Millennial Mindsets: Keeping pace with the changing business student generations


Generational change

No sooner have the Baby Boomer to Generation X teaching staff got to grips with the very different learning behaviours of Generation Y (Millennials – born between the mid-1990s and 2000) than the different features of Generation Z (born after 2000 and graduating NOW!) become apparent.

Price (2009) used a simple mnemonic, a memory tool, the “5 Rs”, to summarise what millennial students wanted:

  • Research based methods – opportunities to dig deeper;
  • Relevance – “real world” problems rather than theories;
  • Rationale – a reason why they should study – payback being a key requirement;
  • Relaxed – Flexibility in ways to learn;
  • Rapport – ability to interact with peers and academics.

Online and blended delivery has made great strides to accommodate these needs. Multi-media case studies, for example, can provide structured but self-paced study based on real problems. They can help develop social, collaborative and cognitive skills as well as requiring research to support arguments.

Ascent of man picture with final "man" holding a smartphone

The Ascent of Learning?


However, according to Billings (2016) Generation Z prefer individual achievement; Apps rather than websites, Video, rather than text.  They can multi-task and their attention span is an impressive 8 seconds (Billings, 2016) down from the 12 seconds of Millennials.  On the downside, their abilities to engage in critical thinking are not as prominent as their Millennial counterparts.

Responding to Generation Z learners

So how should Business School lecturers respond so that Generation Z students become effective learners?

One way might be to stop thinking of ourselves as “lecturers” and think of ourselves as “learning facilitators”.  Lecturers lecture, often in a lecture theatre. Their lectures can be “captured” by Lecture Capture systems and copies of their PowerPoint slides / lecture notes made available on the institutional VLE. This is still lecturing, however, didactic, one-directional and exhausting!

Learning facilitation does not always need technology but often embraces it in order to spur engagement both inside the classroom and out. Technology can enhance learning by breaking down long lectures to bite-sized chunks as seen in many successful MOOCs. Effective pedagogical design can foster engagement and understanding. Video technology in a structured VLE can give flexibility and self-pacing to learners whilst maintaining focus on learning outcomes.

As EFMD Accredited Online evolves, the Online team at EFMD, and our review panels, see signs of culture change in Business Schools. We see institutions where digital education and the 5 R’s are seen as necessary ways of supporting the learning of today’s students rather than as  optional extras.

And…one last thought. Although nobody has yet created a letter to describe the post-Generation Z era (Generation ZZ, Generation 20?) we do know that it will come. How shall we prepare for it?



Price, C. (2009). Why Don’t My Students Think I’m Groovy? The Teaching Professor, 23 (1), 7.

Billings, DM, Kowalski, K and Shatto, B. (2016). Moving on from Millennials: Preparing for Generation Z, The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, Vol 47, No 6.