August 26, 2016

The Children of the 3rd Millennium Are Coming to the Colleges

This text was initially published by Profweb under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International licence, before Eductive was launched.

Starting in the fall semester of 2016, the next cohort of students to arrive in our colleges will largely be comprised of young adults born in the 21st century.

Prior to them, we have met many generations of so-called ‘digital natives.’

  • Generation Y, which is made up of youngsters born between 1980 and the middle of the 90s (also known as millennials).
  • The next generation is comprised of the youth born between the middle of the 90s and 2010, which is sometimes referred to as Generation Z.
  • Add the young adults born between 1984 and 1996 to this list, who belong to what CEFRIO calls Generation C, since they have grown up with technology and use it to communicate, create and collaborate.
Generations X 1960 to 1979, Y 1979 to 1994, C 1984 to 1996 et Z 1995 to this day

The digital generations. Inspired by a table presented in the slideshow presentation Les étudiants d’aujourd’hui: mythes et réalités sur la génération Z [PDF] (Christian Bégin, April 2014).

In this article, we are primarily concerned with young adults that were born after the year 2000, that we are calling the natives of the 3rd millennium.

This article presents the general characteristics of the students from this generation, notably beginning with the portrait created by CEFRIO, and will propose some themes for you to exploit while teaching them in order to motivate these young adults and keep them engaged.

The First 3rd Millennium College Students

These youngsters who were born with the web and have never known what the world was like before its arrival will now make up the majority of our classes. With their cell phones in their pocket, they are permanently connected to the Internet thanks to the WiFi networks which are more and more present in our educational establishments and shopping malls.

Paper is still a part of their studies but, since many of them have one (or many) mobile devices, they appreciate it when teachers provide course notes in a digital format or run activities that include automated feedback (on-line evaluations and Moodle lessons).

The BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) approach is becoming increasingly popular in our establishments. Indeed, many colleges even have a laptop project in their programs.

Group work and cooperative learning simplify and provide added value when cloud-based tools are introduced, such as Office 365 or Google Drive. One of the members of the group creates a common file directory and files to share. He or she can add the teacher to the list of people who can access this content along with his or her teammates. This way, the teacher can follow the team’s progress in real time and the team members can get together to work whenever they are available to do so.

The Cell Phone: Should We Use It or Ban It?

Why not use the cell phone for learning? Many free applications like Socrative (which emulates clickers) offer the possibility of creating questionnaires and anonymously collating responses. Students’ participation in these types of activities stimulate their brain: They are engaged in active learning

They’re Googling!

Pedagogical strategies that involve web-based searches exploit the innate sensibilities of this generation. Their primary source of information is the Internet. They search with Google, or should I say, they are Googling. This verb was even added to the Petite Larousse French dictionary (the verb googliser in French), along with other neologisms from the digital world, like hashtag, texting…

If you want to speak about a concept or a particular piece of content, why not ask your students to conduct a search for information on this subject as an icebreaker activity for a course? Ask them questions. Give them some time to search and find the various elements of their response. You can build upon their research techniques by teaching them how to verify their sources and use them correctly in order to prevent plagiarism:

  • Is everything relevant on the web?
  • How do you distinguish whether the source is reliable, or not?
  • How do you verify information?
  • Etc.

Communication and Social Networks

The children of the third millennium are starting to let go of Facebook however in favour of other social networks like SnapChat. These kids prefer exchanges using other means of communication, such as video chatting. Contrary to prior generations, these young people do not use e-mail all that much, preferring instead to communicate by texting.

The strong presence of these natives of the 3rd millennium on social networks means that they are developing an online reputation – and very early – even before they have begun their professional lives. This is a new development when comparing with the previous generations. The website has several tips for protecting one’s on-line reputation, as well those of others. How can the colleges help them to better prepare for this new and increasingly important reality? Some colleges even offer courses on social networks.

The means of communication in the college network are also changing. Many departments or teachers have a Facebook page for their course and many educational establishments moderate a Facebook page as part of their campus life activities. Moodle can play this same role by offering content that is password-protected and adapted to the content of a course. A live chat over the Internet and a forum can be activated in order to develop a social network even if it is just to answer questions about the course.

The moderation performed by the teacher is now becoming a key to success. Once you have centralized all of your information in Moodle, the documents, hyperlinks, videos and interactive activities can easily be found by students. This way, they will be able to use them from any place that they have access to the Internet.

Educational Activities that Play on Their Interests

This new generation is abandoning television but is still consuming movies and television series. These kids don’t want anything to do with inflexible schedules and commercials from the classic TV channels, and are opting instead for online services like Netflix.

