It’s every uni student’s worst nightmare.
One minute, you’re sitting at the back of a neon-lit, over-air conditioned lecture hall struggling to keep your eyelids open.
The next, your elbow slips and that little side-table thingy swings down with a loud bang, jerking you and several other bleary-eyed classmates violently awake.
You’ve fallen asleep in class again, as your exasperated professor points out, while the rest of the class snickers (silently relieved it wasn’t them this time).
It’s not like you’re not interested in the subject. Or that you’re uncommitted to your studies. Or even that the prof isn’t trying their best to deliver the content in an engaging way.
It’s just… it’s late Monday morning and you’ve been sitting there for, like, three hours.
And the Gen Z brain – which according to research has an attention span of just 8 seconds – just isn’t programmed to stay focused this long.
The science is in, and you’re not lazy
In fact, even some of Australia’s most influential minds, like Atlassian’s co-founder Scott Farquhar, can totally relate.
While Farquhar actually belongs to Generation X, he admits he, too, struggled to get through lectures while he studied
And this suggests the way we’re learning isn’t just outdated, but that it never really ‘worked’ in the first place.
“I remember when I was at university and we did these big tutorials and big lectures and the lectures might have a thousand people in them, and really – I don’t learn that way,” he shared with us during the Year13 Expo help during National Careers Week earlier this year.
For four years, Farquhar said, he turned up to lecture after lecture and “learned zero”.
“Looking back, I really wish I’d thought a bit more about how I learn best,” he said.
“(I now know that) I don’t learn by just sitting there and being talked at. I learn by interacting with stuff, or by playing with it.”
Farquhar said if he knew then what he knew now, “I would never have gone to lectures – I would have gone to the library and read a textbook instead. Or these days, you’ve even got YouTube and other digital ways to learn new skills.”
Is it time to re-think and reset the way we educate?
The New approaches to learning for Generation Z report suggests it’s about time we paid attention to how Gen Zs learn best in order to maximise engagement.
“(Gen Z) students have become accustomed to learning online and watching videos rather than reading textbooks… and are more technologically sophisticated and may be more self-directed than previous generations,” the report summarised.
However, just because Gen Zs have grown up with technology and are more independent learners, it doesn’t mean they know how to learn strategically.
“(Gen Zs) who have grown up with the current technology are considered digital natives, yet they lack the skills to use the technology in a strategically significant way to plan and develop a career,” said the report.
“Educators should adopt and employ the technology students are accustomed to using and instruct them on how to utilize it to advance their thinking and strategically plan for their future career goals.”
Watch the full Year13 Expo interview between Year13 founder Saxon Phipps’ and Atlassian co-founder and CEO Scott Farquhar here.