According to Pew Research Center, nearly 90% of adults between the ages of 18 to 29 use social media. The student population reaching college age now, Gen Z, grew up with the internet and social media as an everyday part of their life. Research has already shown that this digital native generation learns through a completely different pedagogy, and a large majority of universities are not accustomed to accommodating this way of teaching. If university administrators and educators want to keep students engaged, they need to adapt to the needs of an increasingly digitized generation of students.

Facts About the Digital Natives

A large majority educators are not digital natives, and most are continuously surprised by how much social media and digital technology influences the lives of younger generations.

91 percent of Gen Z have their digital devices in bed

71 percent use Snapchat more than six times per day

59 percent say screen time makes them happy (more than time with their family, which is 40 percent)

44 percent use social media hourly

Gen Z uses up to five different social channels per day

Gen Z spends 2 hours 55 minutes per day on social media 

Don’t Judge Digital Natives, Adapt to Them

If you research Gen Z extensively, you’re certain to walk away with an interesting perspective which challenges many Gen Z stereotypes. Gen Z is acutely aware of global issues, and they value diversity. In many cases, social media platforms are powering this extensive exposure to global narratives.

82 percent of Gen Z think carefully about what they put on social media

77 percent are extremely interested in volunteering

63 percent prefer to connect to peers and everyday people, not celebrities

32 percent donate their own money

26 percent volunteer on a regular basis

13 percent already have their own business

It’s easy to dismiss social media and this digital generation’s plea for a change in pedagogy as a misguided youthful request. In reality, we’re faced with a major cultural shift and it’s up to our educational system to respond in kind. It’s clear that Gen Z-ers want to better themselves and their communities as a whole. Will our educational institutions provide them with the tools they need to succeed? 

The Solution: Collaborative Learning Environments

If a university is looking to adapt to modern learning pedagogy, look no further than digital collaborative learning environments. Collaborative learning systems, offered by companies like Omega Notes, are backed by research principles such as online collaborative learning theory (OCL). OCL theory offers a structure to learning in which students are encouraged and supported to work collaboratively. Through collaboration, students are empowered to invent, explore ways to innovate, and to seek the conceptual knowledge needed to solve problems rather than just merely memorizing the correct answer.

Collaborative learning environments offer a social experience powered by the interconnected technology that modern learners yearn for. When institutions successfully leverage collaborative learning technology, they can expect to see engaged students who are more passionate about the learning experience their professors are able to offer. When educators play to the strengths of Gen Z, they’ll find a generation or youth eager to learn and work as an active participant in their education.

By Matthew Compton-Clark