Teaching "Millennials": Give Them What They Need

By Peter Connor

Teaching "Millennium" generation college students automatically makes every higher education instructor a digital immigrant; every 20-something student a digital native. What's the difference? Those in the immigrant camp instinctively reach for the Yellow Pages to call a plumber; those in the native camp instinctively Google.

One of the major challenges in developing effective teaching strategies for the millennium student is bridging the gap between the analog—even pre-analog—and the digital world. In need of suggestions, you may want to read the article in the May 2006 issue of The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing (OJIN) Adapting Your Teaching to Accommodate the Net Generation of Learners. Professors Diane Skiba and Amy Barton provide some great ideas.

In the article they identify four characteristic "Net" Generation information gathering and communication tendencies and/or needs. They also provide examples of how teaching strategies can be tooled or retooled to accommodate and meet them. The key: giving them what they need—information-technology wise. Here are some of Skiba and Barton's suggestions.

Digital Literacy

Multi-tasking students are comfortable in image-rich multimedia environments. Take advantage:

  • Post course notes and Web site links of particular interest so that students can explore and engage with relevant resources and content
  • Direct students to discipline-specific, Internet-accessible databases such as Academic Search Premier, ERIC, LexusNexus Academic, MEDLINE, or Web of Science
  • Develop course-specific web pages containing class materials, notes, slides, webliographies, and other interactive multimedia components
  • Podcast your lectures so students can re-listen to them on their iPods and MP3s

Experiential and Engaging Learning

Net-genners are first-person learners who prefer actively engaging in the construction of their own knowledge. Again, take advantage by including web components in which students interact with instructors, classmates, and content. The interactive eBook, Living Book, published by the National League for Nursing, is a great example. Dynamic web pages allow students to respond to questions and take notes in interactive textboxes as well as gather information from links to other Web sites.

Interactivity and Collaboration

Don't overlook the social component of the learning environment. "Millennials" like to work in teams. This preference for peer interaction can be adapted through cooperative learning activities with other students, teachers and "experts in the field" as well. Take advantage:

  • Introduce a student interactive response system (i.e. clickers) into the lecture hall and engage the students in question and answer sessions that have immediate, measurable results.
  • Incorporate chat rooms and web-based collaborative learning centers for sharing a common workspace, documents and electronic white boards.
  • Use Wiki Web sites for students to add and edit collaborative work and share in the construction of group knowledge.

Immediacy, Connectivity & Communications

The "Millennial" generation lives on 24/7 time. Instant access and response drives much of their world. In the electronic world there are three primary avenues by which students and teachers effectively communicate. Set up some rules in your syllabus and then take advantage of what the technology has to offer:

  • Email and Instant Messaging (IM) for individual communication.
  • News Groups and Message Boards for one-way communication with a group.
  • Chat Rooms, Wikis, and webcasts for interactive back-and-forth communication between group members.

Note: Twitch-speed is becoming de rigueur, so be prepared. In an IM (instant messaging) world, email is fast becoming "sooo" 20th century.

Click on Adapting Your Teaching to Accommodate the Net Generation of Learnersto read the entire article.


Skiba, D. J., Barton, A. J. (2006, May 31). Adapting Your Teaching to Accommodate the Net Generation of Learners. The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. Retrieved, September 10, 2007, from http://www.nursingworld.org/...