Reasons to create study groups are getting less common. The biggest reason for this is that social engagement patterns have changed for iGen.
I’ve been on my phone more than I’ve been with actual people. My bed has, like, an imprint of my body. — 13-year-old Athena of Houston, TX
In September 2017 Jean M. Twenge wrote a great article about how 20-somethings and teenagers use their smartphone to live their social lives. Instead of roller skating rinks, parks, and basketball courts, youth spend the majority of youth spend their free time at home with the phone.
This stay-home-all-the-time tendency will kill the classic concept of the study group. And maybe it should. If you’re on your phone all the time, it is harder to get into trouble in the first place. Students don’t have time for car accidents, getting plastered at a party, and having sex before 18.
This trend affects learning too. I find four reasons why study groups will also change
- Snapchat. Snapchat replaces text communication with instantaneous videos and photos that disappear within 24 hours of viewing (at the most). This is the medium of the future. With 188 million daily active users, Snapchat represents a tier-1 form of communication for young people ages 14–24. iGen would often prefer to communicate via Snapchat over actually meeting.
- Academic integrity. Participation in class lectures matters, but students are constantly told NOT to seek outside assistance for what could considered cheating on their homework. This creates a culture where students are expected to discretely figure out homework on their own instead of directly collaborate.
- Sage on the stage. I first heard Eric Mazur at Harvard talk about this by contrasting the sage on the stage with the guide on the side. But student-driven learning is still more often an exception rather than the norm. As a result, the professor is the go-to source for wisdom and insight, and s/he connects using Snapchat. Studying together with your friends might be helpful, but what’s the point of a study group if the professor still has the answers?
- Independence. Since students are always on their phones, they don’t get a driver’s license as early. So there is little motivation to drive and meet up. Also, since more parents are both working, work schedules make it harder to coordinate with other parents with jobs. More people use free time viewing screens anyway.
For students who want to engage with their classmates, there are still some options for learning in a real-time online environment. StudyGate offers free study groups for classmates to remotely prepare for lectures and exams. With this kind of learning tool available online, there remains little reason to leave the bed or the house.