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How Millennials are Impacting Higher Education

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

By Vibha Kagzi, Founder and Chief Education Officer, Reachivy.com.

ReachIvy is a premium education and careers advisory with our expertise across - Study Abroad, Career Guidance and Free Resources.

Recently on my flight back from Delhi, I noticed the girl sitting next to me engrossed with her smartphone. Apart from texting at breakneck speed, she was working on multiple apps – checking out images on Instagram and occasionally sending ‘likes’ of Facebook, texting her family on WhatsApp, and reading snippets on Twitter. Having covered her ‘social duties,’ she moved on deftly towards an online course on computer programming. All in a matter of half an hour!

That made me think of the millennials and their influence on higher education. The Gen Y has grown up with technology on their fingertips. They are probably unaware of how the world existed before the Internet. Naturally, their ability to assimilate diverse information, seek out higher education, and pick up work skills are very different from the generations that existed before the birth of smartphone technology. Although not inherently different than the previous generations, the Millennial generation are more in tune with the digital age. Millennials are the most diverse generation to teach; they expect to be engaged in their learning, as they are not passive learners.

Consider the Facts

  • By 2025, Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce.
  • According to a survey by GenForward, the majority of Asian-American millennial respondents say college is necessary for success.
  • More than 84% of Indian and Chinese form a large group international student community

The millennials are far more impatient, globally aware, and hyperconnected. They need information at their fingertips, and they are always engaging in social and professional communication. They are aware of different ways to harness social media, how to acquire knowledge through various channels, and how to disseminate information real-time.

Millennials believe in integrating technology with higher education. Without technology, their learning is limited; hence they will go somewhere else where they can be engaged with, and interactive with, technology. These technologies include the cell phones, computers and the Internet.

There is a growing trend among millennials toward a portable learning environment. Learning is no longer confined within the four walls of a classroom. While traditional modes of schooling and higher education still exist, there is a growing preference among millennials to ‘learn on the go.’ This allows them the liberty to travel freely, while still consuming data.

As technology continues to disrupt older and traditional approaches to higher education, the millennial generation expects a holistic learning process without the confines of a classroom. With the advent of Augmented and Virtual Reality, the day won’t be far when interactive classroom sessions, lab experiments and practical training can be undertaken remotely with the best of resources and faculty available at the click of a button. With engaging learning experiences and unlimited possibilities offered by cutting edge technology, there is a greater thrust on millennial-driven educational systems. There is a credible and authentic learning process, where the pedagogy does not interfere with the student’s knowledge transfer.

There is an increasing need to rethink how educational institutes engage with students. University thought leaders who understand the connection between digital engagement and student experience have been talking about bringing about dynamic changes within their educational sector. Student-focused efforts, with social media presence, will be the winners. Students have themselves played key role as change agents for changes in higher education.

Software giants like Google, Amazon, and Apple have already begun to develop, innovate, and create educational tools for the millennials. Artificial intelligence plays a key role in identifying the need gap. Apple’s Swift, Google’s G Suite is another such initiative to bridge the knowledge gap by bringing world class education to the end user. Amazon plans to make a major foray into the education technology market for primary and secondary schools with its new site Amazon Inspire.

So How Does This Millennial Culture Affect the Future of Education?

  • The millennials are a plugged-in generation. They are always connected, have an outward perspective, with a global overview.
  • They prefer to study and work in unregimented, unstructured places. Education, for them is not limited to textbooks, lectures, or exam halls. They seek to identify their own learning needs, design their own education modules, and assimilate knowledge at their own convenience.
  • The millennials are in favor of higher education. Most of the millennials believe in studying overseas in an international school to acquire a broader perspective, with depth of knowledge.
  • The ease and convenience of learning through mass open online courses (MOOCs) have opened the gates of online education in a big way. Many ed-tech firms have now realized the potential of MOOC services, and are eager to get into the bandwagon.
  • Millennials are in favor of collaborative learning. While the old pedagogy emphasizes on classroom interaction, the students of today want to explore learning beyond the classroom. They want to engage with their peers across the world, learn from distinguished mentors from across the continent, and share their learning on a larger platform. This makes way for education to be more social.
  • Technology has been a massive enabler, and it will continue to do so. While artificial intelligence and virtual reality have yet to make a significant impact, these technologies if employed correctly can be a gamechanger.
  • Gaming technologies can be effectively harnessed to incorporate learning. Many ed-tech companies are experimenting with gaming technologies to incorporate in education. Minecraft, the popular gaming technology was recently bought by Microsoft, to be used for education.
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