Two recent studies looking at student attitudes to technology have found similar themes, despite being conducted on opposite sides of the Atlantic.
The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2010 is the annual survey of US undergraduate students that looks at their ownership, use and perceptions of technology both inside and outside the classroom.
Student Perspectives on Technology – demand, perceptions and training needs is a report from the NUS undertaken as part of the HEFCE Online Learning Task Force. It took a more qualitative approach using consultation events, online discussions and an online survey of FE students.
So what did they discover …
Both studies show that students think that they are good online searchers.
88.6% agree that they were effective online researchers. (NUS / HEFCE)
Eight out of ten (81%) students considered themselves expert or very skilled in searching the Internet effectively and efficiently. (ECAR)
Information literacy training
However, both studies also reveal that students have concerns about how to use the information they find online for academic purposes.
There was a common request for more skills training, particularly around how to effectively research and reference reliable online resources in the NUS / HEFCE study.
Student ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of online information and understand ethical / legal issues was lower than their assessment of how effective they are in searching the Internet in the ECAR study.
Amount of technology used in teaching
Both studies show that students are cautious about the amount of technology used in teaching and prefer a blended approach of technological and traditional teaching methods.
The NUS / HEFCE study shows that students prefer a choice in how they learn and that opinions are fundamentally divided over e-learning. It was recognised that not every area of study needed e-learning and that is would be more effective if it was an option, not an obligation.
The ECAR study has consistently found that students only want a “moderate” amount of technology in their courses, although the definition of what a moderate amount is, is probably very different now than it was five years ago.
Perhaps the most important findings to bear in mind, come at the end of the ECAR study which concludes that “many student technology adoption patterns are surprisingly stable,” but that “there is no stereotypical student when it comes to technology”.