Digital Natives Crave More Technology Across Higher Ed Institutions

Colleges and Universities across the globe compete for the younger generation’s attention and admission. Preparation takes place years in advance to prepare the institution for the incoming wave of new student demands and expectations. Higher ed institutions are facing a number of challenges due to the period of rapid change they find themselves in. They have been forced to compete on a digital front with a shrinking budget. The debated diminishing value of a college degree compared to other technological specific training, skills and certifications that are making it increasingly easier and cheaper to receive as opposed to college degrees.

Digital natives have been raised in a digital era and naturally crave technology. However current research shows that modern higher education institutions cannot keep up with the demand. Generation Z will be more dependent on technology than any generation before them on higher ed campuses.

Barns & Nobel College conducted a study in which over 1,000 middle and high school students were surveyed in 49 states. They found a learning preference that in previous generations has not been highlighted. Only 12% of those students surveyed preferred a lecture-like environment to learn in. Over half preferred working through problems and examples to learn [1]. This shift in learning behavior only suggests that colleges need to adjust their traditional learning environments if they truly want their students to succeed and if they want their admissions numbers to remain healthy. Virtual learning environments and various other learning tools stand to replace the traditional style of learning. Higher ed institutions must be ready for the influx of this type of demand.

Higher ed institutions are under immense pressure to provide the latest and greatest to retain admission and the overall success and furtherment of their name. However, the digital generation is finding itself craving more. Kanuj Malhotra president of Digital Student Solutions at Barnes & Noble Education stated:

“This digitally native generation expects resources that parallel their interactions with other areas of their lives, including social communication and commerce. They are looking for seamlessly integrated, easily accessible solutions. Enhanced classroom technology ensures content is available to students whenever and wherever increasing the opportunity to drive their engagement in the class and subject matter.” [2]

Kanuj Malhotra

Some institutions are thriving under new expectations. A new robotics laboratory has been unveiled by the University of Houston’s Cullen College of Engineering. In this lab, students have space dedicated to different projects, where students can work on capstone projects and have hands-on engineering and design experience. Len Trombetta, associate department chair for electrical and computer engineering, said in a statement. “This makes our graduates very marketable because these are skills companies want.” Hands-on experience translates to job-ready skills. Trombetta also added that access to state-of-the-art technology encourages students and fosters excellence:

“If you walk into a laboratory, and there’s equipment there for you and resources available to you, you’re going to do a better job than if you have to fight for a bench or scrounge for equipment. It means a lot for the students to be able to come in and have a place they call their own, where they can work on their projects and have all the equipment and resources they need.” [3]

Len Trombetta

The new laboratory was made possible from a charitable donation, which adds to the budgetary issues plagued by colleges and universities. The argument “if you build it they will come” does apply in this sense, but other institutions may not be so lucky to receive donations such as this.

Higher education institutions need to adapt, These future students will not remain students forever. It’sap estimated that the digital generation will become 40% of the United States population by the year 2020. Which is more motivating is the spending power they have $140 billion of it [4].

Increasing a technological presence on campus is not solved by installing new computers in every dorm lounge, but rather expanding the reach of the potential possibilities offered on campus. IT professionals working at these institutions know that the main objective is student success, what investments can be made to ensure this but also ensure institutional success? Investing in your network. Prepare your campus for the digital future your students are expecting with a network that is ready to handle anything you throw at it.


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