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Proactive Advising critical to Student Support during Online Teaching

During COVID-19, most of the students are learning remotely. This has been challenging particularly for first-year students who have to adjust to online teaching and university learning at the same time. With opportunities to interact physically with teachers and peers significantly reduced, your effort to connect with your advisees proactively is critical for spotting and offering support to those in need. This newsletter highlights the specific characteristics of the current generation – “Gen Z” – of advisees and suggests targeted approaches for effective engagement and advising.

Key Characteristics of Gen Z advisees

Strong Bonding with Technology and Social Media

Gen Z grows with internet, social media, smartphones and e-gadgets (McDowell, 2016). Having mastered the skills to access the information for learning and communication, they connect with social media or internet nearly every waking hour. (Coder, 2020; Robbin, 2020; McDowell, 2016; Seemiller & Grace, 2016).

Multi-tasking and Short Attention Spans

Gen Z is well trained for multi-tasking that they can absorb, process and respond to lots of information within seconds (Robertson, 2018). Besides, Gen Z also has a very short attention spans, and they expect to get their wanted advice and information immediately (Robbin, 2020).

Learning Habits and Expectation

Multi-tasking, independent learning and learning with technology are the common learning habits among Gen Z. Gen Z is also eager to apply the learnt knowledge immediately in the daily life (Seemiller & Grace, 2016). For student support, Gen Z looks for on-demand services with low barriers to access and is more career-focused than past generations (Kozinsky, 2017).

Adaptation in Advising Approach

In view of these characteristics, we can apply targeted techniques in advising to enhance advisee engagement:

1. Make use of technology and social media

Besides e-learning, advisers can reach out to and connect with advisees through different online tools, such as ZOOM and Moodle, and different social media platforms. Some Faculty Academic Advisers found it helpful to create communication groups with their advisees on WhatsApp, WeChat and Facebook. Apart from efficient dissemination of advice, these groups can also facilitate mutual help among advisees. You can also capture some attractive images (such as meme images) and share with your advisees to start the conversation.

Other than using your personal WhatsApp account, you may choose to use similar instant messaging functions in Zoom and Microsoft Teams with your HKU account for this purpose. Please refer to OUR WEB RESOURCES for simple instruction.

2. Trim long advice to short message(s)

From our observation, most of the Gen Z advisees are competent in searching for information on the Internet. They may however need a small push or tips on where to start and what to search. They also appreciate individual and personalized advice instead of “template answer”. In the advising session, the adviser can first listen to the advisee’s enquiry, clarify his/her situation, and address the issues without finding the information for the advisee. If needed, advisers can provide webpages, links and key points in a short text message for advisee’s follow-up. Lastly, an emoji or a humorous sticker may also show your care and build up a warm relationship with your advisee.

3. Connect learning experience and career preparation

Given students’ concern about careers, advisers can use that to initiate discussion of their studies, academic choices or attainment of relevant learning experiences with advisees. Advisers could share their understanding of different disciplines, postgraduate studies, research opportunities and introduce relevant resources (i.e. career services of CEDARS), which would provide insights to Gen Z beyond the academic curriculum.


Coder, D. (2020). A year long journey of restructuring an online academic advising program. Academic Advising Today, 43(2). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/A-Year-Long-Journey-of-Restructuring-an-Online-Academic-Advising-Program.aspx

Fisher, A. (2016). Forget Millennials. Are you ready to hire Generation Z? Fortune.com. https://fortune.com/2016/08/14/generation-z-employers/

Kozinsky, S. (2017). How Generation Z is shaping the change in education. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/sievakozinsky/2017/07/24/how-generation-z-is-shaping-the-change-in-education/#6357f8036520

McDowell, S. (2016). 9 important insights about Generation Z. https://www.josh.org/9-important-insights-generation-z/?mwm_id=304943788053&mot=J79GNF&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIyvWe0pPd5AIVBkTTCh0VxwXyEAAYASAAEgI9hPD_BwE

Robbins, R. (2020). Engaging gen zers through academic advising. Academic Advising Today, 43(2). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Engaging-Gen-Zers-Through-Academic-Advising.aspx

Robertson, S. (2018). Generation Z characteristics & traits that explain the way they learn.

Seemiller, C., & Grace, M. (2016). Generation Z goes to college. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.