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How students use technology

We are about to begin our own technology planning initiative, which will update the campus IT strategy from several years ago. The IT masterplan needs to respond to how students use technology to learn, and how faculty want to leverage technology for instruction. Very apropos, ECAR has just released The National Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2011. The report sheds light on how information technology affects the college experience. Because of the widespread interest in and importance of this topic, ECAR has made this report publicly accessible upon release. It's an interesting read.

The ECAR study of undergraduate students and information technology sheds lights on how information technology affects the college experience. ECAR has conducted this annual study since 2004, and though students' ownership and utilization of technology changes from year to year, students consistently rely upon their instructors and institutions to meet their technology expectations and needs. The 2011 study differs from past studies in that the questionnaire was reengineered and responses were gathered from a nationally representative sample of 3,000 students in 1,179 colleges and universities.

Among the findings:

  • Students are drawn to hot technologies, but they rely on more traditional devices
  • Students report technology delivers major academic benefits
  • Students report uneven perceptions of institutions' and instructors' use of technology
  • 65% of students have taken a course entirely online

The ECAR report provides these immediate recommendations:

  • Investigate your students' technology needs and preferences and create an action plan to better integrate technology into courses and information systems.
  • Provide professional development opportunities and incentives so instructors can better use the technology they have.
  • Expand or enhance students' involvement in technology planning and decision making.
  • Meet students' expectations for anytime, everywhere, Wi-Fi access on the devices they prefer to use.
  • Nail the basics. Help faculty and administrators support students' use of core productivity software for academic work.

The report provides lots of other detail. This infographic has an interesting encapsulation of key points, including:

  • Top software used by students: word processing, library web site, presentation software, spreadsheets, course/learning management system.
  • Macs are growing in popularity with students less than 25 years old; Windows shrinks from 77% to 57%, while Mac grew from 13% to 31%
  • Almost all students use: email, txt messaging, Facebook.
  • Technology considered "essential" by today's students: laptop, wi-fi, printer, flash drive, desktop computer.

And in general, the report shows a sharp increase in smartphone use on campus. As I've said before: smartphones and tablets aren't "coming soon", they are already here. We need to support them as we position our campus IT.