A research paper has looked at the effect generational differences have had on the use and adoption of technology within an educational setting. It says that as technology has become "as important to people as food and clothing," it is necessary to look at how different generations use technology in different ways.
According to the paper, it is important to encourage a focus on professional development for Baby Boomers, who lag behind in terms of technological innovation uptake.
It also suggests an emphasis on "succession planning" that will take into account the different way Millennials, who will increasingly enter leadership roles and respond to technological advancements within the workplace.
The paper, carried out by Victoria C. Rosario, posed the following questions:
"How do the perceptions/expectations and utilization held by faculty, administrators, and information technology staff of a multi-college community college district surrounding technology differ from students?
In terms of technology perceptions/expectations and utilization, are there generational differences within and between various community college professionals and students?"
The quantitative study used the findings from a survey, which gathered data from 442 students, administrators, faculty, and information technology staff at four community colleges within one district in Northern California.
The study looked at differences between members of the Baby Boomer, Gen X and Millennial generations:
"With access to the Internet 24/7, this new generation of learners prefers a mode of activity and interaction that is not always in sync with the traditional educational system."
It is clear, the paper says, that there are differences in the way that students and professors relate to technology in a community college, and this could mean that professors are not providing a teaching experience in line with students' expectations.
Rosario cites another piece of research that says that 75% of employers say they are experiencing tensions between employees from different generations. She feels that the same tension exists between teachers and the students they teach in a higher education setting.
In order for an organization to remain competitive, the paper suggests that students "need to be invited to sit at the table and to be involved in the decision making processes of the college that focus on learning and classroom technology integration." It also recommends creating formal structures, currently absent, such as governance committees and work groups with direct involvement from students. Finally, it says students should be allowed to study at their own pace through the use of technology. These steps, it says:
"â¦ will allow leaders to continue their work creating a flexible and responsive workplace for employees and a destination college for the growing number of students who have never known life without technology."
Though the piece is in line with recent views that university degrees will be carried out in increasingly technological domains, and will allow increasing freedom for students. This includes Professor Daphne Koller, co-founder of global MOOC provider Coursera, who believes that leading universities will offer fully accredited undergraduate degrees online within five years.