Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Undergraduate Uni Tech Preferences: Part 3

This is the second in a series reflecting upon the results from the EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research ‘(ECAR) Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2013’ report published in September, and what implication there are for applying learning technologies. (Part 1 & Part 2 in the series is published.)

Theme 3: Students are ready to use their mobile devices more for academic work, and they look to institutions and instructors for opportunities and encouragement to do so

Sophisticated use of technology increases year-on-year. This increases expectation for technology use within learning and teaching. Students generally look to their lecturers and the institution to advise them on the best uses for the technology they own to enhance their educational experience. Students expect anytime, anywhere access to course content and want to use their personal digital devices both inside and outside the lecture environment. The areas for enhanced technology use that are of greatest interest to them include:

  • more use of lecture capture,
  • more robust and sophisticated use of the CMS/VLE,
  • integrated class use of their laptops,
  • online collaboration tools.

There is more of a difference of opinion in the use of students’ own tablets and smartphones within the teaching environment, but still with a majority wanting increased use of these technologies.

With regard to the use of the CMS/VLE, students want to see greater sophisticated use by lecturers. Almost all HEIs represented in the survey use a CMS/VLE. The median of courses integrated into the CMS/VLE is 60%. It is estimated within the report that 70% of instructors use the CMS/VLE and that 50% of these only use the basic entry level features of the system. This means that the resources in the CMS/VLE are being vastly underutilized. This is probably why students feel that they want greater use.1 Students also want more timely feedback via the system and a more standardized approach to the CMS/VLEs implementation across their curriculum.

“Set a unified standard for online courses. Every professor likes to set up things differently, so it takes a great deal of time to get acquainted with their setup. If all teachers use the same structure, this problem would be eliminated.”

Student quote from survey response, p23

With lecture capturing, almost 75% of students are interested in greater lecture capture activities. However they don’t just want a video of the lecture made available, they are also looking to access more of the instruction material (notes and slides), problem sets, sample questions, and related resources. These could be made available via the CMS/VLE. Where lecture capture facilities aren’t available, around a quarter to a third of students are now using their mobile devices to record lectures and approximately half are using smartphones to photograph information.

The survey found that there is a tendency for undergraduates to own two or more Internet-capable devices. However, there are demographic biases to this. Statistically, undergraduate ownership of all the five main devices increased from the previous year. The order of ownership (greatest first) is laptop, smartphone, desktop computer, tablet, and e-reader. Between 85-90% owned a laptop. Interestingly, only laptops and smartphones had higher student ownership than was seen in the general adult population for the main five types of devices. Ownership of smartphones was higher amongst younger than older students, but tablet ownership was the reverse. So laptops continue to be classed by students as the one device that is very/extremely important. The device seeing the biggest jump up in this rating scale is the smartphone, though it still resides way down compared to the laptop and indeed behind the desktop. But there is a tendency for restrictions on use of such devices within the lecture theatre. Whilst there was an acknowledgement and some sympathy by students for the banning of such devices during lectures, due to the potential for distracting themselves and others, and because there isn’t universal ownership, there is a desire to see them integrated more into the learning experience. And the areas where students could see a benefit for use in lectures included to look up information, to photograph information, to access digital resources, to record the lecturer, and to participate in activities.

There are limitation highlighted by students to using smartphones, including:
  • Inadequate battery life2
  • Slow network connection3
  • Device usability issues
  • Cost of data service
  • Limited access to network4
  • Cost of device

Despite these perceived or actual limitations the use of mobile devices to access services, application, and websites (SAWs) provided by the institution has increased over the previous year, though satisfaction with these SAWs is down over the same period.5

1 There needs to be better information about faculty use of the CMS/VLE. This work needs to be scheduled here at the institutional level.
2 There could be a case for convenient charging stations across campus.
3 Improvements in wireless network services might be necessary.
4 There can be problems with some devices connecting to the wireless services.
5 This could be investigated locally via our student surveys.   

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