Designing learning experiences for Gen Z
almost by chance, I became part of a trainers group tasked with designing a development programme for 20 to 24 y.o. I'll be honest - I wasn't thrilled at the perspective. I don't know what these young people are like and, even when I was in that age bracket myself, I wasn't like everyone else. I graduated from university when I was 20 and I started my first serious job at 21. I wasn't interested in what most of the people around me were interested in. So yeah... I wasn't too happy.
But I happen to work with some amazing people (hopefully I will be able to talk more about them in the future) who dug up some fascinating research into the psyche of the youngsters. Here are some of the highlights about Gen Z - they are:
technically and digitally savvy - they know how to use all sorts of commercial technologies and gadgets because... well, they were born with it.
prefer communication over chat, rather than face-to-face - in other words, if you want to get in touch with them, don't call... text or message.
search for information online - there is so much information readily available online that it is hard not to get immersed in searching for little pieces of gems. This also means that if they don't know something, their go-to is the internet, not an expert or a friend/family member.
prefer visual information and storytelling - having to rely on visual representation of the world is something Gen Z strives for - regardless of the form: animated video explainers, infographics or memes.
independent and autonomous - don't tell them what to do or how to do it. They are more likely to be kinaesthetic learners, preferring to try things out and watching how-to tutorials, rather than reading instructions or asking someone to explain.
difficult to keep their attention for long periods of time on the same thing - the world is full of information and opportunities so you have to work extra hard to keep their attention.
do several things at once - very closely related to the previous point - if there are so many things to do, why not do all of them: read a book, listen to a podcast, learn a new skill, waste time on social media, chat with friends and so on.
ecologically conscious - they can for the environment and the footprint they leave.
Now it is time for me to mention the obligatory note - this is a MASSIVE GENERALISATION! No one is all of those things at once and some of these characteristics can be applied to Boomers and millennials alike! But if we assume that there is a person, who is a typical representative of Gen Z, and can be described with the highlights above, the question for L&D is "what learning experiences would be most appropriate for them?"
And this is exactly the question I asked myself while working with this group of talented trainers and instructional designers.
Obviously, I will not tell you what the final design we came up with is - for that, we will have to run the demo sessions first and validate our results (which will hopefully happen by the end of the summer). But nonetheless, here are some of the initiatives we discussed which I think would be brilliant for learners for Gen Z.
high-tech escape room
project-based learning with regular debriefs
progress tracking with badges
real-world scavenger hunts using learning tasks (i.e. find a partner and work on a task together)
coaching (both with a professional and peer)
solving real-world ecological challenges in their city
There are other amazing ideas which I am sure I have missed. The most important thing is to ALWAYS start with the learner in mind. Find out who s/he is and then design learning experiences fit for them.
What we ultimately come up with will be a topic of another blog post later in the year.
For now - see you next time!