How Do Military Veterans Learn Online?

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A few weeks ago, Brian Richardson of VetLaunched started a survey of veteran’s learning preferences.  (It’s still open, so feel free to chime in with your choices!) He joined with a number of other military-friendly companies to help design better online tools for veteran education. The survey also helps veteran entrepreneurs develop new ways to launch their curriculum and other online products.

I’ve had years of duty as a military instructor, and I’ve learned a lot about curriculum development. I thought I could predict the survey results, but they still surprised me. If you’re developing online products or curriculum, then please take the survey and help us understand the issues.

I’m at the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation, so the Web has only been around for a minority of my life. I’ve always been an omnivorous reader, and I much prefer to learn from printed matter. I hardly ever watch TV or video, and audio is usually “too slow” for the rate at which I prefer to consume information. (I read podcast transcripts more often than I listen to them.) However, Generation X and Millennials have been influenced much more by the Web and by mobile technology, so their learning styles may differ from my fellow geezers Boomers.

Learning differences might be occupational as well as generational. Military veteran entrepreneurs in particular may learn differently from other workers or the rest of society. As a writer, I much prefer to create documents and books. However, the blogging business is also growing rapidly with podcast and video, and every online entrepreneur has to appeal to the widest audience possible.

The online learning industry is finally exploding with bandwidth and mobile tech. We’re all able to learn online now, but we all have different learning preferences. Which products should an educational entrepreneur develop first? Is it really necessary to produce curriculum for readers, listeners, and viewers? How can all of it be integrated or archived by users?

Over 140 readers (so far) have taken the survey. Nearly half of them have already started their business and another group (almost as big) are interested in or still learning about starting a business. Responses also came from a few veterans who have decided that they’re not interested in starting their own business.

The vast majority of those surveyed prefer to learn from watching a video (at their own pace, not live) backed up with printed curriculum. They’re visual learners who want to control the flow of the presentation. They want to have a printed reference, but the video is more important.

Surprisingly, almost half of the responses did not find much value in podcasts or live webinars. Many entrepreneurs find podcasts boring or lacking the information they’re seeking. A few perceive podcasts to be glorified sales pitches.

Webinars and membership sites were also considered useful, but not as popular as videos with printed material.

I’m surprised by how many people prefer videos over reading, but that’s probably my Boomer tech bias. These entrepreneurs must find it easy to bookmark or save a video, where it’s just as handy as a printed reference.

I’m also surprised at how many entrepreneurs don’t like podcasts. It seems as if every blogger is starting a podcast, and these days it’s easier to be a guest on a podcast than getting a guest post. (Companies are paying big bucks to sponsor podcasts, too.) Entrepreneurs who took the survey were willing to pay for videos, printed materials, membership sites, and even webinars– but they weren’t willing to buy a podcast.

Maybe podcasts are still seen as motivational “edutainment” instead of learning material. (Maybe most of them still fail to deliver value.) Podcasts are also a lot cheaper (and easier) to produce than video, although this difference is shrinking. Maybe the sponsors are wasting their marketing on podcasts instead of videos or eBooks. Those questions might have answers in more survey responses.

If you have other insights into the ways that military veteran entrepreneurs learn, and why podcasts are so unpopular, please leave a comment here or on the survey. We’d like to use all of the tools we can, and podcasts apparently need to improve!

If you have a favorite video or print format, please let me know about that too. We’d like to emulate a successful production model instead of reinventing the process.

By the way: what’s holding you back from starting your business?

Related articles:
How Do You Learn Online?
Entrepreneur Resources For Military Veterans

WHAT I DO: I help you reach financial independence. For free. I retired in 2002 after 20 years in the Navy's submarine force. I wrote "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement" to share the stories of over 50 other financially independent servicemembers, veterans, and families. All of my writing revenue is donated to military-friendly charities.

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