What Generation Z Looks For in a University

 

Technology has changed what students require from their school experiences 

 

What is Generation Z looking for when applying to a university

As the students who move through the halls of academic institutions change, so do the requirements of education. Generation Z students (born between 1995 - 2015) who have begun entering college, aren’t just looking for an experience that’s unique to them, they need it. 

 

BNCollege describes Gen Z students as being “driven by passion, pragmatism, and the desire to be heard.” In our experience working with students across the world, we very much believe this to be true. This is a generation that has grown up with technology that has allowed them a broad understanding of the world. Their needs are different than the students who have come before them, and these needs will dictate what schools they choose to attend.

 

An expectation for support 

Unlike previous generations, Gen Z students aren’t looking to college to provide an understanding about life and learning. Technology has permeated every aspect of their lives and they’ve had the depths of the internet available to them at all times. This means that they don’t admire institutions in the same way that their parents or grandparents do, because they don’t have to. Everything they need and want to know is available 24/7 via their digital devices. While this quality has been criticized at large, it’s a natural progression of behaviors for tech natives, a term described by Edtech Magazine

 

For colleges and universities, providing an environment that fosters and encourages student curiosity is an attractive offering. Gen Z wants to know that their chosen post-secondary school will support them in their academic pursuits and endeavors, whether they’re self- or institution-led.

 

Tech-centric environment 

Before committing to a college, Gen Z students will likely look for an academic home that provides flexibility in learning with digitally-accessible course material and communication. 

 

Online classes, as described by an article published by Inside Higher Ed, are an important way to accommodate the digital and time management focus of Generation Z students. Online classes are successful because of the flexibility they allow, making it possible for students to learn on their own time frame and at their own pace.

 

Classrooms and education environments that also encourage the use of digital devices by incorporating them into the learning experience will be better equipped for students. 

 

Customization and personalization

As tech natives, customization has become an essential and expected part of everyday life. With services and experiences being customized, expectations for customization within education is logical. It’s also a natural progression, giving students greater opportunities for meaningful learning outside of an age-old one-size-fits-all approach to education.

 

To achieve customization, schools may look to change their program offerings, but more importantly, should look to change how students can interact with programs. This means giving students the ability to determine how and where they learn, with choices over medium (in classroom, over webinar, or by self-taught online classes) and access to their professors and class tutors.

 

Personalization helps Gen Z students to feel different from their peers, a group that’s very much exposed to the same external influences by way of online media. Schools can personalize the education experience and curriculum by leveraging authorized data in similar ways as Amazon and Google. Signal Vine discusses this in an article explaining what higher ed needs to know about Generation Z, saying that, “digital natives develop expectations that preferred digital networks and brands will personalize their experience based on their tastes and likes. College CRM and SIS databases are great sources of verified student data. Mining [this] data allows schools to provide mobile-based communications personalized to every student’s GPA, major, location, and deadlines.” 

 

Privacy and security 

For a generation that largely views digital connection as a social currency via communication apps like Instagram and Snapchat, these students greatly value their privacy and security. While they share more casually and with much more regularity online than other generations, they’re more strategic about what they post. 

 

For this cohort of students, security of school computer networks is paramount. Schools should accommodate the need for privacy and security both for the integrity of their infrastructure and for the assurance that student data will be kept safe. Data hacks won’t be tolerated as part of life, as Millennials and Generation X have shown to accept.

 

Secure storage and management of education credentials is also critical. These kinds of personal details are exactly the kind of information that Generation Z wants ownership over. One of the best ways that an institution can protect student information is to give them ownership of it using one of the most secure methods for data security, blockchain technology.

 

Technology has forever changed how we learn, creating new ways for students to understand the world around them. At ODEM, we work alongside academic institutions to support the needs of today’s technologically-savvy students. For more on the benefits of academia-focused technology, we recently wrote a blog post featuring 5 ways innovation supports education.

 

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