An Examination of Gen Z Learners Attending a Minority University
This paper presents the preliminary findings of a pilot survey that sought to examine the technology uses, backgrounds, needs, interests, career goals, and professional expectations of Generation Z students enrolled at a minority serving institution in the United States Mid-Atlantic region.
Students entering college today are part of Generation Z born in the late 90’s through 2016. Known for their short attention spans and heightened ability to multi-task, they already outnumber millennials and are the first true digital natives born during the age of smart phone.
In the fall of 2017, an online student perception survey was piloted with stu-dents enrolled at a mid-Atlantic minority serving institution. The survey included a combination of dichotomous, Likert-scaled, and ranking questions. The survey was administered electronically using the Survey Monkey system 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. The data was subsequently exported to Microsoft Excel and SPSS where descriptive statistical analyses were conducted.
As Generation Z descends on college campuses, with their technology domi-nated backgrounds and different communications, learning, and social prefer-ences, 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 litera-ture, 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 enrolled in a minority-serving institution enjoy computer classes, feel that using computers comes easy to them; and perceive themselves as experts in the use of social media, mobile operating systems, using a smart phone, searching the Web, and email. Participants also 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 respondents also believe that their career will require them to analyze information to inform decision making. Additionally, most stated that information security will be important to their future career. Finally, the results affirmed that college computing courses remain important and that college students recognize that technology will play a crucial role in their career with employers wanting to see job applicants 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 in this study 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.