To read this content please select one of the options below:

Digital natives and digital immigrants: getting to know each other

Alex J. Autry Jr (Chief, Instructional Quality, Federal Government Distance Learning Association, Ohio, USA)
Zane Berge (Professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland, USA)

Industrial and Commercial Training

ISSN: 0019-7858

Article publication date: 4 October 2011




This paper aims to review characteristics associated with digital natives and digital immigrants and explores selected research studies related to information and communication technology. Some of the challenges facing the twenty‐first century in training and developing our future workforce are explored, along with the differences between generations that contribute to their personal learning and instructional styles.


A review of the literature is combined with the authors' experience and the reporting of a survey on generational differences regarding perceived usefulness of technology in training programs.


A new digital language is evolving and is increasingly prevalent with technical savvy individuals as a normal means of communication, creating a communication lull between generations affecting both the digital natives and digital immigrants. This communication barrier extends beyond the casual day‐to‐day endeavors but reaches into learning environments. The survey indicated that the younger the respondent, the more favorable that person is to wanting technology in the learning environment.

Practical implications

In order for effective learning to occur both instructors and students must be able to match both instructional strategies and learning styles consistently. In addition, those who are responsible for aligning educational and learning strategies should meet the training and development programs being deployed. There is a need to examine possible rationale correlating with native and immigrant lifestyles that support their cognitive process. These processes relate to how natives and immigrants receive information and how it stimulates the brain to connect the inputs with previously learned data – how an individual's brain becomes “wired” to manipulate stored data to be used during problem‐solving and critical thinking activities in both life events and training sessions.


The paper explores whether individuals of the younger generation have more of a learning advantage or disadvantage compared to learners from an older generation. Exposure to new technologies strengthens the user's acceptance and knowledge of the digital product and may begin to acquaint them with other and future similar technological gadgets.



Autry, A.J. and Berge, Z. (2011), "Digital natives and digital immigrants: getting to know each other", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 43 No. 7, pp. 460-466.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles