Gen Z is about to take over higher education—here’s what to expect

Survey finds digital natives “Gen Z” set to reshape higher ed landscape with focus on careers, dependence on technology.

With Gen Z being a generation of “digital natives,” it stands to reason that the future of educational technology is now. Technology is embraced almost universally by Gen Z. In fact, the students surveyed shared that they are apt to regularly use five different computer tools for their social and educational purposes: laptops, desktops, tablets, smartphones and video game consoles.

Unlike Millennials, who have broadly adopted technology, Gen Z has adopted a technology-centric lifestyle. They define themselves in online, digital terms. Gen Z doesn’t distinguish between devices or online territories. It is one continuous, multi-faceted, completely integrated experience – connecting social, academic and professional interests.

While traditional textbooks remain ubiquitous in schools, teens in this survey now report that teachers are using more educational technology tools to facilitate learning, with four in 10 citing the use of Smartboards, digital textbooks, online videos and learning websites such as Khan Academy and Skillshare in the classroom.

Gen Z also has different learning style preferences from past generations. While they are very into DIYL (do-it-yourself-learning), these students also embrace peer-to-peer learning, with 80 percent reporting that they study with their friends and classmates. Fifty percent said they enjoy the element of leadership it presents, and 60 percent reported that it gives them the perfect way to exchange ideas and consider new perspectives.

This collaborative studying isn’t just happening in-person – technologies such as Skype, Facetime, chat/IM, Facebook and other online tools are being used to help foster group studying online as well. Whereas one may say the Internet has created a user-generated society, Gen Z is taking it to another level by engaging in the co-construction of knowledge, and likely the co-construction of their educational content in the future.

As this new generation makes its way to college campuses across the country, it’s more important than ever for college administrators to be aware of these unique preferences and expectations. And as recruiting and retaining students becomes more and more competitive, meeting these preferences and expectations will be vital for their success.

Click here to view Barnes & Noble College’s full report, “Getting to Know Gen Z: Exploring Middle and High Schoolers’ Expectations for Higher Education.”

lisa malat-0613 Large_300Lisa Malat is Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Barnes & Noble College, which serves more than 5 million students and faculty members at 743 campus stores across the country. She provides strategic direction and executive oversight in the areas of research, consumer and corporate marketing, learning and development, in-store and eCommerce strategies and operational efficiencies.


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