Friday, October 23, 2009

University Students have Laptop Computers

The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2009 is available from EDUCAUSE. This is the results of a survey of 30,000 students at 103 US universities. As well as Australian universities, this has some interesting implications for secondary schools.

The study found that almost all students have computers, mostly laptops. Almost all students were using course management systems at their university and most were happy with these.

Less than half of the students thought their teachers had adequate IT skills, nor provided adequate IT training for the students. Just over half the students had an Internet capable mobile phone and of those two thirds had used the Internt on their phone. For those not using the Internet on the phone, cost was the most common reason. Few were using the mobile phone for course related purposes and the phones were see as largely a distraction from study. One use favoured by students was to use the SMS function of phones for emergency messages from the unviersity.

If the results are applicable to Australia, which I suspect they are, then this would suggest:
  1. Campuses should be equipped to accommodate laptops, with less provision for desktop computers. As an example, power points and network access for laptops would be desirable. Some way to provide a larger screen and keyboard interfaced to the student's laptop would be desirable (perhaps using a desktop or thin client computer)
  2. Learning/Course Management Systems should be used for course administration, and where applicable, course delivery.
  3. Mobile phone Internet access should not be assumed, unless the unviersity provides some sort of low cost or free access (for example WiFi for smart phones).
The federal government is funding the provision of computers for schools. However, it is being left to school systems as to if the students get laptops or desktops. The university research would seem to favour laptops. With the cost of netbook coming down, this suggests that some of what is happening in universities is now applicable to secondary schools.


Since 2004, the annual ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology has sought to shed light on how information technology affects the college experience. We ask students about the technology they own and how they use it in and out of their academic world. We gather information about how skilled students believe they are with technologies; how they perceive technology is affecting their learning experience; and their preferences for IT in courses. The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2009 is a longitudinal extension of the 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 studies. It is based on quantitative data from a spring 2009 survey of 30,616 freshmen and seniors at 103 four-year institutions and students at 12 two-year institutions; student focus groups that included input from 62 students at 4 institutions; and review of qualitative data from written responses to open-ended questions. In addition to studying student ownership, experience, behaviors, preferences, and skills with respect to information technologies, the 2009 study also includes a special focus on student ownership and use of Internet-capable handheld devices.

Table of Contents

  • Entire Study: The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2009
  • Foreword
  • Chapter 1: Executive Summary
  • Chapter 2: Introduction: Higher Education—A Moveable Feast?
  • Chapter 3: Methodology and Respondent Characteristics
  • Chapter 4: Ownership of, Use of, and Skill with IT
  • Chapter 5: IT and the Academic Experience
  • Chapter 6: Undergraduates and the Mobile Revolution
  • Appendix A: Acknowledgments
  • Appendix B: Students and Information Technology in Higher Education: 2009 Survey Questionnaire
  • Appendix C: Qualitative Interview Questions
  • Appendix D: Participating Institutions and Survey Response Rates
  • Appendix E: Bibliography
  • Online Supporting Materials: Key Findings: Roadmap & Survey Instrument

    From: The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2009, EDUCAUSE, 2009
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