Almost twenty years after the end of the dot-com boom, computers and the internet have become not only mainstream, but essential for most facets of life. People use technology for their food purchases, house shopping, job searches, communication, entertainment, and so much more. Learning and education have become particularly intertwined with technology, especially for the new generation of students who grew up on computers and smartphones. For Generation Z and those going forward, surveys have shown that academics and technology are inseparable, both inside and away from the lecture hall.
During face-to-face lectures, students report the greatest disconnect between teaching and technology, often resulting in a discord with their educators. The 2018 Educause study by Brooks, Galanek, and Gierdowski found that many educators still disapprove of bring-your-own-device policies in class. As many as 70% of students reported that their instructors banned or discouraged use of smartphones, and 40% banned tablets. Furthermore, 20% of faculty reported that they discouraged the use of laptops in class. Yet, 94% of students rated their laptops as very or extremely important, and more than half considered their smartphone as such. These devices are extremely powerful, and students frequently use them to take notes, directly capture information from the board, and carry vast amounts of data between home and school. A blanket ban, though well-intended, can directly impact students’ ability to learn.
As for students’ outright interest in lectures, a majority of students prefer some kind of blended environment: not replacing the lectures with technology but integrating it. Very few students prefer a purely online environment, instead, lean
towards classes which enable them to maintain relationships with their professor while still taking advantage of the internet’s convenience. Of the students who prefer face-to-face classes, most have never taken anything else, so this preference may be at least partially attributed to complacency and lack of exposure.
At home or in their dorms, it’s also noteworthy how most students use their internet. The aforementioned Educause study showed that a typical student spends 1-4 hours doing homework or research, in comparison to 1-2 on streaming, 1-2 on social media, and typically no time at all gaming online; thus, compared to any other activity, students spend the most time online for academics. This emphasizes the importance of quality internet for students, particularly on campus where the university has control. Based on the data, students generally balance a healthy amount of school and leisure, and don’t squander the resources provided.
All this data converges to highlight the importance that technology now plays in education. By continuing to stay updated and integrating groundbreaking technologies, new experiences and new ways of learning will enable institutions to connect with their students in an unparalleled manner. The time of the three-hour analog lecture is giving way to a new frontier, one which we must capitalize on.
Authors: Martha Henckell, Ed.D. Director of Academic Technologies, Grey Ruessler, IT User Services
Galanek, J. D., Gierdowski, C. D., & Brooks, C. D. (2018). ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology. Lousville, CO: ECAR. Retrieved from Educause:
Himmelsbach, V. (2019, January 2). Six Major Pros & Cons of Technology in the Classroom. Retrieved May 9, 2019, from https://tophat.com/blog/6-pros-cons-technology-classroom/.