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The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2010

| October 26, 2010

by Jim Bruce

Yesterday, EDUCAUSE released its 2010 study of undergraduate students and information technology.  The study’s ROADMAP, prepared by Judith Borreson Caruso and Shannon Smith, the study’s authors, can be found on the EDUCAUSE site at <> (click on ROADMAP at the bottom of the page) or downloaded directly from <>.  

I believe that this document is must reading for everyone involved in IT on college and university campuses as it provides solid insight into our student’s expectations.

Some of the key findings from the study are:

  • 84$% of students responding to the survey have laptops

  • 99% have a computer

  • 63% own an internet capable handheld device

  • the average respondent logs more than 21 hours/week online

  • 20% take some or all of their courses online

  • 36% used web-based applications – think word-processors, etc. –  in a course

  • 70% used text messaging (compared to 24% internet messaging users).

Authors of the study made five observations from the data that they believe IT and other educational leaders should consider:

1.  Web-based technology has arrived in course-work.  Half of the students using these tools were using them to collaborate in their classes.

2.  Mobile web use is growing.  43% of students who own internet-enabled mobile devices use them daily to access the internet.  They expect institutional services to be available on their device.

3.  Instructors continue to need training in the effective use of technology.  Instructors are reported to have uneven levels of skills which institutions may need to address with training specifically designed for instructional staff.

4.  Students also need training in technology.  Some 19% of the respondents reported that almost none of their instructors provided adequate training for the IT used in their course.

5.  With more online courses, IT services must be reliable, always available with ever increasing bandwidth when needed.  The study reports that many institutions may find it difficult to ensure that their IT services are available when needed by their students.

If you are interested in reading further and if your university is an ECAR subscriber, the full report can also be found at the first URL given above.

From my point of view, this study gives university IT leaders a lot to think about, particularly in the context of university strategies which implicitly or explicitly call for greater use of IT at the same time resources for IT are significantly declining.  This will require new approaches to delivering the needed IT services that include far greater collaboration and cooperation than ever before, faster decision-making cycles, along with setting clear priorities and delivering timely results  I believe that while the strategic importance of IT in higher education has never been higher there is also a real sea change in the way IT must be delivered.  We must step up to this opportunity and invent our new way to go forward and to do it now.


.  .  .  .  .     jim