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Know Your Audience: Designing Content for Generation Z


As you know, the main goal of designing a successful course is to impart the necessary knowledge to your learner. However, the way you plan to deliver your course can drastically impact their learning and retention.

Today’s students - whether they’re undergrads or Ph.D. candidates - are busier than ever. In addition to their course work, many may have full or part-time jobs while also balancing commitments to friends, family, and other interests.

In this article, we’ll take a look at ways you can deliver engaging learning content for this cohort of learners. But first, let’s shine a spotlight on who they are and how they behave in a general sense to best understand their learning needs.

Our Newest University Students: Generation Z

As we reviewed in a recent post, this fall’s incoming class of university first-year students are part of Generation Z. They were born with technology at their fingertips. They’re also the generation of students who grew up with parents taking them from soccer practice to dance rehearsal to music lessons, all while fitting in playdates, language lessons, and part-time jobs. In short, they’re constantly on the go and more involved as a whole than those who have come before them - and the whole world has always been just a Google search away.

Moreover, they’re averse to formal training. In fact, one in ten claimed that they would “rather read the full iTunes terms and conditions” than attend a formal workplace training! If that’s how they feel about training in order to get paid, we can probably assume it goes double for education (i.e.: their college courses) that they’re paying for.

With content meant to be delivered during a traditional lecture period, when you have your students’ captive attention, tried and true methods are still worthwhile. But when you’re working to create content that should be consumed outside of the classroom or lecture hall, eLearning may provide you - and your students - with a fantastic opportunity. The challenge is making sure you’re able to meet your students where they learn best. For Gen Zers, getting their attention and delivering content in the most convenient way means going digital and mobile.

As you’re designing content for these students, below are a few key tips to keep in mind.

Keep It Brief

While lecture hall-style content is likely to be presented in the traditional way, additional assignments and resources that are meant to be accessed outside the classroom should be perfected for mobile.

That means content modules should be short, sweet and to the point. Large blocks of text should be synthesized to the bare necessities, while more complex points can be expanded upon via video or audio components. Not only will this help the information be consumable on the go, but it will also help to ensure that these busy students aren’t checking out and clicking away to another app.

Keep It Simple

If your module requires interactions or has any gamification built-in, be certain that you’re choosing your content arrangements wisely.

Remember, if your learners are using their mobile devices, it won’t be easy to “click and drag” an icon from one space to another if it was initially designed for a larger computer screen. Buttons to click through to the next page should be easy to see and click, as should any interactions necessary to complete a task or answer a quiz.

Keep It Convenient

One of the most important things to remember when creating content for the mobile generation is that they're indeed mobile. That means that learners might need to stop a module in the middle and pick it up at a later time.

If it isn’t convenient to stop and start as needed (i.e.: if every time they stop, they have to restart the entire thing from the beginning) they’ll be more likely to put it off until they can devote their full attention to it. If these modules happen to be additional resources, it’s likely that the learner may decide that it’s easier to just skip it altogether and move on to whatever’s next.

For more advice on mobile learning pedagogy and more, we recommend following mobile learning experts Mike Sharples and Kevin Kelly. If you're looking for a tool to help you build eLearning courses for the mobile generation, give us a shout.

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