Educational Outcomes for Gen Z

If we agree that Generation Z…

begins around 1998, then we have already seen a few cycles of Gen Z move through their undergraduate years. As the body of literature on Gen Z continually grows, it’ll be vital for higher ed pros to stay up to date on best practices for student engagement. How is Gen Z different from Millennials, and how can we anticipate their needs?  

Perhaps it’s best to begin with assessing how we’ve approached Millennials over the last decade, and why it may not work for Gen Z.

Millennials, the first digital nomads 

First, we know Millennials are technologically competent. Millennials grew up with desktop computers in their homes, and have an easier time picking up new devices and tech skills rather quickly. Second, Millennials are team players, focused on process over outcome. Millennials find value in collaboration. Finally, Millennials are global citizens, a result of growing up during perhaps the most revolutionary innovation the human population has ever encountered: the Internet. 

Of course there are many more generalizations that can be made about Millennials–both good and bad–but we’ll stop there for now. How does Generation Z compare?

Gen Z, the first digital titans

Our world is Gen Z’s digital playground. Where Millennials are tech-competent, Gen Z is tech-superior. Given iPad’s to play with in their early years and cell phones in elementary and middle school, the digital lives they lead are vastly different and more complicated than that of Millennials. See TikTok, Discord, SnapChat, and Twitch.

What might be a little more difficult to parse out is just how independent Gen Z is, at least in comparison to Millennials. Gen Z is the DIY generation; they independently accomplish tasks more efficiently due to resources that existed while growing up. From their earliest years in grade school, Gen Z has been on the receiving end of the best educational content our world has ever seen. While we all grew up with VHS videos of Bill Nye the Science Guy in the classroom, Gen Z had something more. They had Youtube, a database of infinite video content (including educational video content) to be used within and outside of the classroom.And whether one considers this resourcefulness as positive or negative, what factually remains the same is that Gen Z is generation most with digital media. 

But why bother talking about the similarities and differences between Millennials and Gen Z in terms of student conduct procedures? 

Application to student conduct practice

My favorite colloquialism in student conduct is “meet the student where they are.” We’ve all heard this in grad school from our mentors, or at ASCA and Gehring [shoutout to the Foundations Track], and even outside the student conduct functional area too. It has an underlying theme of intentionality. We should be thinking critically and strategically how we can most effectively engage with students.

So how do we bridge this to student conduct sanctions? Let’s start with reflection essays. 

If we all agree the student conduct process is educational, our educational outcomes are a critical component. But if students complete reflection papers on autopilot–completing them just to complete them–how much learning has really taken place? 

As conduct professionals, all we can really do is provide them the opportunity to learn; it’s up to them to take it upon themselves to do so.  And so, all we can do is hope they take the opportunity to learn.  

So, is a reflection essay with a prompt the best way to engage a student? Or how about a video lecture on how many ounces of beer comprises a standard drink, amongst other statements that a student will brush off?

We believe in a world where conduct practitioners can feel good about assigning sanctions that are developmental, impactful, and even enjoyable for students. It’s exactly why we built Sanctionite. We know providing the conduct community with a library of enjoyable content will help conduct practitioners take care of the rest. Let’s level up our sanctioning practices and make an impact on Gen Z.