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A New Generation of Learners…How do We Teach Them?

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From the desk of Leeann Waddington, Teaching Fellow in Learning Environments and Nursing Instructor in the Faculty of Health _____________________________________________________________________________________________

Who are they? We call them Gen Z, millennials and digital natives – these are students born after 1990 and they have only known a world full of technology. As a result of their constant access to information, they could be considered the most educated generation even before they visit your classroom. They are wired for constant bits of information sharing.

What we know about them:

  • They like to stay connected at all times
  • They prefer collaboration, discussion and interactive experiences
  • They adopt technology at high levels and expect the same of others
  • They are used to 24/7 access to information and having trouble distinguishing fact from opinion
  • They are inclined to a global and a visual perspective
  • They need visually enhanced methods of teaching
  • They decide quickly if a video is worth watching
  • They have a desire to co-create, live stream and help make the activity as they participate and prefer images, icons and symbols to communicate
  • They listen to their social network
  • They like opportunity and guidance for how to achieve their goals

Technology is not the only way they disrupt our current view of learning environments; they embrace social learning that is hands-on. They want to be involved in the learning plan and process; they expect to be engaged rather than passive. In an article by Forbes (2018), 51% of surveyed students said they learn best by “doing” while only 12% said they learn by “listening”.

How do we support them? Choose a strategy or two that is comfortable to you:

  • Use social media to create ongoing connection
  • Allow/encourage the use of technology in class
  • Avoid lecture – try 10-minute conversations followed by a task
  • Skip the PowerPoint and build interaction in the class and outside of it
  • Try polling for in-class responses to questions using software/apps such as Kahoot and Polleverywhere
  • Provide visuals for learning such as Venn diagrams, models and images
  • Post all material online
  • Connect learning to real world experience
  • Create brief and meaningful experiences

While this may all seem overwhelming for Gen X’ers, take baby steps. One tech tool at a time and you will build better, more engaging courses. These students want to shape their journey with their teacher as a guide.



How Generation Z Is Shaping The Change In Education

Here Comes Z: Strategies To Engage A New Generation Of College Students

Additional Resources


eLearning Industry

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