Social media, digital tools needed to engage Gen Z students
- Colleges are increasingly using social media and other digital techniques to work with a new generation of students who want authentic connections to help them feel less isolated, as well as structures to support an efficient and driven job search and their desire to change the world, according to The New York Times.
- The far-reaching article describes ways colleges are trying to understand and help Gen Z students with personal, academic and career path concerns that are different than their predecessors.
- The Times reported these students, born between 1995 and 2012 aren’t fond of reading, are closely tied to social media, feel lonely and stressed, and, most importantly, one expert said, want to be treated as individuals and are quick to sense when they're not.
Even when universities offer new services such as wellness initiatives, mindfulness centers, nature-filled activities or more job relevant courses, they often have to find new ways to get students' attention and explain the options for the special offerings, along with basics including housing rules and honor codes. One expert says today's students are very shrewd consumers of messaging and want to undertake activity when it is convenient to them.
They are also cautious about academics, worry about failing and have learning preferences distinct from millennials, including the desire to work on information alone, according to Corey Seemiller, professor at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and co-author of the book “Generation Z Goes to College” who surveyed 1,200 students on 50 campuses. “They want a model and then to practice," he said.
Another report from the Chronicle of Higher Education showed that universities are also hiring teams of tech-savvy social media managers to present the institution's mission and activities with a message that gets attention and clearly presents a cultivated image.
Their jobs require 24/7 diligence about campus and student news, good and bad, formulating responses through new means, similar to staffers charged with checking student social media activity, particularly that of prospects, which has led to a revocation of acceptance for a number of students. Ten students accepted at Harvard University were refused admission after they formed a humorous group that posted inappropriate comments.
A recent survey found 100% of colleges use social media for some functions, up from 65% a decade ago, and a new ranking names the top 50 social media institutions.
Officials note that smartphones and the Internet are not new technology to students. At Ohio State University officials gave iPads to 11,000 students, connecting them to courses, campus features and map, a planner, and bus route information. Orientation leaders and staff members in Princeton University’s office of the dean of undergraduate students, which is known on social media as ODUS, have tried to master social media as a way to welcome the class of 2022.