Home – 3 Expectations Digital Natives Bring to Academic Research

3 Expectations Digital Natives Bring to Academic Research

Posted on 08-09-2016 by Kari Abitbol

 As students descend on campuses across the country in the coming weeks, the vast majority will be Millennials. With a high school graduation rate of 72 percent and a college enrollment rate of 68 percent it’s safe to say that Millennials are on track to surpass the number of college-educated Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers in the next few years. According to Pew Research conducted two years ago, 64 percent of millennial women and 55 percent of millennial men had some college education or had earned a bachelor’s or higher degree.  These digital natives have influenced higher education greatly already and will continue to do so, says a research review published by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.


How do Millennials Vary from Other Generations?

As a generational cohort, Millennials bring some consistent attitudes, values and expectations with them. The research review cited above notes that their “… optimism, structure, team orientation, and a confidence bordering on entitlement,” are changing how higher education institutions approach communicating with and educating these students. From redesigning spaces to support a less formal, group-oriented learning (fewer lecterns and auditoriums) to acquiring academic research tools designed for digitally-savvy students, universities recognize the need to evolve. And so does LexisNexis.


At the end of 2015, we conducted a MindSumo challenge to gather input from Millennials on what they want from an academic research tool. MindSumo crowdsources ideas from college students across the U.S. and Canada to fuel innovation. To ensure students offered creative and aspirational feedback about their research experiences—regardless of the tool used—the challenge did not reference LexisNexis. What did we learn? Millennials want:

  1. Intuitive, Relevant Search—Not surprisingly, Google featured prominently in nearly every response. Today’s college students google for answers to all of life’s questions—not just for academic research—and as a result, they expect highly relevant search results with the ‘right answer’ near the top of the page. One-on-one interviews also revealed that students desire a visual organization to make finding related content easier.
  2. Collaboration Tools—As you might expect from digital natives, students want their research tools to feature a social component. Many cited the value of sharing best practices based on subject or assignment type—whether from other students or professors and librarians. They also like the idea of a collaborative platform to support team projects and keep track on assignments.
  3. Personalized Research Platform—Millennials believe that sharing information can yield positive results—like giving up an email address to get a coupon for a free burrito. In our interviews, we found that students are more than willing to share information—their area of study, classes and more—if that information in turn generates more relevant search results. For example, a freshman Economics student and a senior Political Science student would see different results from the same search for “2016 Presidential Candidates.” This extends to a citation tool that could generate the appropriate citation style based on the field of research.


We are now using the insights we gained to help determine what a next-generation Academic product needs in order to deliver a superior user experience that fits students’ workflows and meets their research goals. What are you doing to adapt to digital natives?


3 Ways to Apply This Information Now

  1. View our video showing the product development path we’re taking and clips from students about what they want in a research experience.  
  2. Check out other higher education posts here on the blog.
  3. Share this blog to keep the dialogue going with your colleagues and contacts. 

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