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Meet the needs of Gen Z

By CANDICE ADAMS, Academic Head, Capsicum Culinary Studio and The Private Hotel School

Generation Z is the group defined as growing up in the era of connected technology. Born between 1997 and 2012, most importantly, this is the generation entering the world’s tertiary education systems today.

In his article A Tsunami of Learners Called Generation Z, D Rothman writes: “The brains of Generation Zs have become wired to sophisticated, complex visual imagery and, as a result, the part of the brain responsible for visual ability is far more developed, making visual forms of learning more effective.”

So, auditory learning, such as lectures and discussions, is strongly disliked by this group, whereas interactive games, collaborative projects, advance organisers, and challenges, are appreciated.

Important factors to consider in the approach to teaching, facilitating and educating this generation. Their perceptions on the world and themselves calls for adapted and specific teaching strategies and focused approaches toward mentoring.

The learning experience matters for a Gen Z student. Why would they be inclined to sit through a long lecture, when they can watch to the same content through multiple engaging podcasts, or videos? How can we engage this learner without compromising the educational process?

  1. Find a way to do it digitally. As our technology rapidly evolves, it becomes a part of daily life for this generation, as does the expectation of using it in daily activities – including learning. Consider how well you make use of technology in teaching strategies and how it could be better incorporated into the learning process.
  2. Allow them to use technology and take advantage of their drive for self-learning. Instead of taking away devices in the classroom, incorporate them into activities that promote searching for credible information.
  3. Be faster at feedback. This generation values a faster pace of classroom, practice and career advancement that provides frequent feedback for meeting certain benchmarks. Think about how you can offer more frequent benchmarks during the learning process to help them see and measure personal improvement. Feedback plays a key role in motivating personal growth.
  4. Be more fluid and flexible. The more flexible you can come across to them, in adapting to their personal preferences for learning, the faster you’ll engage them. You will appear more authentic and organic in your relationship with them and your dedication to their success.
  5. Offer more frequent rewards. While we must equip our students to sustain their interest – even when the rewards are not initially visible – we can prepare them for this lifestyle through offering frequent rewards or benefits to incentivise them to stay and keep working. Affirmation for reaching a goal, or a reward / praise for hitting a deadline can impact greatly on their perception of their progress.
  6. Break up classes and learning into smaller segments. We have learned that splitting up long sessions into smaller more frequent segments often results in more engaged learners. Think about how you can divide your time with students into smaller bites and segments of content to enable them to stay engaged more hours in the long run.
  7. Be concise and capture their attention with visuals. Gen Z prefers microlearning; with so much information trying to get past their filter, standing out from the noise is key to engagement.
  8. Build a social community beyond the walls of the classroom. Gen Z learners are tethered to their social networks. Make facilitators and lecturers available through social apps for questions. For some learners, this may be the only medium through which they feel comfortable asking questions.
  9. Show them the content they are learning has relevance on a global scale. Gen Z learners are aware of our global connectedness. Gear learning to reflect a greater purpose and global relevance.
  10. Empower learners to create. In a survey conducted by Barkley, Inc. and Futurecast, Generation Z said: “We want to work for our success, not to be discovered.” They are curating and creating as artists who want to express themselves. The more we can empower them to mix and match ideas and then create an idea that represents their own self-expression, the more engagement we will experience.

These strategies can all be embodied through adopting blended learning as an approach to learning with Generation Z, in traditional education spaces and in workplaces.

Blended learning can make use of multiple types of content and can take place on multiple platforms, aside from e-learning and learner management systems specifically designed for blended and online learning, content can be delivered through webinars, conference calls, live streams, other media and events such as social media (WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc., email, blogs, forums, podcasts and video calling) and even through gaming, making it accessible, exciting and interactive.

The beauty of making use of blended learning models in the hospitality and culinary environment is the student’s ability to self-pace their learning. Blended learning models make learning more accessible to learners in workplaces, and have the potential to maximise the efficacy of learning programmes both in the theoretical and practical components.

When watching a practical demonstration in the kitchen for example, the learners can rely only on what they observed during the session. In a pre-recorded blended learning model, the learners can access the content and watch the demonstration as many times as they would like. This can result in the student having more control over their learning pace, the skills and knowledge they acquire and the opportunity to engage with the content in a manner that works best for them as individuals.

Blended learning models provide instant feedback and generally offer the ability to reward learners through recognition, some learner management platforms have badges or medals that are either automatically awarded based on coded result expectations or can be allocated to learners by facilitators. The blended approach almost always includes a social aspect, satisfying the need for social engagement and relationship building through approaches such as forum engagement, chats, direct messaging and group engagement activities.

The structure of blended learning approaches is often broken into small segments which allow for “bite sized” information dissemination, speaking to the need for smaller segmented learning with Gen Z. These smaller condensed “classes” still cover all the essential learning and add up to the same approach as a two-hour lecture by adapting the delivery of information via videos, activities, articles, puzzles, quizzes, etc. via a delivery system often referred to as a learning path. This methodology satisfies their need to create and be a part of their learning journey.

Generation Z is revolutionising the educational system in many aspects. Thanks in part to a rise in the popularity of entrepreneurship and advancements in technology, institutions across the globe are including entrepreneurship in their curriculum. According to the World Economic Forum, over one in five members of Generation Z are interested in attending a trade or technical school. The hospitality, culinary and tourism educational fields are particularly well geared to take advantage of the style of learning that best suits them.

The careers in fields within the greater hospitality, travel and tourism industries require well developed and honed skills, good business acumen and feed the need for human interaction, relationship development and balance. The expansive variety of career paths open to learners entering the field provide a multitude of income generation opportunities, opportunities for travel and self-development as well as encouraging holistic wellbeing – the industry has become increasingly aware of mental and physical health and encourages balance across all aspects of one’s career and life. 

The main objective of pedagogy is to inspire, nurture and encourage young minds to question and absorb information, and to develop skills and intellect that provide the best stepping-stones into their futures. As each generation enters our educational channels, we must adapt to ensure we achieve our objective.

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