Sunday, November 30, 2008

What Information Technology Services Do College Students Want?

The EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECARS) has an excellent research study out titled The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2008. ECARS mission is to foster better decision making by conducting and disseminating research and analysis about the role and implications of information technology in higher education. ECAR systematically addresses many of the challenges brought more sharply into focus by information technologies (IT).

Here's the study abstract:

This 2008 ECAR research study is a longitudinal extension of the 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 ECAR studies of students and information technology. The study is based on quantitative data from a spring 2008 survey of 27,317 freshmen and seniors at 90 four-year institutions and eight two-year institutions; student focus groups that included input from 75 students at four institutions; and analysis of qualitative data from 5,877 written responses to open-ended questions. In addition to studying student ownership, experience, behaviors, preferences, and skills with respect to information technologies, the 2008 study also includes a special focus on student participation in social networking sites.

Key findings in the study focus on:
  • Mobility: Laptops and Internet-Capable Cell Phones
  • Computer and Internet Activities
  • IT Skills and Internet Literacy
  • IT in Courses
  • Instructor Use of IT in Courses
  • The Impact of IT in Courses
  • The Digital Divide
  • Social Networking Sites
The study does an excellent job describing how students are using information technology and more importantly what student information technology expectations are. Here's a few highlights I've summarized from the study:
  • Students expect IT services to be available when they need them.
  • Students actively use multiple modes of IT to communicate, socialize and stay connected with others.
  • Students perceive themselves as net savvy and choose mobile technologies and the use of visual media.
  • Students take advantage of web 2.0 technologies to express themselves in various ways on the Internet.
  • Students prefer learning environments where IT services are balanced with other learning activities including face-to-face interactivity with faculty and other students in the classroom.
I mark this one as a must read if you are involved in any way with higher ed instruction. ECARS has an excellent site dedicated to the study linked here.

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