Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ The Gen Z Learning Journey From Higher Education To The Workplace

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Half an Hour, Oct 09, 2019


Summary of a presentation:
The Gen Z Learning Journey From Higher Education To The Workplace
Giselle Kovary, M.A., President
n-gen People Performance Inc.

I want to cover research on Gen Z, especially from a Canadian context. They're more 1996 than 2012. But we can't make a statement about an individual person based on their age; this work applies only to the macro level.

(Used code #genz )  'Entitled' and 'creative' are the most popular terms. There has been a lot of millennial-bashing recently.

I'm a bt surprised to see 'entitled' o large - it has been pulling back a bit recently.

What does our research show? They say "I want to learn and I want to make things with my hands." Other words: innovative, adaptable, tech-empowered. Student: 'I didn't use tech in kindergarten... I had to learn to use technology through school.'

The Research

Born 1996-2012. 6.8 million in Canada, 19% of the population. 59% being raised by GenX parents (which means the 'Bank of Mom and Dad' doors are closed).

They tend to be savers, not spenders. They agree they should do what the boss says, to follow policies. They're comfortable with tech. They want flexible agile work environments. Top 3 priorities were: enjoy my life, find a great job, become a better person.

They say 'we need to enjoy life now'; they're not going to martyr themselves. They say, we want to come in and contribute right away. From education: I want you to help me become a better person with learning that is meaningful to me,

The GenZs have watched the millennials go through the gig economy, watched them be exposed, watched them be hit by the recession. So they see they can go into a company and grow a career for 10 years, do this three or four times. When they leave, it's not for career progression, it's to learn new skills and become a better person.

They have a realistic attitude going into the work world. They know they need to be adaptable, be a great team player, and be a part of the cultural fit of that organization right away. A forth thing was 'making customers happy'.

Social media use (daily or weekly) is high: YouTube (71%), Facebook (68%), Snapchat (56%), Instagram (56%), and (to a lesser extend) Twitter (26%). They use Facebook a bit differently, to shop or post pictures. To learn, they use Google and YouTube.

They view their learning as co-created, and they view it as something they do throughout their career. Contrast with me: I didn't see the world as a place where people could contribute to my learning every day. They do. 71% of GenZ think higher education is important for developing critical thinking skills, as opposed to other subject-based skills.

"I dont remember anything I learned in terms of information." Many GenZs said the same thing. They referred to skills they can use throughout their lives, as opposed to specific skills. "Noone is going to hire you because of the specific skills you learn here. You are here to learn how to think."

The GenZ learning journey: independent, self-directed, increased use of technology. Learning today "is a lot more independent. Teachers don't really hold your hand."

Learning preferences: 89% learn best when I can work with others to solve real-life problems. Needs to be relevant, connected. 71% learn best when they have a say in what their learning experience is like 70% go online to answer questions about the world around them.

(SD - I'm wondering about the 30% who aren't generally using tech. Where are they? Who are they? How does this impact their learning?)

68% expect they will need to learn new things throughout their life. This is a demonstration that they have a growth mindset. And they learn best when they can create things they can share with others (66%). This ties back into doing something with their hands. They want to create and share - the idea that their learning wouldn't be shared is very odd to them.

Only12% learn from listening to lectures. 38% by reading course materials.

(SD- this is why I write these summaries - it occupies me during a lecture, gives me something to do, create and share. Even though I'm not a GenZ. :) )

One of the GenZ students was in the Catholic system and said she felt the learning was really filtered, wasn't authentic, wasn't real. I want to be art of the dialogue about what's happening in the world around me. So we as educators need to ask how we can be as authentic as possible, to provide unfiltered and unbiased learning.

Five Ways

  • Self-Directed - what and how learning occurs
  • Collaborative - can we include each other, external people, customers, cross-functional team
  • Practical Just-in-Time In Real Life learning - less cotent & info up front, letting people figure out what their challenges are and get learning for them
  • Learning that is integrated - brings in experts from outside, new and broad perspectives, unfiltered - are we information diversity and inclusion, are we including different lenses - 'diversity' isn't just gender, race, religion - it's what is important to them - eg. I'm a vegan, I'm a marathon writer, etc. 
  • Digital - be faster with it, use multiple platforms, make it more user-friendly, create greater engagement - why haven't we done this faster? "We are going digital... but we don't want to lose that personal component". "If we do to digital learning what we did to classroom learning... that is not digital learning.... just a boring classroom lecture."

(Table-activity - discuss how these apply in your life).
(Generally agreed at our table (all industry people, not educators) that all of this applied to us as well)

(Presentation of some of the table discussion results)

(Stories about using tech in the workplace and older people having to get used to that).

Transition to the Work World

What skills do they think are the most important to demonstrate to get and keep a good job: Attitude, communication, collaboration and cultural fit, time management, and technical application (they sometimes wish, eg., they had learned Excel).

Corporate learning that sets them up for success: provides support (so often the learning isn't supportive, needs to accept failure), be authentic and tell me the truth, encourage open dialogue and questions, and encourage people to be self-reflective.

Video: web-based modules, turns me off of the company - "A company telling me that people love working here doesn't tell me that people love working here."

Video: build training programs, have consultations, not just thrown into the sharks.

The don't want generic learning anywhere. They want it to be targeted, they want it to be focused. It's not just micro-learning sessions - that traditional knowledge in't appealing to them. They want dialogue and engagement. They want learning that addresses challenges in real life. And they want that human touch, instead of just putting information online and calling it a day.

So... we should leverage their passion for learning. Use classrooms as learning labs. Support SMEs etc. create high-impact training (as opposed to a two-hour virtual session). Learn how to co-create with learners. Otherwise our learning programs are not effective.

(Big list of instructional design techniques that are 'all appropriate')

It requires that we cut out all the information that is not needed, all the 'nice to know' information. It needs to focus on what must be learned. Also, we need to look at data-driven content (ie., using algorithms to track people, do assessments in real time, etc., to create individual lerning paths).

So when we come to a classroom to do classroom learning - what we really mean is 'live instructional design' - when you come into the room you have materials at hand that you can tack together. Maybe o a game to find out where they're at. This makes many administrators very nervous - they want scripted learning that the can sign-off on.

By contrast, we often find learners want to binge-learn. But there may need to be a cadence. But we need to create a mechanism for self-directed learning.

Using again. Totally different words: optimistic, excited, hopeful.


- , Feb 13, 2020
, - The Gen Z Learning Journey From Higher Education To The Workplace, Feb 13, 2020

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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Last Updated: May 26, 2024 5:58 p.m.

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