One of the many email subscriptions I receive is from Faculty Focus which often pushes out gems about online learning. The one I received to day is entitled: “The 5 R’s of Engaging Millennial Students“.
Author Mary Bart shares several important insights – whether you are teaching f2f or whether you are teaching online – about the Millennial generation, which are students who were born between 1981 and 1999 and currently in grades 7 through college. She begins the article about the Millennials:
The first indication that the Millennial Generation may be different from previous generations is to consider how many different names we have for the generation and the people who belong to it. They’re referred to as Generation Y, Nexters, Baby Boom Echo Generation, Echo Boomers, Digital Natives, Generation Next, Generation Me and, of course, Millennials.
And then shares research from Dr. Christy Price, a professor at Dalton State in Georgia, who identified the 5 R’s for engaging students (all of which I observed in my own daughter and her friends who are in this generation):
- Research-based methods: Research suggests Millennials prefer a variety of active learning methods. When they are not interested in something, their attention quickly shifts elsewhere. Interestingly, many of the components of their ideal learning environment – less lecture, use of multimedia, collaborating with peers – are some of the same techniques research has shown to be effective, Price said.
- Relevance: Millennials have grown up being able to Google anything they want to know, therefore they do not typically value information for information’s sake. As a result, the professor’s role is shifting from disseminating information to helping students apply the information. One of the greatest challenges for teachers is to connect course content to the current culture and make learning outcomes and activities relevant, Price said.
- Rationale: Unlike Boomers who were raised in a more authoritarian manner in which they more readily accept the chain of command, Millennials were raised in a non-authoritarian manner and are more likely to comply with course policies when teachers provide them with a rationale for specific policies and assignments.
- Relaxed: Millennials prefer a less formal learning environment in which they can informally interact with the professor and one another. In interviews with students, the term “laid back” was used repeatedly.
- Rapport: Millennials are extremely relational. They are more central to their parents’ lives than previous generations and are used to having the adults in their lives show great interest in them. They appreciate it when professors show that same interest, and they seem to be more willing to pursue learning outcomes when instructors connect with them on a personal level.
I’d like to focus on #5 that talks about how relational this generation is. I think this is consistent with the recent Pew Internet Report about the number of young people using social media which I wrote about here. This report points out that 95% of teens are online and 80% of them are on social media sites such as Facebook. In the report, the authors identify how teens use social media: chatting and instant messaging with friends, posting updates of what they are doing, and posting pictures. Social media is a relational activity that leads to an increase in a relationship over time.
In the world of online learning, many are concerned that when a student studies online, that there is a lack of interaction or a lack of the interaction that most adults are used to. With this additional research, it is important to note that interaction online is relational and that the millennial generation (just like previous generations) enjoys having relationships and interaction with others. Whether f2f or online, relationships do develop and there is interaction. Interaction and relationships developed online are different than f2f interaction and relationships, but not better or worse.