Are students today really digital natives?

We’re used to reading articles talking about how education is transforming, especially through the use of technology. Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Gamification, Big Data, etc.

Far be it from me to contradict this idea. Indeed, this transformation is factual and observable! Disruptors in the Edtech industry now run the streets.

It must nevertheless be nuanced. Especially when some say that technology must adapt to a millennial / generation Z, also called digital natives.

Yes, digital natives. A generation that was bathed in technology, a generation that throughout adolescence, or even childhood, was manipulating technology.

At TestWe, we often rallied to this idea. Fatal error and we have some proof to affirm it.

You know (or maybe not yet) that our solution tends to 100% digitize the assessment of institutions from the creation of an exam until the delivery of the grade/badge/degree/certification. No more paper then.

The goal is also to let students take their exams on their own computer and in a professional-like environment.

Ok, so here are our findings:

  • 50% of them do not know how to manage their emails
  • 35% do not know how to navigate on their computer
  • 30% do not know how to install software
  • it’s rare, but some of them cannot differentiate Operating systems

Some would say that this simply explains that millennials and the Z generation are no longer used to use their computers, that they prefer their smartphones. I mean, look! 95% of them order food, book an Airbnb room or a taxi via their smartphone!

Why not, but are we now all working on our smartphones most of the time? No, the computer remains the number 1 tool of any “important” task. Moreover, they’re becoming more flexible and portable in any place than ever.

Warning! It is true, the stake is not vital but underlines the importance of the following idea:

Students are digital natives in that they were predominantly born in a digital environment saturated with lots of different media. Yes

But if we look at the digital natives’ term as a population who grew up with an ability to easily understand and master tech tools, then it is a big no as explains Kate Moran in her study published on the Nielsen Norman Group.

Instead, these young generations are more like digital consumers, consumers of what tech companies provide them with: contents, goods, information, social links etc.

That means two things for Higher education today

First, it is not necessary to go full speed toward using new tech for learning, just for the sake of consuming innovation.

Especially when we need only specific changes to solve one of today’s big crisis: the skills gap that affects new graduates.

Indeed, students, once graduated, land on a market that needs tech talents, but above all people who can learn quickly and implement quickly what they’re learning (=soft skills).

Whereas more than 70% of deans think graduated students are qualified for their first job, less than 40% of employers share that opinion.

Ce qu’il faut, c’est donc déterminer quels besoins du marché du travail et de l’innovation peuvent être répondu pendant le parcours universitaire. Allons sur la VR en école de commerce, par exemple, si dans 10 ans, il est perçu que plus de 50% des étudiants aujourd’hui l’utiliseront régulièrement.

What we need then is to determine much more quickly which needs of the market can be answered, that goes through accelerating the updating of curricula. Let’s try VR in business school for sure, but only if more than 50% of today students are likely to use it regularly. Otherwise, make it an option.

Then, in the meantime, it is necessary to be able to trigger a change of habits. Through pedagogy, for example, promote a non-multitasking style of studying/working to students. Indeed, multitasking is a symbol of the millennial generation and yet such a bad way to learn and “be productive”.

So, in conclusion, there will be no learning revolution as long as we continue our focus on new technologies, as beneficial as they are. Coupled with these are clear measures, changes in habits that must be made to ensure the right changes students need for their future.