An Examination of Gen Z Learners Attending a Minority University

Nicole A. Buzzetto-Hollywood, Ayodele Julius Alade
InSITE 2018  •  2018  •  pp. 917

[This Proceedings paper was revised and published in the 2018 issue of the Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning, Volume 14]

This presentation presents the preliminary findings of a survey that sought to examine the technology uses, needs, interests, career goals, and professional expectations of Generation Z college students

Students entering college today are part of Generation Z born in the late 90’s through 2016 making the oldest among them 20 or so years old. They already outnumber millennials and are the first true digital natives being born during the age of smart phone. They are the first generation that used a tablet before they could ride a bike, the first to have childhood friends that they engaged with electronically, and the first to have their baby photos and youthful milestones shared on social media. Their minds, relationships, learning preferences, emotional health, sense of self, have all been inexplicably shaped by constant exposure to screens and networked digital technologies, which the research shows in high doses changes the neural circuitry of developing brains, leading to shorter attention spans, stunted social skills and a heightened ability to multitask

In the fall of 2017 an online student perception survey was administered to students enrolled at a mid-Atlantic minority serving institution. The survey included a combination of dichotomous, Likert-scaled, and ranking questions. The survey was administered to students following completion of core computer concepts courses and explored their technology backgrounds, skills, perceived computing self-efficacy, and the role they predict technology will play in their future career

As Generation Z descends on college campuses, with their technology dominated backgrounds and different communications, learning, and social preferences, it is important to better understand this generation whose needs and expectations will help shape the future of higher education. Additionally, this study also provides research on a population (first-generation minority college students) that is expanding in numbers in higher education and that the literature, reports is impacted negatively by the digital divide and educational inequalities. This paper is timely and relevant and helps to extend our understanding of Generation Z.

The findings show that Generation Z learners enjoy computer classes, feel that using computers comes easy to them; are experts in the use of social media, mobile operating systems, using a smart phone, searching the Web, and email. They reported that they want to be more technologically literate, want to be more skilled in computer software applications, and are interested in learning about cyber security. In terms of the future, most also believe that their career will require them to analyze information to inform decision making. Additionally, most believe that information security will be important to their future career. Finally, results affirmed that college computing courses remain important and that college students recognize that technology will play an important role in their career and that employers want to see job applications with strong technology skills.

Generation Z learners enrolled in higher education need, and want, a wide range of technology courses available to them in order to help them meet the rapidly evolving demands of tomorrow’s workplace. Students overwhelmingly see the value in enhancing their technology skills especially in such areas as computer software applications, information management, and cyber security.

Institutions of higher education should invest in thorough and ongoing examinations of the information and technology literacy skills, needs, and perceptions of students.

Understanding the interests and needs of Generation Z learners is imperative to the future of higher education.

This survey is a work in progress that is part of a pilot study that is being used to help guide a much more sizable examination of Generation Z learners.

Technology skills, career readiness, technological literacy, Generation Z, computer concepts course, computer education, computer skills assessment, UMES, minority learners, career and technology readiness, technology assessment, digital literacy, computer self-efficacy.
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