Designing Online Learning for Generation Z – 8 Quick Tips

Like many eLearning designers out there, you’re probably still coming to grips with understanding and working with Millennials — the “social media generation” born between 1984 and 2004. But now there’s a whole new generation to understand: Generation Z. Who are they? What makes them different? And how should we design learning for them? Here’s what we know.
gen z

A significant change in the demographics of our online learners is near. Just as organizations are coming to grips with the needs of the millennial generation, a new group, Generation Z, is looming on the horizon. Generation Z- or those students born after the 1990s- has a whole new way of approaching learning that is widely different from previous generations. This is mostly due to the prevalence of mobile technology.

Believe it or not, members of this generation have never known a world without Google, Facebook, smartphones or tablets. As babies they watched videos and played with iPads. As kids they watched Youtube and played online games. And as teens – well – I think we can all agree that the smartphone is actually an extension of a teenager’s body.

So how has all this mobile ubiquity affected online learning preferences?

Generation Z: A Primer

To begin with, Generation Z prefers to communicate visually. They think in terms of images, film clips and video. They also think spatially and in 4D.  And because of mobile devices, they have always known how to zoom, pinch and swipe.  (Sparks & Honey, Pew Research, 2012)

They are used to hyper-connectivity. Today’s high-speed digital devices enable them to always be connected to their friends and the Internet. This lets them communicate and collaborate in real-time regardless of physical location.

They are great multi-taskers. Because their brains are wired differently, they actually function better with input from a variety of sources. In fact, 84% of Generation Z are multi-taskers vs. just 2% of the general population.  As such they are used to finding information, communicating, participating and sharing across multiple digital screens. And they are used to achieving these multiple tasks simultaneously.

Their attention spans are shorter. They communicate in bite sizes. Research studies suggest that their brains have evolved to process more information at faster speeds, making them better able to handle bigger mental challenges. However, getting and keeping their attention is challenging. In fact, the average American attention span is around 8 seconds – which is less than the attention span of a goldfish (9 seconds).

Designing for Generation Z

Bearing the above in mind, here are some quick tips that will help you design more effective eLearning content for Generation Z:

1. Go Mobile

Gen Z learners are used to accessing content anytime, from anywhere, and they carry their smartphones/tablets everywhere. So your content needs to be mobile.

2. Keep it short

Generation Z prefers to consume content in small, easily digested chunks.

3. Make it purposeful

Generation Z learners have short attention spans so be sure to get straight to the point. If there’s too much fluff in your content, edit it or eliminate it.

4. Make it visual

In other words, lose the extra text, and pump up the visuals. Try to incorporate symbols to provide context and create subtext. Gen Z is used to speaking in emoticons and emojis.

5. Engage the senses

Leverage film, music, images, virtual reality – whatever it takes to engage them and keep their attention.

6. Make it multi-dimensional

Consider the ability of your learner to think laterally. It no longer needs to be a linear journey. Consider a multi-dimensional approach, and allow opportunities for discovery.

7. Include games

Generation Z learners are used to playing games, earning points and receiving digital rewards. So if possible, leverage gamification techniques to keep learners engaged.

8. Make it social

Gen Z is an extremely social generation! Allow opportunities for social interaction. But also understand their need for privacy. One Nielson Group Study found that teens prefer using email more than millennials to share content due to the protective nature over their social accounts and preference for anonymity.

Interested in learning more?  Check out the presentation from Jeff Roach Below: Designing for Generation Z: How Kids are Rewriting the Rules of Their Own User Experiences.



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