ECAR Student Survey

Results from the ECAR (Educause Center for Applied Research) “National Study of Students and Information Technology in Higher Education” were released last month during the Educause national conference.  The survey methodology was designed to report on a nationally representative sample of American college students.

Here’s the pdf version of a Powerpoint presentation highlighting the results: http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERS1103/ERS1103pdf.pdf

 Several interesting findings stood out for me.  Take a look at slide 28.  The survey asked students to say whether their skill level “meets their needs” in various important technology areas.  Consistently, a majority of students responded that yes, my skill level does meet my needs in using these technologies.  And yet in each area, a substantial number of students responded that they were not satistifed with their technology skills.  In using word processors, 16% indicated that their skills were not adequate.  In using the library web site, 23% gave this response.  In using the campus Blackboard system, 16%.  As the presenters noted, “Many students lack confidence” with their technology skills and there is a need for ongoing technology training that reaches out to underprepared students.

Students strongly indicated that they wish instructors used technology more often in their course work.  See slide 29.  Of the national respondents, 39% said they wished their instructors used email more often, and 32% said they wished their instructors used the campus learning management system (Blackboard) more often.  We hear this from our own students over and over, and here the preference is nationally quantified.  Students wish for instructors to keep in touch with them by email, and want them to post course materials on Blackboard.

What do students think about the way technology is used in teaching and learning at their own institutions?  See slide 39.  Nationally, only 59% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “My institution uses the technology it has effectively.”  About half (49%) said “I know more about how to use technology than my professors.”  It would be interesting to know whether the WKU student population would give similar responses.

Finally, I was impressed with the findings on slide 46.  Students were asked about their “preferred learning environment” and were allowed to choose only one most-preferred environment.  The survey found that 74% of students said they preferred a course that blends both traditional and online environments.  Only 11% said they preferred fully online courses, and only 15% said they preferred a course with no online components.  Again we find that students appreciate face-to-face teaching, but want access to course resources and materials online.

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One Response to ECAR Student Survey

  1. I think this study is very telling for the issues it raises as much as the questions it answers. For example, students feel that their skill levels meet their needs. This level of confidence is largely unwarranted judging from the skills demonstrated when I survey and assess students at the beginning of semester. Their repertoire is thin and the ways they connect those skills is…weak. They are connected in many ways but they do not cultivate social networks in ways that leverages formal learning in the classroom and informal learning without.

    I am impressed that they want hybrid classes. I am adapting all of my face to face class to Blackboard this spring. In the past I have used Blackboard as a my fallback option for bad weather/absence/circumstances beyond control/or for low stakes testing. Now I think that I need to more closely tie regular class resources to additional ones especially in my developmental composition classes.

    Since students crave contact, I am also working on changing where the hub for this kind of communication centers. In the past it centered on Blackboard and in emails. I think that needs to change to text and social networking tools. I am teaching two online intro to lit classes next semester where I will be using twitter hashtags, microblogs like posterous and tumblr and YouTube channels to connect differently with students in an attempt to find the right mix of engagement.

    As for the universal disdain for online courses, I think that is to be expected in this Model-T tech ed era we live in. We have not developed the infrastructure of ‘roads/infrastructure’ that are needed for our particular vehicle to take off. We are still building that and they just have the misfortune/fortune to be born into ‘interesting times’.

    John deserves credit for bringing this to us. I would not have seen it otherwise. Thanks.

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