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I have recently read an interesting report, ECAR study of undergraduate students and information technology, 2008, published by ECAR (EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research).  The study investigated the use of technology by undergraduate students in American colleges and universities. The report includes the key findings from a web based survey of over 23,000 students at nearly 100 American higher education institutions, which are supplemented by focus group findings and comparative data from surveys in previous years.  It covers areas such as technology ownership, the amount of time spent online, the type of activities undertaken by students, student IT skills and information literacy, IT content in courses and how students view the role of technology in their learning.  In addition, it includes a range of questions on the use of social networking websites, such as Facebook.

Here are the key findings based on the short summary in October 27, 2008 issue of  OCLC Abstracts:

  • More than 80 percent of respondents own laptops, 53.8 percent own desktops, and one-third own both a laptop and a desktop.
  • Laptop ownership increased from 65.9 percent in 2006 to 82.2 percent in 2008. Freshmen respondents are entering college with new laptops in hand-this year 71.1 percent have a laptop less than one year old.
  • Ownership of Internet-capable cell phones is also on the rise, now owned by 66.1 percent of respondents. Most respondents, however, do not yet take advantage of the Internet capability, citing high cost, slow response and difficulty of use as primary reasons.
  • Despite barriers to use, almost one-fourth of respondents access the Internet from a cell phone or PDA at least monthly, and 17.5 percent do so weekly or more often.
  • Respondents report spending an average 19.6 hours per week actively doing online activities for work, school or recreation, and 7.4 percent spend more than 40 hours per week doing so.
  • Almost all students surveyed use the college or university library Web site (93.4 percent) and presentation software (91.9 percent). Also used by most students are spreadsheets (85.9 percent), social networking sites (85.2 percent), text messaging (83.6 percent) and course management systems (82.3 percent).
  • About one-third of respondents report using audio-creation or video-creation software and 73.9 percent use graphics software (Photoshop, Flash, etc.).
  • Almost one-third engage in online multiuser computer games (World of Warcraft, EverQuest, poker, etc.) and about 1 in 11 respondents (8.8 percent) report using online virtual worlds (Second Life, etc.).
  • Students are interactive on the Web, with more than one-third contributing content to blogs, wikis, and photo and video Web sites.
  • Over 85 percent of respondents report using social networking sites. The striking change over the last two years was in how many respondents now use social networking sites on a daily basis, from 32.8 percent in 2006 to 58.8 percent in 2008.

To view the full report, you can access the table of contents (in HTML format) on Educause site.  Also, the complete report (122 pages) can be downloaded at http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ers0808/rs/ers0808w.pdf

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