ECAR study of undergraduate students and information technology, 2008

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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About Steve Yuen

I am a Professor Emeritus of Instructional Technology and Design at The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States.
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6 Responses to ECAR study of undergraduate students and information technology, 2008

  1. Donna Parker says:

    This is certainly an eye-opening report. If anyone had any doubt of the power of the Internet and related technologies, this report presents the facts in black and white. The Internet and related technologies have changed the way our students live and think (and instructors, too). Most of today’s students are born and raised with access to the Internet either at home or at school. Even pre-schools have computers, and begin teaching the very young simple skills like how to use the mouse. As an instructor, I witness students’ needs to be connected to their e-mail, Facebook accounts, text messages, and other technologies on an hourly basis. As I watch students (from my office) change classes, most are immediately accessing their cell phones to check messages that might have been delivered via technology of some sort. The numbers from the ECAR report are startling to say the least. Since this report is now about one and a half years old, the numbers regarding technology have probably increased significantly. As the prices of technologies such as cell phones and computers have dropped, more and more students (and parents) can afford to purchase at least one if not multiple units. The ECAR report was based on students in college. I would find it very interesting to have the same report conducted based on high school students and even elementary students. It amazes me to see elementary students now using cell phones. As these younger students develop into college students, they will surely demand access to technology 24 hours a day.

  2. tdedeaux says:

    The thing that amazes me is just how specialized some of the students’ computer knowledge is.

    Just looking at this report, it would be easy to assume that these “digital natives” all understand computers and know how to use them in detail.

    But teaching undergraduate courses like IT201 and IT365 has led me to realize that many of the students only know the most basic aspects of the software that they use for school or for personal use.

    Most know Facebook pretty well (though I don’t know how well they know the privacy settings, etc), but some only know their way around one email service, and get confused using a different one (like Eagles mail).

    Most know the very basics of typing into Word, but for many, that’s as far as it goes.

    I’m not saying that they are bad with computers: they’re certainly no worse, and possibly better, than previous classes and generations.

    But just because they’re digital natives doesn’t mean they are digitally SKILLED.

  3. Patrick Chiang says:

    以我過去在大專校院任教的經驗來看,若和台灣的學生相比,數據上應該會相當的差距喔,老師曾問過我們為何台灣學生與國外學生會有差距?我曾提出自己的看法認為主要是因為市場化的關係,將學生的使用習慣定型了,就像是台灣學生幾乎快把Windows當成是唯一的作業平台一般。而老師則認為是學生的學習習慣使然,其實我想應該是一半一半吧!

    台灣學生使用PC比Laptops要來的普遍,主要原因還是在於機種的選擇多取決自出錢的家長,而Laptops的價格在過去比PC貴許多。因此,像國外調查發現有80%以上Laptops的擁有率在台灣大概剛好是反過來。而具有上網功能的手機在台灣算是普遍,但與國外相同也是因為頻寬、速度及費用等問題,使用率相當低。

    使用圖書館的頻率,這問我最準,因為以前我在圖書館工作過三年,台灣學生除了借還書之外,對圖書館的資源用得不多,除非老師會要求學生去查特定的資料,否則可能有1/4的學生在大學四年期間從未使用或進過圖書館,即使是圖書館網站也是一樣。

    而在課程與學習的使用上,台灣的學生表現一樣不好,我曾問過大一學生是否有使用過Office 簡報軟體,結果竟然不到1/10,試算表更不用說,但這數據漸漸有改變,主要是因為部份高中已開始重視排入電腦相關課程,使得有愈來愈多學生有接觸使用的經驗。

    其它有關多媒體的軟體使用,除了系所課程排入之外,會自己去學的不到1/10。

    那台灣的學生到底那裡比國外學生強或是跟國外學生一樣呢?傳簡訊使用E-Mail、使用即時通軟體交談、玩線上遊戲(不論2D或3D),據我了解大概有一半以上都曾玩過。而最後使用社群部份更是突顯了國內一窩蜂擠在一起的特色,清一色的有3/4以上的學生會使用Facebook的社交網站以及無名相簿網站,而其它社群網站的使用人數與前者就有不小的落差,但是否會用在學習上呢,我只能感嘆地說,還真的不多呢!

  4. Patrick Chiang says:

    以我過去在大專校院任教的經驗來看,若和台灣的學生相比,數據上應該會相當的差距喔,老師曾問過我們為何台灣學生與國外學生會有差距?我曾提出自己的看法認為主要是因為市場化的關係,將學生的使用習慣定型了,就像是台灣學生幾乎快把Windows當成是唯一的作業平台一般。而老師則認為是學生的學習習慣使然,其實我想應該是一半一半吧!

