Gen Z in the classroom

Back in May of 2018, I stepped away from teaching a capstone course in strategic campaigns. I did this because 1) Entrepreneur was on oral chemo and not doing very well and 2) I was having a difficult time adjusting to Generation Z in the classroom.

I’ve been an adjunct instructor for this capstone class since 2006…the beginning years of the graduating Millennials. Each generation comes with its own quirks but over the years, I’ve noticed a marked decrease in skill sets and capabilities. The 2018 lab pushed me over the edge and I had to step away and reassess.

So, fast forward to late 2019 and the request to be an adjunct….but this time to work with the designers of all the teams in the creation of their campaign plan books. Seven labs, twenty-two designers. I could write my own curriculum. I could run the class how I wanted. What could go wrong?

Before I go too far, here’s a quick summary of the programs and skill sets (in my opinion) a college-level senior designer should be expected to know.


This application works with graphic files for print and web projects and uses .jpg, .png, .tif files and other formats. Mainly used for photos. An understanding of photo resolution and color formats is helpful if you want your finished project to look good. It’s not a layout program but one-page advertisements, billboards, posters, banners etc. can be created if you know what you’re doing. It is not a program for creating anything more than one page.


This application is used for…you guessed it….digital illustration. One-page advertisements, posters, banners etc. can be created for specific projects. It is not a program for creating anything more than one page.


This application creates and reads pdf files. The Pro version can make minor edits to a pdf file when necessary. I use this program to mark edits and make comments to draft files submitted in this format. It’s much cleaner and I don’t use as many red pens as I used to.  Plus, the drafts don’t look like I committed manslaughter over them.


And now we get to this beast of an application. A working knowledge of all of the previous applications is pretty much a necessity for success. All of the applications come with steep learning curves, however, InDesign comes with  one that is through the roof. It is a page layout program that can incorporate all of the above-mentioned formats imported into a design. It can be used to create anything in advertising and marketing. It is the only application used to design and create a  multi-page document…like a book.

Back to January 2020. I’m tasked with working with 22 designers for eight sessions to create logos for their teams and teach them how to design a strategic campaign book to be printed for the client. First off, let me just say I grossly underestimated the amount of time it would take to work with twenty-two 22-year-old college seniors outside of the eight hours allotted for my time. Many only had rudimentary knowledge of the InDesign application needed to create their project. Most showed up to class regularly but there were a few who, evidently, thought they didn’t need my instruction. They thought wrong.

And then the pandemic happened and everyone scattered and relied on Zoom and email the rest of the semester. Some of my right-brain designers adapted. Some didn’t. And without the hands-on aspect of instruction, I quickly discovered the need to adjust my expectations, which is difficult for me knowing what they will face in just a few short weeks. My biggest pet peeve was deadlines seemed to be viewed as only suggestions.

I’m seriously doubting the work ethic of many of them, pandemic or no pandemic.  The highlighted cells indicate late assignments…or nothing turned in at all.

I cannot even fathom what will happen if they ignore an Art Director or Creative Director’s deadline. Oh, wait….yes I can. I can assure you, they won’t have a job for long.

And don’t even get me started on listening skills. As detailed as my instructions were, I marked the same edits over and over on every. single. draft. I heard a few of them were having breakdowns over the stress presented by the pandemic and the amount of work involved in the project.

AND….the pièce de ré·sis·tance came when one designer insisted on creating the team’s book in…wait for it….Illustrator (refer back to the above explanation of the application). Repeatedly, I gently informed this program was not a layout program for a book and the files needed to be redone correctly. The response? The designer ghosted me and the team, leaving them high and dry. It was a truly remarkable display of ineptitude. I worked with two members of the team to salvage what had already been done and turn it into a book. We crammed 15 weeks of instruction and work into seven days.

So, this was pretty much my last couple of months. Editing, re-editing and re-editing book drafts from a design formatting perspective. Gen Z in the classroom sometimes is not a pretty sight.

Honestly, I don’t know how most of them are going to cope in the real world.

 

12 thoughts on “Gen Z in the classroom

  1. ” I quickly discovered the need to adjust my expectations,…”

    Lisa, I’m like you, in all my years of management/leadership/training, it’s been my high expectations that I’ve had to adjust. And I must say, that continues to be a challenge for me; especially when I see how careless many people are about their lack of work ethics.

    OMG…looking at that chart, I can’t believe all the late assignments. WOW! It’s more yellow than it is white.

    “And don’t even get me started on listening skills.”

    Oh please! Listening? They don’t know how to listen. All they know how to do is text and take selfies for their Instagram account. LOL!

    Like you said, I don’t know how most of them are going to cope in the real world.

    Bless you, my friend. I don’t know how you’re doing it.

    Hope you and your family had a Happy Memorial Day!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I couldn’t agree more, Lisa! It is evident that their focus is dwindling, in the first place. Maybe because of too much information (mostly unnecessary) they get into their heads everyday? Thanks for sharing these tools though, I only use some of these Adobe products but for design I usually use other applications. This may become in handy in the future. Good luck on us giving classes!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ow wow, that’s a predominantly lame bunch out there 😦
    I tried to find a single person who did everything correctly and on time, and there *is* a white line, but even there it says “late” / “errors”, it just isn’t marked yellow.
    Do you think they will learn the hard way, out in the cruel working world?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: May Photo Challenge: Keeping Busy | Peripheral Perceptions

Thank you for taking time to comment. I appreciate each and every one.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.