Student experience for Gen Z: the dos and don'ts

No one in education is in any doubt that to ‘reach’ Gen Z students and provide the experiences they are looking for, colleges and universities need to embrace the latest technology. This new generation of students expect a personalised student experience - one that’s tailored to their particular needs, wants, interests, and their preferred methods of communication. And increasingly, student experience for Gen Z is expanding to include return on investment.

Having seen their parents struggle through the economic uncertainty of the past decade – Gen Z students are financially driven and want to secure a good job. They are also acutely aware of getting good value for money – so the notion of ‘fees going up’ is a key consideration for them.

It’s why Gen Z-ers are likely to go straight into the workforce, opting out of the traditional routes of education as they look for ways to get work experience and avoid education debt. Industrious, collaborative and entrepreneurial, Gen Z is more concerned with acquiring skills than degrees.

So what does this mean for educators looking to create learning experiences that will appeal to and excite Gen Z students?
  • Creating a social learning environment, where students can be hands on and directly involved in the learning process is key. Gen Z prefers class discussions, interactive classrooms, and fully immersive educational experiences as opposed to traditional learning environments.
  • Digital learning tools will need to be fully integrated into Gen Z’s education. To keep the attention spans of students living in a high tech and highly networked world, these tools will need to be super-fast, continuously updated and on demand so that they are available at any time.
  • Gen Z processes information quickly, and with more information at their fingertips than any other generation before them, they are used to self-learning and are independent thinkers so thrive in environments that nurture these skills.

Interestingly, this generation’s relationship with information is very different to previous generations. Instead of seeking it out, they expect to have it presented: immediately, personalised, and in context (think ‘in-app push notifications’).  So where institutions fail to engage students with this kind of information in the right format, at a convenient time – the student experience will fail to meet expectation

Tribal Engage Brochure

As the education market becomes increasingly competitive, embracing the latest technology to deliver, measure, improve and ‘sell’ the experience that individuals can expect will be fundamental to the recruitment and retention of students. It’s worth bearing in mind too that brand loyalty has evolved for this generation of students, and Gen Z expects businesses, brands (colleges and universities included) and retailers to be loyal to them – if they don’t feel appreciated, they will move on…

So in summary, Gen Z Student Experience is:
  • Multifaceted – the combined effect of every interaction with or about your institution (not all of which you can control).
  • Increasingly personalised – requiring the latest technology to engage students in two-way communication. (Hence, leading colleges and universities are now focusing on co-creating experience with their students).   
  • Changeable - with each intake of new students, the standard of experience expected will shift. 
Gen Z Student Experience is not:
  • One size fits all – students will be drawn to different types of experience and will make their choice of institution based on the experience they expect will be available to them. 
  • A fixed measure – but it is a critically important measure and all students are invited to take part in the National Student Survey that helps benchmark experience.
  • Something that technology alone can deliver – it requires a change in the way that the institution operates to ensure that the experience that is expected can be consistently delivered on and off line.

This last point is increasingly a focus for leading colleges and universities. Simply adding technology to antiquated educational models will not satisfy Gen Z students. Which is why leading educators around the world are examining the entire culture of their institution.

After all, Gen Z is highly likely to be influenced by whether they agree with your institutions ethical and social motives and activities. More politically engaged than Millennials, Gen Z is switched on to big issues such as climate change, equality, racism, and gender - and is prepared and willing to make change.  They will expect this of your institution too.

A final consideration for this blog, is that Gen Z’s increased use of social media and connectedness is having a negative effect on student wellbeing. Living with a lot of stress from external global events and from social media means that mental health issues in young people are on the rise.  Colleges and universities that address this issue will be better placed to deliver a holistic student experience… more on this subject to follow in future blogs!

To find out more about the latest technology to support the Gen Z student experience, download our brochure on Tribal Engage, a mobile app for staff and students to connect, communicate and collaborate. 

Download the Tribal Engage brochure