How do students want to use tech on campus?

Nontraditional students prefer more online learning options, Educause study finds
By: | November 4, 2019
College students want more classroom use of laptops, smartphones and other personal devices, according to a new Educause study.College students want more classroom use of laptops, smartphones and other personal devices, according to a new Educause study.

More than two-thirds of college students prefer face-to-face learning. But some—such as students who work 40 or more hours a week, who are married, or who have a physical or learning disability—would rather take more online classes, according to a new study released by the Educause Center for Analysis and Research.

But fewer of the 40,000 students surveyed said classroom use of their personal devices, such as laptops and smartphones, was encouraged by faculty. Students also gave low ratings to Wi-Fi in residence halls and outdoor campus spaces, according to the report, which gauged the use of technology in academic settings.

Online success tools, such as those related to degree planning, academic support and counseling, are becoming increasingly popular, the report showed.

“To know which student success tools are the most useful to students, what factors shape their preferences for the environments in which they learn, or how well we are meeting the accessible technology needs of today’s students, we have to ask the students themselves,” D. Christopher Brooks, Educause’s director of research, said in a statement on the report.


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The report, not surprisingly, recommended that administrators upgrade Wi-Fi in housing and outdoor areas. They can do this by using dual-network configurations and installing more weatherproof outdoor access points with directional antennas.

Campus leaders should also study analytics to get a better understanding of student demographics that may influence their preference for in-person or online learning.

Nearly three in four colleges offer Wi-Fi throughout more than 80% of their campuses, according to the “ACUHO-I 2019 State of ResNet Report,” University Business reported in July. One in 3 colleges now offer 7GB or more.

“As more and more devices and wearables enter the market, it’s difficult to imagine that higher bandwidth isn’t at least on the minds of IT staff at most campuses,” Mary DeNiro, CEO of ACUHO-I, told UB.


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The Educause report also encouraged administrators to allow students to use their preferred devices in the classroom. Administrators can provide faculty extra professional development on integrating these devices into instruction.

More colleges are boosting tech infrastructure around “informal learning spaces” where students do work on their own devices, UB reported this summer.

Laura Lucas, the learning spaces manager at St. Edward’s University in Austin, took advantage of restaurant-style booths installed in the hallways of a historic campus building as part of its renovation. The booths were created for student collaboration, and Lucas turned them into “immersive pods” by adding wireless projection screens.

“The students found them within days of the building being opened, and they have not vacated them since,” says Lucas, who presented on informal learning spaces at UB Tech® 2019.


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