Help on demand a must for Gen Z

SPONSORED: Natalie Nezhati, edtech specialist, contemplates the study support expectations of today’s students

Natalie Nezhati is an education technology specialist and founder of Edtech Mark. Former English lecturer and member of the BETT 2018 judging panel, Natalie now contemplates the study support expectations of today’s students.

Megan is a typical undergraduate. She’s just turned nineteen and, depending on which generational timeline you’re using, is considered a member of the ‘millennials’ or ‘Generation Z’. Either way, anyone can tell that Megan is a true digital native. Ask Megan to ‘copy from the board’ and she’ll reflexively grab her phone to take a photo. She’s never purchased an album or film outright. A subscriber to Netflix, Spotify and Amazon Prime, her world is instant and on demand.

Now, a ‘truly student-centred experience’ is a stated goal of many universities, but the reality is that instructor-led learning will often shut down on a Friday sometime around 6.30pm. This means that students looking for support must wait patiently until the next available office hour or email a tutor to arrange a mutually convenient time. If students get ‘stuck’ during university holidays, they’re largely on their own and, while UK universities have made significant moves towards blended learning approaches (with almost all now offering access to an institutional VLE, social learning tools and digital resources) it’s still near impossible for most students to access qualified support outside of campus working hours.

A growing number of innovative UK universities, however, are extending their support models with services that deliver flexible, cost-free access to 24/7 study help. One such example is Studiosity, which connects students to qualified specialists right in their moment of need.  Established in 2003, Studiosity was one of the first personalised learning platforms in existence; developed at a time when digital learning was still in its infancy.

My vision for the project was – and remains – to provide anytime, anywhere access to the highest quality, one-to-one learning support to all students. We aim to provide support regardless of students’ geographic, socio-economic, cultural or other circumstances. Studiosity founder, Jack Goodman

Covering topics such as essay writing, structure and academic literacy skills, Studiosity has been designed to accommodate the study habits of modern learners. Whether it’s 10pm during assignment deadline week or 6am before an early shift at the Student Union, these types of services provide students with personalised feedback and study support whenever they need it.

Of course, Gen Z is not the only modern student group to place high value on flexible, online support services. Access to 24/7 services can, in fact, bring much-needed flexibility to non-traditional learners or those from overseas studying in a non-native language. 

“Studiosity is of particular benefit to students who have difficulty accessing more traditional, face-to-face help” says Professor Nora Ann Colton, Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of East London “This includes distance learners and students with work commitments or other responsibilities.”

Since most students are likely to access online academic support during evenings and weekends, on-demand support can help to fill in the gaps. It’s no secret that many learners struggle with academic literacy, particularly in the precarious first year of study, and online study support can represent a safety net for those at a higher risk of dropping out entirely. A student who is lacking in confidence might just need a little one-to-one help in developing their academic self-efficacy, so it’s relieving to know that there’s human help available during a midnight moment of panic. As a complement to existing on-campus services, online support extends a university’s level of student engagement, with the added benefit that it can be accessed online with complete anonymity.

Already used within over half of Australian public universities, Studiosity provides targeted, trusted support whenever and wherever students need it. University staff can be assured that Studiosity experts are certified professionals who work to promote learning through constructive dialogue, while students like Megan can access high quality, personalised, off-campus support as easily as she can her music.

As we educate the last of the millennial students, we might consider how our approaches to teaching, learning and assessment have changed in recent years. Higher education is, by nature, a dynamic sector with ever-shifting expectations from incoming student cohorts who present us with new opportunities, challenges and ways of working. As universities begin to welcome the first of Gen Z, many are giving more thought as to how best to support them.