Conference focuses on ‘The Net Gen’

Abbey Stirgwolt

By age 21, the average person will have spent 10,000 hours playing video games, said speakers at the Student Success Conference.

That’s 417 days nonstop.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, he or she will have spent less than 5,000 hours reading.

To meet the needs of this tech-dependent Net Generation, educators met yesterday in the second installment of the Student Success Conference to discuss education strategies in an increasingly fast-paced society.

“This is an opportunity to further delve into the topic of student success,” Associate Provost Stephanie Booth said.

The conference featured keynote speaker Diana Oblinger, vice president of EDUCAUSE, a nonprofit association devoted to the advancement of higher education.

“If you want to think about student success, where else to start than thinking about students?” Oblinger asked the audience.

Oblinger’s address highlighted differences between the learning habits and expectations of previous generations as compared to today’s college students, named “The Net Gen.”

Oblinger said the Net Gen thrives on human contact but not necessarily face-to-face: Instant messaging, cell phones and e-mail are must-haves.

To that end, college students today are best engaged by interactions with their peers and visually driven learning. “Hands-on” is a key factor, Oblinger said.

And time is always a priority.

“I would surmise that the single most common characteristic of learners today is being time-constrained,” Oblinger said.

She highlighted successful technological ventures of various universities, ranging from virtual lab experiments to digital architecture projects.

To emphasize student input, the conference also featured a panel of nine students in addition to a student-produced video that discussed successful learning strategies from students’ viewpoints.

The final portion of the conference focused on learning environments and how aesthetics can contribute to education quality.

Oblinger, adjunct professor at North Carolina State University, has served as executive director of higher education for Microsoft and also has worked with IBM.

Contact technology reporter Abbey Stirgwolt at [email protected].