    台灣學生使用PC比Laptops要來的普遍,主要原因還是在於機種的選擇多取決自出錢的家長,而Laptops的價格在過去比PC貴許多。因此,像國外調查發現有80%以上Laptops的擁有率在台灣大概剛好是反過來。而具有上網功能的手機在台灣算是普遍,但與國外相同也是因為頻寬、速度及費用等問題,使用率相當低。

    使用圖書館的頻率,這問我最準,因為以前我在圖書館工作過三年,台灣學生除了借還書之外,對圖書館的資源用得不多,除非老師會要求學生去查特定的資料,否則可能有1/4的學生在大學四年期間從未使用或進過圖書館,即使是圖書館網站也是一樣。

    而在課程與學習的使用上,台灣的學生表現一樣不好,我曾問過大一學生是否有使用過Office 簡報軟體,結果竟然不到1/10,試算表更不用說,但這數據漸漸有改變,主要是因為部份高中已開始重視排入電腦相關課程,使得有愈來愈多學生有接觸使用的經驗。

    其它有關多媒體的軟體使用,除了系所課程排入之外,會自己去學的不到1/10。

    那台灣的學生到底那裡比國外學生強或是跟國外學生一樣呢?傳簡訊使用E-Mail、使用即時通軟體交談、玩線上遊戲(不論2D或3D),據我了解大概有一半以上都曾玩過。而最後使用社群部份更是突顯了國內一窩蜂擠在一起的特色,清一色的有3/4以上的學生會使用Facebook的社交網站以及無名相簿網站,而其它社群網站的使用人數與前者就有不小的落差,但是否會用在學習上呢,我只能感嘆地說,還真的不多呢!

  5. vivi says:

    我想大概跟國情有關係吧!我發現台灣的家長的想法還是比較保守一點,總覺得上網跟學習連不起來,所以每當孩子在上網時總會催促著孩子去念書或是趕快睡覺了,對於正面肯定回應與參與的情況實在很少,所以要怎麼比較國內外學生的差距呢?如果說學科我們當然沒話說的超越很多!看看每年的奧林匹克數學,代表出國的學生各個頂尖到不行!但是要說到關於電腦的使用,除非本身是學資訊背景的,不然其實很少會對windows系統中基本的文書處理很了解!這也是我自己一直很不解的…因為我也是到了碩士才真正深入的了解與使用!因為也是到了離開家有自己充足的時間可以好好摸索…這個在國外,他們大概國高中離家都是正常的吧!

    現在的學生很幸福,擁有的資源比以前多很多,至少在電腦資訊能力這方面,學校已經慢慢著重在數位教學上,所以可以有更多機會接觸到,不過圖書館的資訊我覺得如果沒有從小培養,一樣很難有善用圖書館資訊的習慣,圖書館提供的服務太多,其實很多我們都不知道!不知道是因為從小就沒有人跟我們說,而這些知識也不是潛移默化就會知道的,所以就我現在所知道的國小圖書館大多就提供借還書的服務,跟我們小時候一樣,但是我想現在資訊流通這麼快速的時代,也許學校應該加入一些生活課程,可以實際帶學生到大一點的圖書館,跟學生說明其實還有很多其他的服務可以在圖書館獲得…我想這對於藏書眾多的圖書館而言,這樣的存在才有價值與意義吧!

  6. vivi says:

    我想大概跟國情有關係吧!我發現台灣的家長的想法還是比較保守一點,總覺得上網跟學習連不起來,所以每當孩子在上網時總會催促著孩子去念書或是趕快睡覺了,對於正面肯定回應與參與的情況實在很少,所以要怎麼比較國內外學生的差距呢?如果說學科我們當然沒話說的超越很多!看看每年的奧林匹克數學,代表出國的學生各個頂尖到不行!但是要說到關於電腦的使用,除非本身是學資訊背景的,不然其實很少會對windows系統中基本的文書處理很了解!這也是我自己一直很不解的…因為我也是到了碩士才真正深入的了解與使用!因為也是到了離開家有自己充足的時間可以好好摸索…這個在國外,他們大概國高中離家都是正常的吧!

    現在的學生很幸福,擁有的資源比以前多很多,至少在電腦資訊能力這方面,學校已經慢慢著重在數位教學上,所以可以有更多機會接觸到,不過圖書館的資訊我覺得如果沒有從小培養,一樣很難有善用圖書館資訊的習慣,圖書館提供的服務太多,其實很多我們都不知道!不知道是因為從小就沒有人跟我們說,而這些知識也不是潛移默化就會知道的,所以就我現在所知道的國小圖書館大多就提供借還書的服務,跟我們小時候一樣,但是我想現在資訊流通這麼快速的時代,也許學校應該加入一些生活課程,可以實際帶學生到大一點的圖書館,跟學生說明其實還有很多其他的服務可以在圖書館獲得…我想這對於藏書眾多的圖書館而言,這樣的存在才有價值與意義吧!

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