As each new generation starts to come of age, they typically grow up with a similar feeling — they’re “different”, and older generations don’t “get” them. And their feelings are valid, to some extent: Each generation is different and grows up in the context of a unique time.
If you’ve worked with educating the largest generation, Gen Z in any capacity, you likely have a sense that they are in fact a LOT different than previous generations. Largely in part due to the fact that they’re the first generation to grow up with the internet at their fingertips at all times.
And because of this, Gen Z has very different learning styles compared to generations before them. One of the most notable differences is their preference toward video-based learning. If you want to reach this generation in any copacity, you need to be utilizing video.
In this article we’ll explore why Gen Z prefers video learning, and some of the ways you can implement this learning tool into your curriculum.
Videos are Simply a Major Part of Their Lives
While mass video consumption and video learning have been around for the greater part of the last two decades, Gen Z is the first generation that is considered “natives” to the digital age. For them, the high speed internet has always existed with widespread access. They have particularly grown up in an era where social media and short snippets of video content have been quite prevalent. In fact, YouTube is one of the most frequently visited sites for Gen Z.
When looking for answers to questions – whether it’s “how to calculate a derivative” or”how to make avocado toast” – Gen Z is most likely to look for a video-based walkthrough rather than reading through text. Thus, it makes sense that Gen Z tends to favor video learning in the classroom as well. That’s why at onomy we’ve leaned into video lessons to teach topics like taxes, budgeting, healthcare, renting an apartment, investing, credit and more coming soon.
Attention Spans are Getting Shorter
If you’re communicating to an audience of any kind, you only have a brief moment to capture their attention. You also have to periodically reengage an audience in order to hold that attention. This is because people, and specifically Gen Z-ers, inherently have relatively short attention spans. For example, Gen Z-ers are said to have an attentions pan of just 8 seconds, 33% shorter than their millennial counterparts who clock in at 12 seconds. After all, our brains evolved to process lots of sensory input in order to identify important information. It’s no surprise these short attention spans are becoming even shorter.
This may correspond in shifts in technology and the plethora of content formats available in today’s world. Gen Z grew up as the first generation where smart phones were a must-have fixture. These devices help facilitate short attention spans via the ease with which a person controls their visual input, scrolling until something grabs attention.
Communication is Becoming Less Verbose
It is not just declining attention spans that may be driving the preference for video learning for Gen Z. In fact, a casual look around at the ways in which people typically communicate shows a distinct shift towards short forms of communication that rely on quickly making points. This can be seen throughout different aspects of life.
For example, sound bites have replaced long stump speeches on political campaigns. Even major news networks have shifted much of their content to mediums like Snapchat and Instagram, focusing more on the major takeaways than in-depth articles. Personal communication has shifted from letters to e-mails to texts. Memes have replaced love letters. Forms of media like Twitter and TikTok have emphasized short, engaging content over lengthy arguments. For Gen Z, an important part of communication is concisely conveying substance.
Videos Enhance Retention and Learning
The multimodal theory of communication has always sought to explain that the human brain is better at processing, storing, and retaining information when it receives this information through multiple sensory inputs such as through eyesight (video) and auditory stimuli. Essentially, the thought is that when the mind simultaneously watches and hears information, it is more likely to be converted to long-term memory.
This has been confirmed by research, which found that instructors who utilize video have students who perform better than those who use an audio-only method such as lecture. This supports the inclination of Gen Z to prefer video-based learning as it contributes to overall comprehension as well.
Quality Videos Succeed in Many Ways
Simply putting content in a video is not a guaranteed recipe for success. However, quality videos translate to learning for Gen Z by accomplishing a number of things. First, they help make content engaging and relatable. This is an important step in drawing in the viewer. Additionally, quality videos are relatively easy to follow. If you’ve ever been frustrated wading through textbooks trying to find an answer, video is the perfect antidote.
Finally, quality videos serve to break down complex topics into digestible bites. For example, YouTube is filled with creators that take incredibly complex constructs like theoretical physics and convey the information in manageable chunks that build upon one another to promote understanding. Following core tips can help educators to develop excellent videos that help support learning for Gen Z. Of course, turning to content creators with a history of success is a great recipe as well.
So what does this all mean?
The way in which we educate – like all aspects of society – constantly changes. One of the most interesting changes in Gen Z is a strong preference for video learning. Ultimately, it is up to an effective educator to identify the best ways to integrate video learning into getting a message across to Gen Z (hint hint: using onomy might be a great start!).