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.