Next-Generation Education: How Associations Can Win Over Gen Z

April 14, 2023
A group of Gen Z learners using their smart phones
Gen Z has entered the chat! The next generation of association professionals is here, and it’s time to level up your association to appeal to Gen Z. But who is Gen Z? And how can you make your educational offerings more enticing to attract and retain Gen Z as association members?

We’ll explore what makes Gen Z tick when it comes to learning online and how your association can use this psychology to design education programs that impact these young professionals and keep them coming back for more! You’ll learn how your association or nonprofit can reach Gen Z by offering the right kind of learning opportunities and understand their unique characteristics.

Who is Gen Z?

Generation Z, or Gen Z, is the tech-savvy cohort born between 1997 and 2012. They are the largest, most diverse generation, making up 27% of the US population. Most notably, this unique group of young professionals are the first “digital natives” born into a world of tech innovation with immediately accessible information.

When it comes to learning and professional development, Gen Z craves social connection, inclusivity, and impact. They are self-starters who prioritize community and collaboration. Senior research scholar at Stanford, Roberta Katz, describes a Gen Z member as “a self-driver who deeply cares about others, strives for a diverse community, [and] is highly collaborative and social.” They are also known as shrewd consumers who make informed purchasing decisions based on their own research.

Curious to learn more about the core characteristics of Gen Z? Click Here 

How Do You Attract Gen Z to Become Members of Your Association? 

To engage this unique audience, associations must offer dynamic learning experiences that align with their values and interest. Let's explore some smart strategies for attracting Gen Z to your association and winning them over once they become members!

Use Top-Tier Learning Technology

Gen Z came of age with iPads, social media, and lightning-fast internet—in fact, they’ve never known a world without the internet! So it’s safe to say that their expectations will be high regarding learning technology and they will want to access educational content through modern platforms and devices.

So, consider Gen Z when choosing a learning management system for your association! Is the LMS easy to use? Does the LMS have a modern interface? Does the LMS allow for collaboration?  

It’s also important to consider multiple modalities for your professional development content, such as webinars, recordings, and interactive eLearning, that are all easily accessible via your learning management system (LMS).

All adult learners, especially Gen Z, want to consume content in the way that makes the most sense for them—not only for how they process information but also for what fits their lifestyle. Providing variety in the types of content you offer makes it easier for Gen Z to incorporate your association’s offerings into their day.

Leveraging technology and multiple formats will make your association more attractive to Gen Z and help keep them engaged with your content.

Let Them Drive, But Give Directions

Adult learners want to drive their learning, and Gen Z is accustomed to having massive amounts of information at their fingertips. They don’t want content easily found on Google, but they also need direction to the resources that will move their professional development forward.  

Help your Gen Z learners find appropriate content by creating learning paths and highlighting the learning experiences that will fill specific gaps in their knowledge. Doing the work behind the scenes to write learning outcomes specifically for Gen Z learners (based on your scope and sequence), then building the content that addresses those outcomes will make it easier for you to market a learning map to your Gen Z members.

Encourage Collaboration

Gen Z learns collaboratively, and they’re looking for you to assist them with finding the people they want to learn with at your association.

Consider offering cohorts, where groups of people start participating in a shared learning experience on the same day and work through the content together. Cohorts often have a synchronous and asynchronous component, where the learners go to the learning management system to get the resources they need (asynchronous learning) to prepare for the synchronous meeting, where ideas are discussed and solutions are shared.

Help Them Advance

Ensuring your content is relevant to the needs of Gen Z learners is key to attracting them to your association. Gen Z comes to the workforce with less work experience than previous generations, so make sure your professional development programs focus on content that can help Gen Z learners solve their challenges.

Gen Z learners are looking for skill-building opportunities. Organizations that can help them define a career path and provide the professional development the yneed will be invaluable. Encourage Gen Z learners to think critically about current issues and find ways to apply their knowledge to real-world problems.

Respect Their Time

Although this is true of members of several generations, today’s Gen Z learners are looking for efficient learning experiences that won’t waste their time. Associations can respond to this generation of learners by ensuring that educational experiences are targeted, efficient, and fast-paced.

Associations should focus on solving problems and closing knowledge gaps. Instead of providing a traditional one-size-fits-all approach, create personalized learning paths that cater to individual needs and goals.

Get to the Point

In the same vein, associations should strive to create courses that are concise and to the point, only presenting information that is necessary and relevant. To do this, cutting out extraneous elements such as long-winded lectures or useless facts is essential. Gen Z learners want to be able to get the information they need quickly and move on to the next thing.  

By paying attention to the needs of Gen Z learners, associations can create a more effective learning experience that will help them retain members and attract new ones. Blue Sky eLearn’s Path LMS™ is designed for associations and is an excellent solution for organizing and distributing learning content and creating professional development opportunities for your Gen Z members.

Blue Sky eLearn also offers all the professional services to support content creation for associations, including a virtual events team to help you produce high-quality webinars and on-demand recordings and a learning and development team who can assist with instructional design, interactive eLearning design, learning strategy, script writing, voice-over, and more!

Book a demo today to learn more about leveraging Path LMS to attract and support Gen Z learners at your organization!

About the Author
Dr. Kristen Wall, MA, EdD is the Director of Learning Strategy and Fractional Chief Learning Officer at Blue Sky eLearn. She started her career in education as a junior high teacher, then worked in higher education for 15 years working primarily with online adult learners. Her work focused on the professional development of faculty, providing learning opportunities for over 800 adjunct faculty teaching 2,600 courses per year. In 2018 she decided to leave higher education and started work as a consultant, ultimately landing full-time with Blue Sky eLearn and working as the Director of Learning Strategy. She consults with clients across the association space, working in diverse fields like medicine, health care quality, insurance, oil and gas, and state government.

Kristen completed both a master’s and doctorate in Adult Learning. Her areas of interest include effective assessment of learning and using qualitative research to understand how adults apply what they have learned. Outside of work, she enjoys hiking, travel, and reading detective novels.


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