Generation Z has officially entered college. And just as the Millennials before them, this generation is disrupting the way learning happens in higher education. But these differences go beyond just a greater dependence on technology. Gen Z-ers tend to embrace social learning environments, where they can be hands-on and directly involved in the learning process. They expect on-demand services that are available at any time and with low barriers to access. And they tend to be more career-focused earlier on in their college careers.
A study done by Barnes and Noble College shows that today’s students refuse to be passive learners. They aren’t interested in simply showing up for class, sitting through a lecture, and taking notes that they’ll memorize for an exam later on. Instead, they expect to be fully engaged and to be a part of the learning process themselves.
In fact, Gen Z students tend to thrive when they are given the opportunity to have a fully immersive educational experience and they even enjoy the challenges of being a part of it. For instance, 51% of surveyed students said they learn best by doing while only 12% said they learn through listening. These same students also mentioned they tend to enjoy class discussions and interactive classroom environments over the traditional dissemination teaching method.
And the preference towards a collaborative learning environment isn’t just limited to in-person interactions. Instead, Gen Z is completely comfortable with learning alongside other students, even outside of their own school, using digital tools such as Skype and online forums.
And as a digital generation, Generation Z expects digital learning toolssuch as these to be deeply integrated into their education. For them, technology has always been a fully integrated experience into every part of their lives. And they don’t think education should be any different. They believe they should be able to seamlessly connect academic experiences to personal experiences through these same tools.
Additionally, they expect that these learning tools be available on-demand and with low barriers to access. For them, learning isn’t limited to just the classroom; it’s something that can take place at any time, anywhere.
And finally, access to unlimited new information has created a more self-reliant and career driven generation. In fact, 13% of Gen Z-ers already have their own business. And many are even taking this entrepreneurial spirit to drive changes in college curriculum, as they show a strong interest in designing their own classroom path in college. For those who haven’t started a business quite yet, early preparation is still key. In fact, nearly half of high school students have taken at least one class that counts as college credit.
Part of this change is due to the fact that they have more access to more information than the generations before them. By the time they’ve reached higher ed, they are already well versed in current events, music popular culture, and global trends. They are well aware of the world around them and are already beginning to think through what their place in it will be.
Generation Z is leading the change in how learning takes place. They are a driving force in the innovation of new learning tools, teaching styles, and unlimited access to resources. And they are proving that college is headed in a direction of a more learner-centric environment where students will become the directors of their own futures.