Tuesday, 1 December 2009

ECAR study of USA university students internet use provides some interesting insights

The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2009
Since 2004, the annual ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology  has been shedding light  on how information technology affects the USA college experience.

Now in its 6th year, the survey results offers a twofold benefit. First, they give a useful snapshot of current student behavior in the USA. Second, even in the short time frame of the the study, it shows how rapid is the ongoing development of the web as platform -   i.e ' an always on - ready to hand network of sources - people and points of view' - as a integral piece of a students learning matrix.

In the process it also shows how quickly the current landscape of  the day changes. For example, with a citation use of 88.3%, the study note that laptops are now almost ubiquitous, Moreover, almost half the student population surveyed have an internet capable phone, and that almost 100% of them use social networks  daily.

Mobile devices
Also new to this year is the welcome focus of the survey on student use of mobile devices. The graph below shows  the current state of play among the respondents. Note this is a USA survey, so it needs to be used with caution. However, of interest in the response of the students who are yet to use mobile as a device for internet access - some cite the expense of a data plan - others the ubiquity of other internet pathways.

The dog which didn't bark
As an aside, and purely as my own personal comment, none of the respondents seemed to consider the almost unusable mobile [as opposed to desk or laptop] interfaces of most university web sites as a reason for not using their mobile phones to access  their learning resources. And yes, this critique applies especially to library catalogs.

Library web site use
But speaking of libraries, and in a welcome contrast to some other more pessimistic studies, the survey notes that 94.6% of the respondents say they use the University and library web site.

The Methodology
For the record, the ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2009 'is a longitudinal extension of the 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 studies. It is based on quantitative data from a spring 2009 survey of 30,616 freshmen and seniors at 103 four-year institutions and students at 12 two-year institutions; student focus groups that included input from 62 students at 4 institutions; and review of qualitative data from written responses to open-ended questions.'

The report
The report is available, here. And thanks to Roy Tennant at Current Cities for the heads up

The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2009 (ID: ERS0906)
Smith, Shannon, Gail Salaway, and Judith Borreson Caruso, with an Introduction by Richard N. Katz. The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2009 (Research Study, Vol. 6). Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, 2009, available from http://www.educause.edu/ecar.


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