Students, Technology & Trends

A recent study (2004) by the Educause Center for Applied Research (ECAR) shared some key findings about undergrads and information technology.1


  • Nearly all (97.5%) students surveyed owned a computer. More than two-thirds of those computers were one year old or less, and most were laptops. In spite of these numbers, most of the students never brought their laptops to class. They cited heft and theft as key reasons.
  • On average, students spend 23 hours a week online. Guys spend more time online than girls. Engineers and business majors more than others. They prefer broadband connections, and only 10% depend on dial-up access.
  • While students use text messaging and other more immediate forms of communication, 83% preferred email as the official means of communication from their schools.
  • Three quarters of the students surveyed used course management systems (like our WebCT), most several times a week. More than 75% prefer at least moderate to extensive use of technology for their coursework.
  • Most students (70%) use computers for downloading music or social networking (Facebook or mySpace).
  • Use of blogs, podcasts and other forms of new media tend to be used by less. While the use of blogs, podcasts and other forms of new media have grown significantly, they are not used by a majority of students.
  • Respondents ranked convenience as the “single most important benefit of IT in their academic experience.”
  • When asked about their priorities, first year students wanted “more network speed and access to music!” Seniors wanted “more computer labs and IT training.”
  • While a majority of students who make up the ‘net generation’ are fluent and highly adaptive to technology, there remains “an important minority of undergraduates do not appear enamored of IT, and some even appear to avoid it.”

These findings are consistent with our experience at PSU. Nearly all have computers, but demand for our computer labs is at an all-time high. Since we serve a rural region, we probably have more students dependent on dial-up internet access.


Students communicate freely through (Facebook, text messaging, cell phones), but still respond well official emails. They appreciate online services. If surveys or polls are provocative, they respond in significant numbers on myPlymouth. They tend to download music until they are warned that they might be caught. Some chase technology, some could care less. There remain some who are overwhelmed and intimidated.


Students are no longer using phones in the residence halls. Nearly all have cell phones and in spite of 500 free long distance minutes per month, less than 15% are using them. This has significant implications for our campus and how we communicate with students.


What does this mean for us? Some questions for thought.


  1. How do you communicate with students?
  2. How should PSU communicate with students? (in other words, what is the most effective means to reach them?)
  3. If there was a pandemic and students were prohibited from being on campus, how prepared are you to conduct your class online?
  4. How does technology enhance what you do?
  5. How does technology undermine or burden what you do?
  6. What area of technology would you like to learn in the next year?