Meet Some of the Newest and Oldest
e-Learners of the Third Millennium
John A. Boeglin
Campus Saint-Jean, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada
Cree School Board, Chisasibi, QC, Canada
Over the past decade or so, learning practitioners and researchers alike have been directing much
of their attention to understanding and accommodating the learning styles, attitudes, preferences, and other
relevant needs of the millennial learner. A new, rapidly growing group of learners is now beginning to
warrant similar attention. Learning, once viewed as a hallmark of the early formative years, is now generally
viewed as a lifelong process. As the population ages, we can expect more and more individuals to become
interested in pursuing an online learning experience of some form. However, we know very little about the
relevant characteristics of elderly adult e-learners or about general instructional and multimedia design issues
as they relate to elderly online learners. In this paper, attention is drawn to this emerging group of e-learners
as well as to some of the issues to consider in providing accessible and effective learning opportunities for
elderly adult e-learners.
Since the turn of the third millennium, much has been said and written about the most recent generation of learners
to frequent our postsecondary educational institutions, the so-called millennial learners. According to Sweeney
(2006), the millennial generation is comprised of those individuals born between 1979 and 1994, and whose
characteristics and behaviours are unlike those of any other generation of similar chronological age. Of particular
interest to us here is the fact that millennials are often defined by the way they have grown up with technology. They
are the “natives of [a] new, digital, consumer driven, flat, networked, instant satisfaction world” (Sweeney, 2006, p.
1). Needless to say, the use of technology, especially information and communication technologies (ICTs), has
become increasingly prevalent within all levels of our educational system, as well as within numerous other
environments. Consequently, learning practitioners and researchers have been directing much of their attention to
understanding and accommodating the learning styles, attitudes, preferences, and other relevant needs of the
technology-oriented millennial learner (Oblinger, 2003).
A somewhat new, albeit relatively older group of learners is now beginning to warrant similar attention.
Indeed, it is
widely known that elderly individuals aged 65 years or older represent the fastest growing segment of the
population. In Canada, for example, recent census figures indicate that 13% of the Canadian population is currently
65 years of age or older and that this figure could reach as high as 23% by the year 2030 (Statistics Canada, 2005a).
In the United States, the figures are slightly lower at 12.4% and 20% respectively (Administration on Aging, 2006).