruction that recognizes these differences.
Having reviewed a massive amount of the research-based information, they developed recommendations. Here are just a few of the highlights concerning effective technology-based instruction that I took from their review:
- “Create a highly structured learning environment.”
---Direct attention to the essential core material.
---Eliminate extraneous material; keep the material focused.
- Provide outlines, concept maps, detailed overviews for content that follows.
- Illustrate concepts with worked examples; this reduces cognitive load.
---Give steps in the solution.
---Give final answer.
---Then present new problems to be worked.
- Allow workers to control the amount of time they spend on each module; do not force time limits.
- Provide feedback but also provide information about what lies ahead, how to best master the instruction upcoming.
- Keep the interface simple.
---Be sure there is good contrast between font and background.
The reference to the Wolfson and associates’ article is below. It should be required reading for (1) every corporate Human Resources professional, (2) anyone in Information Technology involved with technology-based instruction, and (3) most leaders. My few comments about this important review only convey a fraction of the wealth of knowledge this article provides. The older worker can learn new skills, contrary to the popular saying about old dogs and new tricks. It just takes informed leaders who insist on maximizing the learning potential of all employees in any technology-based instruction.
Wolfson, N. E., Cavanagh, T. M., Kraiger, K. Older adults and technology-based instruction: Optimizing learning outcomes and transfer. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 13 (1), 26-44.
Image of computer training at Taylor Public Library, Taylor, Texas.
Used with permission: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/deed.en