Digital Dependence of Today’s College Students Revealed in New Study

Findings show college students feel helpless without technology—checking their devices at least every 10 minutes and foregoing face time for Facebook®

CourseSmart™ and Wakefield Research recently completed a survey of more than 500 currently enrolled college students, providing insight on how mobile devices and technology have changed the traditional college experience and the role technology plays in students’ academic abilities and success. Today’s students are truly carrying a digital backpack with nearly a quarter (27%) of students surveyed listing their laptop as the most important item in their bag—almost three times the number of students who chose textbooks (10%).

The findings further reveal that students are completely dependent on technologies—eReaders, Smartphones, laptops and more—to get through their daily college routine. Nearly all of the students surveyed (98%) own a digital device. And 38% of students surveyed said that they could not go more than 10 minutes without checking in with their tech device—about the same amount of time it takes to walk to class. Largely based on the fact that technology helps students learn more efficiently, 85% of students reported that technology saves them time when studying—an average of two hours per day.

Given this shift in behavior towards technological dependence, it’s unsurprising that almost three-quarters (73%) of students surveyed claim they would not be able to study without using some form of technology. Additionally, it is clear that laptops and Smartphones are two types of devices that students are using to further their academic potential. Nearly half (48%) of all students who own a tech device frequently read eTextbooks and 63% have read an eTextbook on their device at least once. In fact, of the 91% of students who said they failed to complete required reading before classes, about half (46%) reported they would be more likely to complete their reading if it was in a digital format.

According to the survey, eReaders and eTextbooks are some of the emerging technologies helping students save time while still being effective. While 69% said an eTextbook is easier to carry than a traditional textbook, 61% cited that eTextbooks make it far easier to search within a text (thus saving time), 60% mentioned that eTextbooks save them money, and 55% said that they are easier to read “on the go.”

Additionally, new media options are increasingly engaging students, who said they use tools such as CourseSmart (39%), videos and podcasts (24%) and iTunes® (12%) to access study materials from a professor — a far cry from the library card catalogues and encyclopedias of previous generations. Students are also spending their time using email (89%) and school Web sites (83%) for gathering course materials from their professors. Students seem to prefer Facebook® to face time with the majority seeking extra help from their teachers via email (91%), cell phone (13%), or social networking sites (8%).

Furthermore, outside of everyday reading and studying, students also use digital devices for many of the tasks that previously required a pencil and paper to carry out—writing papers (82%), research (81%), taking class notes (70%) and making class presentations (65%).

Methodological Notes:
The CourseSmart Survey was conducted by Wakefield Research (www.WakefieldResearch.com) between February 23 and March 1, 2011. For this research, 501 interviews were fielded among Americans currently enrolled in college, using an email invitation and an online survey. Results of any sample are subject to sampling variation. The magnitude of that variation is measurable and is affected by the number of interviews conducted. For the interviews conducted, the chances are 95 in 100 that a survey result does not vary, plus or minus, by more than 4.38 percentage points from the result that would be obtained if interviews had been conducted with all persons in the universe represented by the sample. Click here for more information.

 

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