In the new millennium, more and more people have entered colleges and universities than before. In the United States, people born after 1997 are called Gen Z, that is, people in the Z era. They were born in a digitalized era, and the entire education process is affected by new technology. It is naturally fitting to call them the “digital generation”, and technology has penetrated into all aspects of their lives, work and entertainment, especially their views and understanding of education.
The learning process and pace of people in the Z era has undergone a major change. It is no longer centered on books, and has begun to shift towards technological products. Generation Z still values education, but hopes to achieve this through various means.
People in the Z era live in the online world and hope that all consumer experiences are digitalized, personalized, and engaging. Therefore, their education should be geared towards this aspect. It has become common practice for students to not only be highly selective in the subjects they want to learn, but also the mode of delivery they would like to receive in learning as well. For example, mixing theoretical knowledge with practical knowledge; combining vocational training with short-term courses, self-study and highly personalized educational experience. This is the educational demand of this generation.
People in the Z era are open and interested in diversity, fairness and tolerance, and want to invest more time in technology and social media, which also injects vitality into our university education.
How do universities adapt to the needs of Generation Z?
- Diversity in Gen Z
Under globalization, people are travelling around the world to pursue their needs and dreams. Students go to the US to study in elite colleges, they travel to Italy for fashion design and some travel to Asia to major in languages. There is growing diversity among students and a majority of the Gen Z students embrace diversity and they will speak up against any inequality. It is time for lecturers to explore and understand the minority cultures. From the smallest thing in learning to pronounce their names, to be more sensitive to their culture. Lecturers should also make it a point to include multicultural literature for classroom teaching. This will help students to understand more about each other’s cultures and to help the minorities foster their sense of identity.
- Incurring Debt
Students in the Z era are very wary of the heavy debts of their millennial peers. Using their spare time or studying online can allow them to obtain a degree without bearing the same debt. More and more students are engaged in trade or paid apprenticeship. For some students, their goal is to enter the labor market quickly without accumulating worrying debts.
Universities can partner up with companies and encourage students to take up paid internship during school holidays. It is a double-win for students to earn some allowances as well as to gain industrial knowledge.
- Increased Rate of Anxiety and Depression
Pressure from school and parents are contributing to the rate of anxiety and depression among Gen Z students. With the increased usage of social media and internet, students at this age is very prone to peer pressure. They are competitive and want everything their friends on social media have. Their parents are most likely both working and do not have enough time to pay more attention to their children. This is not to say educators are fully responsible for the students’ well-being, but it never hurt to adapt to their emotional needs and help them.
Instead of using an authoritative teachings style, lecturers can try to foster a good relationship with the students. This helps students to be more vocal and confident in communication, and allow them to open up themselves without them sinking deeper into their depression.
What’s the future?
People in the Z generation are increasingly contradictory to the traditional path of their predecessors. They have different needs from the millennial students, and to build a better future for the world, lecturers can try to find ways to adapt to their needs.