Get Ready For Gen Z: How is This Generation Influencing Providers to Switch Things Up?
In the midst of this shifting educational landscape, Generation Z has already begun showing up on campuses around the world.
Born between 1997-2010, this generation grew up as true digital natives, and so differs from Millenials in key ways.
Tertiary educators need to be prepared to tailor their approach to the unique needs and expectations of Gen Z – and check assumptions at the door.
Education providers shouldn’t shy away from engaging this new generation – there is so much opportunity when it comes to advertising to Gen Z, especially through the platforms that are familiar to them.
Student Recruitment & Experience: Authenticity Above All
As a result of being brought up in the digital age, Gen Z has been growing alongside technology and its advancements – all the way up to its current state of digital personalisation that caters specifically to them.
This is where social media plays a key factor, but not as most education institutions know it. It is no longer effective to pump out blanket content in hopes that something sticks, when attempting to recruit or retain students. Providers need to build engaging and interactive content into their strategy, that encompasses authentic personalisation and helps to nurture students throughout their whole journey – from attracting students, right through to the delivery of education, to create genuine advocates of your institution.
This digital immersion should not detract from more ‘traditional’ ways of improving student experience. Peer-to-peer recruiting should not be discredited; rather, it should be woven into your marketing strategy.
Genuine endorsements by peers are exceptionally effective in any kind of marketing – this is reflected in education marketing, especially when it comes to fellow students.
By combining the concept of peer-to-peer recruiting with digital content, you are creating multi-faceted rich media that is targeting students on the platforms that they know, with the authenticated content that they are seeking. This helps to get students through the door, and enhance their overall study experience – from beginning to end, and beyond.
Your current students are your promoters; they are an authentic voice that is capable of influencing your marketing.
A Successful UGC Example
The #WeAreUCA campaign by the University for the Creative Arts is a prime example of successful user generated content in the education space. This institution is producing inspiring, snack-able marketing messages with the help of real examples of current students’ work, achievements and other on-campus bits and pieces. With a platform rich with UGC content, prospective students can get a feel for what their study experience will be like, through the eyes of someone exactly like them.
How to Teach Gen Z
Contrary to many preconceptions about Gen Z, they are surprisingly hesitant and discerning when it comes to adopting new technologies, this 2017 study shows. They are only prepared to invest time learning a new technology if they can see clear value from it.
Communicate like Gen Z.
They have grown up in a world where instant communication, rather than email, is the norm. They conduct much of their socialising on social media and instant messaging. Be timely with your replies, and use the tools they do: whether that’s Slack, Google Docs and Hangouts, or WhatsApp.
Personalise the experience.
Personalisation is a normal and expected part of Gen Z’s online experience, and they’ve been surrounded by algorithms since they can remember. In an educational context, this means frequent feedback, and the use of formative assessments (spaced throughout the course), rather than summative.
Use multimedia when you can.
Gen Z thinks that multimedia is intrinsically more valuable than text. Engage them further by incorporating as much of it as you can into learning materials. This can pose a challenge for older, less design-savvy academics. Ideally, they would have access to multimedia designers and animators.
Provide an online social context.
So much of Gen Z’s social life occurs online. Provide a space, such as a Facebook group or a discussion board, for them to complete peer-to-peer assessments or collaborative learning projects. This adds a layer of social motivation and engagement since peers can see their work.
While technology opens up many exciting new doors and unlocks possibilities, using new edu-tech for its own sake won’t particularly benefit your students. Instead of focusing on the technologies as a magic bullet, a paper from the Institute for Teaching and Learning Innovation recommends, educators should move toward a new approach: letting technology facilitate a shift in mindset.
We should move away from the old model of ‘delivering content’, i.e. the ‘transmission of knowledge’ from learned teacher to novice student, an approach which implies hierarchies and rote learning over interaction.
Instead, we should move toward a collaborative, knowledge-creating approach, which will better equip graduates for the working world of the future.