Even if these youngsters have a number of entertainment options online, a summary report from CEFRIO [PDF] that appeared in 2009 indicated that girls and boys don’t use the Internet in the same ways:

There are more girls than boys maintaining a blog, leaving comments on a blog post or viewing sites like Facebook. By comparison, more boys than girls are using the web to play games, buy things or watching movies.[Translation] CEFRIO, Génération C. Rapport-synthèse, p. 6

As a teacher, how do you take advantage of these interests in order to motivate students? Here are a few ideas:

  • Why not take advantage of their curiosity as a means to get talking about a current event, or even a controversial or comical fact? Certain “viral” content lends itself well to this type of introduction.
  • The videos on news outlet websites, YouTube, on CCDMD’s World of Images and many others offer interesting opportunities to present authentic situations or to present a new subject. The video can be viewed at home or in class and be accompanied by a development task.
  • Planning for a flipped classroom approach often includes planned activities that will occur partly at home and partly in the classroom. Since young people want to organise their schedule and learn on their own, the activities and resources provided on a platform like Moodle allow them to learn at their own pace, anywhere and anytime they choose. What’s more, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) encourages using computers and digital resources to promote learning for all.
  • Why not also use  serious games? There are more and more apps or simulations for education. One specific example is Police scientifiquefrom Canal D. The simulation was presented to Police Technology students at the Cégep de Trois-Rivières as a preparatory activity before an in-class simulation. The students practiced their sampling techniques and fingerprinting with the simulation before practicing them in-class within fictional crime scenes. Each team had access to photos of the crime scene and was able to see the entire solution of the simulation. The students submitted their final report through Moodle’s assignment submission function.

New Teaching Methods

More than ever before, the 3rd millennium generation enjoys a range of possibilities resulting from a new openness of the world, tele-working, and the opportunity to study while also travelling at the same time.

Students have access to training methods other than the traditional classroom. Colleges are making more and more blended courses with 2 groups in 2 different locations and an in-class teacher available to them. Distance education courses are in transformation with video conferencing or virtual classrooms combined with asynchronous platforms like Moodle for the documentation, exercises, formative evaluations (and sometimes even summative evaluations). The support and supervision of students is also being transformed thanks to synchronous communication tools (on-line chats, video chats) as well as asynchronous ones (internal course messaging systems, e-mail, forums).

Simulations or improvisational strategies present authentic learning situations that promote long-term retention and the transferability of the learning to other situations. This way, we can assign a case study to a team of students and ask them to present a short response to the case that is a few minutes long. During the presentation, the students in the audience can be invited to discuss the different principles of the concept that was presented. The actors in the simulation will then have an opportunity to provide greater detail on their intentions, while also building their knowledge.

The natives of the 3rd millennium have a fascinating openness towards the world. It shouldn’t be that surprising, since the Internet allows them to stay connected to current events from around the world and their communication with citizens from other countries is limited only by the bandwidth of their connection.

A project that involves exploring a new country or region becomes a powerful source of motivation, especially if the team is allowed to choose its own topic. There are various possibilities, whether it be for a language, culture, political system, geography, etc. And why not have an exchange with students from another country who are studying within the same discipline? The similarities and differences between the two places will likely generate some enthusiastic discussions.


According to Viau (2009), activities that are offered to students should have real-world significance, allow sufficient time to students for their completion and issue a challenge for them to resolve. If the activities that are organized within the class are related to their interests and passions, these young adults will be more receptive and dedicate more time to their studies, since they have the impression that they are surpassing themselves.

The technologies used both inside and outside of class offer real added-value and speak to this generation. Show them how to get started, and they will push the technology even further than you could ever have imagined (Desrosiers, 2013).

If you would like more information about the topics presented in this article, I invite you to have a look at Performa’s course offering. Many undergraduate and graduate courses on topics including motivation, pedagogical strategies, ICT integration and active learning are offered.

Do you agree with this portrait of the 3rd millennium generation? Do you have any suggestions about strategies and activities that you would like to share? Please feel free to leave some ideas or a comment below.

About the author

Chantal Desrosiers

She holds a Master’s degree in Education from the Université de Sherbrooke, a Bachelor’s degree in Physics, a certificate in Computer Science and a certificate in Pedagogy from UQTR. She has participated in the CLAAC research project (for Classes d’apprentissage actif – Active Learning Classrooms), several RCCFC projects and the Cégeps en réseau project. She is a technopedagogical counsellor (Cégep de Trois-Rivières) and also teaches technopedagogy (PERFORMA). In partnership with Bernard Gagnon (Cégep de Saint-Félicien), she developed a technopedagogical website for college teachers: TacTIC pédagogiques. It offers training on cloud-based applications, Moodle and active learning. Join on Google+ or Skype (chantal.desrosiers).

Notify of

2 Commentaires
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments