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Technology Across Generations Is E-Mail So Yesterday? Engaging the "Digital Native“ Students an Parents. Steven Todd Bryant Director of Financial Aid Outreach University of Southern California.

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Technology Across Generations Is E-Mail So Yesterday?Engaging the "Digital Native“ Students an Parents

Steven Todd Bryant

Director of Financial Aid Outreach

University of Southern California

It goes without saying that each generation of students and their parents approach their daily lives from different perspectives and with different modes and styles of communication. Yet interestingly, their relationships have never been stronger. And our graduate students - can they get any more diverse in terms of ethnic and generational cultures? Are we, as educational institutions, immigrating to the new world that they function in, or are we still attempting to interact in more traditional ways? New technologies, (e.g., Chat, Podcasts, My Space, IM, Blogs, Texting, etc.) guide how these students and families approach their lives. Learn about these generational differences and see how some schools are re-thinking how they engage and serve their clients.

what we will cover today
What we will cover today:
  • Introduction: Millennials are here!
  • Is E-mail obsolete?
  • The Generations
    • Boomers
    • Gen Xers
    • Millennials (a.k.a. Nexters, Echo-Boomers, Gen Y)
  • Technology Across the Generations
    • How do the generations respond to technology (how does technology alter how they approach their lives)
  • Parental Expectations & The Parent Factor: Helicopter Parents (Boomer) and Stealth Fighter Parents (Gen Xers)
  • Technological Options for Millennials
  • Graduate Students: A Very Different Audience

Boomers 1945-1964

Gen Xers 1960-1980

Millennials 1980-2000

millennials are here
Millennials are here!
  • Wherever you are in university life, you face a choice: You can either ignore this breaking Millennial student wave by treating today’s collegians as you did the last generation or you can embrace the wave and alter how your institution engages these students.
  • What should a college do to cope with these new students? Should admissions, financial aid, campus-life and the classroom experience be altered?
two books you must read
Two Books You Must Read
  • Zemke, R., Raines, C., & Filipczak, B. (2000) Generations at Work. Denver: Performance Research Associates
  • Howe, N., & Strauss, W. (2007) Millennials Go to College, 2nd Edition. New York: Amacom
what do we know about millennials
In the current decade, college administrators need to adjust their institutions to a new crop of students who are:

Very close to their parents

Focused on grades and performance

Intensely focused on the college admission and financial aid process

Packing their resumes with extracurricular and summer activities

Talented in digital mobile-technologies, capable of multi-tasking and interested in interactive learning

Insistent on secure and regulated environments

Respectful of norms and institutions

Numerous and very intent on going to college

What do we know about Millennials?
Millennials have no knowledge of pre-digital age
  • Millennials are the first post-stone age for whom communication has never centered on a pen or pencil
  • Technology but how the Millennials interact
  • Millennials view technology more as a communal networking tool

On the inside, the digital Millennials are breeding a new social order by using technology for ‘sharing, creating and validating via peer networks or social networking’.”

    • From MySpace-Facebook $200 Billion ‘Digital Millennials’ article on ZdNet (October 11, 2006).
is e mail obsolete
Is E-mail Obsolete?
  • This is the most technological savvy generation in the history of the world.
  • We, as education institutions, are already moving away from snail mail and paper publications.
  • Should educational institutions do away with e-mail and adopt alternate communication channels such as text messaging, instant messaging, blogs, My Space, Podcasts, etc…?
are there any other factors we should be examining parents
Are there any other factors we should be examining? Parents?
  • Before we answer the million dollar question, “Is E-mail Obsolete?”, let’s look at the other generations involved.
  • Let’s define the generations.
  • Let’s see how the other generations might influence how educational institutions uses technology to engage Millennial students.
the generations11
The Generations
  • The Baby Boomers (Boomers)
    • Born between 1945-1964
    • 73.2 million people
  • Generation Xers (Gen Xers)
    • Born between 1960-1980
    • 70.1 million people
  • Millennials (Gen Y, Nexters, Echo-Boomers)
    • Born between 1980-2000
    • 69.7 million people

Boomers 1945-1964

Gen Xers 1960-1980

Millennials 1980-2000

boomers growing up in the 50 s and 60 s
Boomers growing up in the 50’s and 60’s
  • The economy was the healthiest in U.S. history
  • The middle class swelled with high employment and rising wages
  • 50% of the veterans of WWII attended college on the GI Bill
  • The public school system was said to have hit its peak
  • Campus protests and civil rights movements were based on the belief that this generation truly could make a difference (political optimism)
  • Over 75% of children grew up in Leave It To Beaver type households with mom at home

Boomers 1945-1964

Gen Xers 1960-1980

Millennials 1980-2000

boomers memorabilia and core values

Ed Sullivan Show

Fallout Shelters

Poodle Skirts


TV Dinners


The Mod Squad

The Peace Sign

Core Values


Team orientation

Personal gratification

Health and wellness

Personal growth


Boomers Memorabilia and Core Values

Boomers 1945-1964

Gen Xers 1960-1980

Millennials 1980-2000

gen xers growing up in the 70 s and 80 s
Gen Xers Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s
  • Economically tough times
  • The stock marked dropped 22%
  • Interest rates climbed and unemployment increased
  • The country faced a fuel crisis
  • The public school system was outdated and under funded
  • 50% of children came home from school in the afternoon and were on their own; television as foster parent
  • Kids watched idols and institutions crumble (Watergate, Spiro T. Agnew, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart) = (Political Pessimism)
  • 50% of children watched their own parents divorce

Boomers 1945-1964

Gen Xers 1960-1980

Millennials 1980-2000

gen xers memorabilia and core values

The Brady Bunch

Star Wars

Pet Rocks

Platform Shoes



Cabbage Patch Dolls

Core Values

Question authority


Thinking globally

Balance (work/fun)




Gen Xers Memorabilia and Core Values

Boomers 1945-1964

Gen Xers 1960-1980

Millennials 1980-2000

millennials growing up in the 80 s and 90 s
Millennials growing up in the 80’s and 90’s
  • The economy was mixed
  • Technology exploded
  • Sometimes called Echo-Boomers because they share the optimism of the Boomers
  • Busy, over planned lives
  • Stress to succeed and excel
  • Clinton/Lewinsky
  • Columbine

Boomers 1945-1964

Gen Xers 1960-1980

Millennials 1980-2000

millennials memorabilia and core values


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Beanie Babies

Spice Girls

South Park

Oprah and Rosie

Core Values


Trust in authority


Civic duty




Millennials Memorabilia and Core Values

Boomers 1945-1964

Gen Xers 1960-1980

Millennials 1980-2000

what other generations say about boomers
What Other Generations say about Boomers
  • What Gen Xers say about Boomers
    • They’re workaholics (success = long hours, not outcome)
    • They’re too political, always trying to figure out just what to say…to whom…and when
    • Lighten up; it’s only a job
    • What’s the management fad of the week?
    • They’re clueless
  • What Millennials say about Boomers
    • They’re cool.
    • They work too much

Boomers 1945-1964

Gen Xers 1960-1980

Millennials 1980-2000

what other generations say about gen x
What Other Generations say about Gen X
  • What Boomers say about Gen X:
    • They’re slackers
    • They are rude and lack social skills
    • They’re always doing things their own way
    • They spend too much time on the internet, e-mail and text messaging
    • They won’t wait their turn
    • They’re too skeptical
  • What Millennials say about Gen X:
    • Cheer up!

Boomers 1945-1964

Gen Xers 1960-1980

Millennials 1980-2000

what other generations say about millennials
What Other Generations say about Millennials
  • What Boomers say about Millennials:
    • They’re cute
    • They need more discipline from their parents
    • They can set the time on the VCR! (what’s a VCR?)
    • They need to learn to entertain themselves; they need too much attention
    • Can they do my web page for me?
  • What Gen X say about Millennials
    • Echo-Boomers
    • Here we go again…another self-absorbed generation of spoiled brats
    • What do you mean, What’s an album?

