The learning habits and behaviors of millennial students will lead to changes in classroom pedagogy over the next decade, said Richard Sweeney, M.L.S., author, researcher and university librarian at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, addressing Fordham University’s Annual Faculty Technology Conference on May 22.

Sweeney, the keynote speaker, said that millennials (students born between 1979 and 1994) demand more choices, are short on patience, and are much less solitary and individualistic than previous generations.

“Their sense is that they’re busy around the clock, everything they do is based around speed and time,” he said. “How can these [traits]be used, what can we do to make their education move faster?”

Sweeney called millennials natives in the art of quick choices and in multi-tasking, having grown up with the Internet, instant messaging and video games. Their ability to concentrate is great, and their social networks are their principal way of getting information.

“They learn by doing; they don’t read the directions,” Sweeney said. “They want face-to-face learning with a mentor, but they don’t want to be lectured to; while they are very good at concentrating, the key to getting them to learn in classrooms is to get them engaged.”

He advocated more peer-to-peer learning methods and more use of Intelligence Tutors, artificial intelligence tutoring programs that track a student’s individual progress.

Sweeney has conducted more than 35 nationwide focus groups on the rapidly changing technology user behaviors of millennials. His work has been the subject of articles in The Chronicle of Higher Educationand the New Jersey Star Ledger. He is the former vice provost of information and library services at Polytechnic University, Brooklyn N.Y.

The conference, held at the Lincoln Center campus, was sponsored by Instructional Technology Academic Computing (ITAC), a division of Fordham University’s Department of Information Technology (IT). A series of afternoon sessions in various technology applications, including Blackboard and Competency Assessment in Distance Education (CADE), were offered to Fordham faculty and staff.


Janet Sassi is editor/associate director of internal communications. She can be reached at (212) 636-7577 or [email protected]