Personalizing Services for Millennials and Gen Xers in Online Programs

Last updated on: January 24, 2022

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Online students want access to career and support services. However, the way these learners seek support varies by generation. To explore these differences in detail, we surveyed nearly 1,100 additional online learners to complement the 1,500 prospective, current, and graduated online students that provided responses for the annual Online College Students report in 2019. This expanded sample helped us identify services that can foster success for millennials and Gen Xers enrolled in online programs.

Click the image below to view the full infographic.

How Millennials and Gen Xers Differ

Understanding these differences is the first step toward personalizing services for each demographic.


• Born between 1981 and 1996
• Respect supportive authority figures
• Like on-demand information
• Are very tech-savvy
• Prefer interactive and dynamic content
• Expect personalized solutions

Gen Xers:

• Born between 1965 and 1980
• Value their independence
• Like to conduct research on their own
• Aren’t intimidated by technology
• Prefer streamlined processes
• Expect fast, efficient service

Tailoring Personal Support Services to Student Needs

Millennials express interest in a range of support services while pursuing their degree. By contrast, schools should promote a targeted suite of resources to Gen Xers.

Share of Online Students Who Would Use Support Services*

Mental Health
Millennials: 58%
Gen Xers: 44%

Parental Skills/Resources
Millennials: 43%
Gen Xers: 27%

Child Care
Millennials: 38%
Gen Xers: 20%

Customization Is Key

Frame the availability of services in ways that millennials and Gen Xers find empowering.

“I’m Seeking a Community.”
Create social media groups to let millennials celebrate wins and overcome challenges as a community.

“I Will Research on My Time.”
Email links to web resources and offer phone support so Gen Xers can access assistance on their terms.

The Most In-Demand Career Services

More than half of millennials accept guidance on multiple aspects of their job search. On the other hand, Gen Xers are most interested in services related to presenting their qualifications to employers, such as résumé assistance and interview workshops.

Share of Online Students who Have Used Career Services*

Résumé Creation
Millennials: 55%
Gen Xers: 42%

Career Mentoring
Millennials: 50%
Gen Xers: 34%

Job Search Guidance
Millennials: 56%
Gen Xers: 30%

Job Search Website
Millennials: 48%
Gen Xers: 30%

Interview Workshops
Millennials: 53%
Gen Xers: 40%

Collaborators vs. Explorers

Career services are essential for online students seeking to enter a new field or earn a promotion. That said, the ways millennials and Gen Xers approach these services may vary.

“Let’s Collaborate.”
Connect millennials with virtual career fairs and online counselors who offer on-demand guidance via instant messaging.

“Let Me Explore.”
Use communication preferences to email or text Gen Xers about web resources that list available options.

Access Comprehensive Insights About Online College Students

Success in online learning goes beyond the personalization of career and support services. Explore extensive insights about this unique population in Online College Students 2019, an annual research report from Wiley University Services and Aslanian Market Research surveying 1,500 prospective, current and graduated online students.

*All percentages in this infographic have been rounded.

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