Boomers 1945-1964

Gen Xers 1960-1980

Millennials 1980-2000

Technology Across the GenerationsHow do the generations respond to technology (how does technology alter how they approach their lives)
  • Boomers find technology helpful but it is not always their first instinct
    • What happens when the internet goes down at work: Find other non-technical things to do
  • Gen Xers depend heavily on technology but they are Skeptical about almost everything
    • What happens when the internet goes down at work: Complain, get frustrated, stew
  • Millennials see technology as the air they breathe, essential to every aspect of life
    • What happens when the internet goes down at work: Can we go home?
generational use of technology
Generational Use of Technology
  • Boomers
    • Those who have chosen to embrace technology, use e-mail, as they are exposed to new technology, if they see value to it, they may embrace it. They still like paper.
  • Gen X
    • Use e-mail, text-messaging, blogs, instant-messaging, and rely on a combination of Boomer old-fashioned socializing and Millennial social networking.
  • Millennials
    • It’s the air they breathe. To be human = to be a digital native. Born to be Wired (wireless)
millennials depend heavily on their parents both boomer and gen x parents
Millennials Depend Heavily on their Parents (both Boomer and Gen X parents)
  • Millennials make decisions jointly with demanding parents (“co-purchasing” a college) and believe in big brands (with reputation counting for a lot).
  • They are very numerous, very intent on going to college, and look forward to planned career path.
  • Millennials feel a “trophy kid” pressure to excel.
embrace millennial technology respect generational differences of the parent
Embrace Millennial Technology & Respect Generational Differences of the Parent
  • Yes, we need to begin to re-think how we engage and provide service to students.
  • But, before we abandon older technologies and ways of doing business, we need to remember that we are working with a generational team:
    • Millennial + Boomer Parent (Helicopter Parent)
    • Millennial + Gen X Parent (Stealth Fighter Parent)
helicopter stealth fighter parents
Helicopter & Stealth Fighter Parents
  • Meet the moms and dads – whom Wake Forest official Mary Gerardy coined as “helicopter parents,” always hovering – ultra protective, unwilling to let go, enlisting “the team” (physician, lawyer, psychiatrist, financial planner).
  • Where once parents simply unloaded the station wagon on move-in day, kissed the kid good-bye, and drove home, now they linger for days – fussing, meddling, crying, and even ranting if they think their very special child isn’t getting the very best of everything. When they don’t get their way, some threaten to take their business elsewhere or sue.
As Gen-X Stealth Fighter parents emerge as the predominant parent type over the next few years, colleges should expect these “annoying” trends to intensify.– Millennials Go to College
  • A word of caution:
    • If you find this annoying you will be frustrated
    • Respect the parents of this incredible generation
more generational expectations trends
More Generational Expectations/Trends
  • Gen-X parents will expect to get what they are paying for.
  • Boomers and Gen-X parents will have expected their “trophy” children to get full ride scholarships with no back-up plan.
  • With instant technology come highly unreasonable service expectations.
implications for student services
Implications for Student Services
  • Students and parents are customers who actively compare programs and make “family” choices
  • A 24x7 customer service culture
  • Cyber service and instant response demanded
  • Millennials accept authority and respect institutions, along with "zero tolerance" for institutional failure
is e mail obsolete29
Is E-mail Obsolete?
  • Is E-mail Losing Its Effectiveness?
    • People are more and more unwilling to share their e-mail address
    • Students do not check their official university e-mail
    • Spam filters intercept legitimate e-mail
    • Millennials prefer IM and texting
    • Growth of alternate communications channels
technology options for our students
• Text Messaging


