Generational framework of analysis

A number of articles, listed below, address generational theory with a focus on Millenial students. To give these students an age range, the following is a break down analysis of generations:

  • G.I. Generation: Born 1901-1924, current age 84-107
  • Silent Generation: Born 1925-1942; current age 66-83
  • Boom Generation: Born 1943-1960; current age 48-65
  • Generation X: Born 1961-1981; current age 27-47
  • Millennial Generation: Born since 1982; current age 26 and younger

A generational framework of analysis is an interesting concept that attaches social and historical events and experiences to each generation, in some way shaping them. Generations are thought to move in cycles with one being dominant and the next more recessive, depending on how current events and the previous generation affected them (Coomes, 2004). Coomes and DeBard (2004) state a generation has its own biography, personality, age location, beliefs and behaviour, and perceived membership.


Coomes (2004) suggests this kind of analysis might help practitioners “understand how each student is unique, how students function as groups, and how students in the aggregate respond to and shape the campus environment” (p.6). This, I believe, transforms to online learning, another educational environment and space.


At this time, from my currently collected statistics, online students in graduate studies online at the University of Calgary are depicted as 73% Generation X, 26% Baby Boomers and 1% Millenial.


Generation X is a group entering middle age, the tail end are finishing higher education, most are building careers, and about 20% or more are faculty members (Coomes & DeBard, 2004).  Generation X are seen as risk takers affected by interesting times in the 70s and 80s, but mellowing as pragmatic midlife leaders concerned about civic responsibility. 


Our future graduate students will be the Millenials. This cluster tends to embrace group interaction and work, doing homework, new technologies, parental values, civic mindedness, and inclusiveness (Oblinger, 2003; Raines, 2002). Raines and Oblinger suggest the Millenial student needs different challenges (encouragment and mentoring, honest leadership, structure, rich experiential activities, working with friends, respect and flexibility), and uses technology differently than older generations (multitasking, on demand services, constructing not accumulating their knowledge, see information as fleeting, work digitally with networks).  This generation is also confident and impatient, has a distaste for menial work, yet lacks experience, and are hopeful and goal oriented.



Coomes, M.D. (2004). Understanding the historical and cultural influences that shape generations. New Directions for Student Services, 106, 17-31.


Coomes, M.D. & DeBard, R. (2004). A generational approach to understanding students. New Directions for Student Services, 106, 5-16.


Oblinger, D. (2003). Boomers, Gen-Xers & Millenials: Understanding the new students. Educause, July/August 2003, 37-47.


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