• Web Portal

• E-mail

• Digital Print

• Telephone

• Online

• Application

• Social Networking

• Campus Events

• Letters via Snail Mail

• Virtual Advisor

• Live Events

• Chat/IM

• Blogs

Technology Options for Our Students
technological options for millennials
Technological Options for Millennials
  • Facebook, MySpace, YouTube
    • Social networking, (teens and college students), join to interact online
    • When you “join” you make “friends” and interact via messages and blogs
    • Your “profile” lets the world, (literally), know who you are.
    • MySpace is the H.S. “teen” hangout
    • Facebook is the College Student place to be
    • Should your School have a MySpace page?
    • Should your School have a YouTube page?
      • The USC YouTube site is controlled more strictly than YouTube's main site: The USC YouTube homepage does not allow comments on its videos.
technological options for millennials34
Technological Options for Millennials
  • Blogs
    • Blogs are everywhere
    • Many of our Admissions colleagues are using them
    • USC is considering a controlled Financial Aid Blog for parent/student testimonials (edited / monitored)
technological options for millennials35
Technological Options for Millennials
  • Podcasts
    • Audio (and some video) snippets (3-5 minutes) that can be played on a computer or Audio/Video player (ipods, etc)
      • Campus Tours
      • Student and Parent Testimonials
      • Managing the Family Contribution
      • Applying for your Stafford Loan
technological options for millennials36
Technological Options for Millennials
  • IM / Text Messaging
    • Instant Messaging – AOL, Yahoo, MSN, Google Talk
    • Many institutions use IM for internal staff-to-staff communication
    • Text Messaging?
technological options for millennials37
Technological Options for Millennials
  • Live Chat
    • Two types
      • Scheduled chats in a chat room
        • FERPA nightmare
      • Live and secure one on one chats
        • One staff member with 4 or 5 chats open at one time
        • FERPA compliant
    • Special Event Chats
      • Tonight from 7-9 chat with the Financial Aid Staff
technological options for millennials38
Technological Options for Millennials
  • Brain implants to remind students to meet deadlines
  • Time Machines for late applicants
  • Flying Cars for people who drive from San Diego to LA without an appointment only to arrive at 4:59pm
  • Protective Force Fields for staff when handling difficult parents of Millennials
case study online appointments
Case Study: Online Appointments
  • University of Southern California
  • 32,000 students
  • 19,000 financial aid applicants
  • Online appointments = high tech / high touch customer service
We can generate appointments as far or little in advance as possible
    • Academic Year: 1 week
    • March / April: 30 days
    • May-July: 60 days
Step One: Client selects date and time for appointment (system only offers time slots)
  • Step Two: Client inputs reservation information
  • Step Three: Client receives confirmation e-mail as well as reminder e-mail 3 days prior to appointment (each with cancellation option)
Change of Behavior: Appointments advertised on the web, at presentations (e.g., Orientation), and by counselor referral
  • Benefits: High-touch meets high-tech; increased quality of life for clients and staff
characteristics of the new graduate student
Characteristics of the New Graduate Student
  • Very technologically savvy
  • Very close to their parents
  • Make personal decisions jointly with family members
  • Not your graduate student of yesterday
  • New FERPA issues
graduate students and parental influence
Graduate Students and Parental Influence

“The number one thing to realize with the Millennials is that as a whole they reflect much more parental perfectionism than any generation in living memory. Colleges and universities should know that they are not

just getting a kid, but they are also getting a parent.”

William Strauss

Author, Millennials Rising


Millennial Parent Characteristics

  • Idealist
  • Passionate
  • Protective
  • Involved
  • Concerned
  • Intelligent
  • Demanding
  • Prioritize education
  • Knowledgeable about college experience
  • Sense of entitlement
    • high cost of attendance
    • regard for student as children, not adults
  • Basic concerns are priority
  • Expect to be involved from admission to graduation
language and tone
Language and Tone
  • True or False? Graduate students are adults so the language on our website and in our publications should be sophisticated
    • A graduate degree is the new bachelor’s degree; more and more students going right into graduate school; progressive degree programs
    • There are probably more twenty-something than thirty-something
    • Their parents are engaged and may even come in their place (living vicariously)
    • The language and tone should be geared toward a younger more savvy millennial audience
Q & A

This is a green presentation

No trees were killed

For a PDF of this presentation, e-mail Steve Bryant at

deep thoughts
Deep Thoughts
  • "One thing a computer can do that most humans can't is be sealed up in a cardboard box and sit in a warehouse."
    • Jack Handey