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The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information
2008
The ECAR Study of
Undergraduate Students and
Information Technology, 2008
Gail Salaway, ECAR
Judith Borreson Caruso, ECAR and University of Wisconsin–Madison
with
Mark R. Nelson, ECAR and National Association of College Stores
Introduction by Nicole B. Ellison, Michigan State University
Volume 8, 2008
Research Study from the
EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research
This research study is available online at the
ECAR website (www.educause.edu/ecar).
4772 Walnut Street, Suite 206
Boulder, Colorado 80301
www.educause.edu/ecar
The ECAR Study of
Undergraduate Students and
Information Technology, 2008
EDUCAUSE is a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher
education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology.
The mission of the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research is to foster better
decision making by conducting and disseminating research and analysis about
the role and implications of information technology in higher education. ECAR
will systematically address many of the challenges brought more sharply into
focus by information technologies.
Copyright 2008 EDUCAUSE. All rights reserved. This ECAR research study
is proprietary and intended for use only by subscribers and those who have
purchased this study. Reproduction, or distribution of ECAR research studies
to those not formally affiliated with the subscribing organization, is strictly
prohibited unless prior written permission is granted by EDUCAUSE. Requests
for permission to reprint or distribute should be sent to [email protected]
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Contents
Foreword
............................................................................................................................... 5
Chapter 1
Executive Summary ................................................................................................. 9
Methodology ◆ Key Findings ◆ Conclusion ◆ Upcoming: The 2009 ECAR Study
Chapter 2
Introduction: Reshaping Campus Communication and Community through Social
Network Sites ....................................................................................................... 19
Definitional Issues ◆ History and Usages ◆ Facebook and Social Relationships on Campus ◆
Social Aspects of SNS Use ◆ Educational Uses of SNSs ◆ Conclusion
Chapter 3
Methodology and Respondent Characteristics ....................................................... 33
Methodology ◆ Analysis and Reporting Conventions ◆ Research Team ◆ Participating
Institutions ◆ Respondent Characteristics
Chapter 4
Ownership of, Use of, and Skill with IT .................................................................. 39
Technology Ownership ◆ Hours Online and Internet Access Method ◆ Computer and
Online Activities ◆ Student Technology Skills ◆ Student Technology Adoption Profile ◆
Concerns about Society and Technology
Chapter 5
IT and the Academic Experience ............................................................................ 57
Preference for IT in Courses ◆ Technologies Used the Quarter/Semester of the Survey ◆
Online Courses ◆ How Students Like to Learn with Technology ◆ Course Management
Systems ◆ Availability of IT Services for Course Work ◆ Skipping Classes When Materials
Are Online ◆ Instructor Use of IT in Courses ◆ IT Outcomes Related to Student Success
Chapter 6
Social Networking Sites ......................................................................................... 81
Who Uses SNSs? ◆ Which SNSs Are Used? ◆ Profiles, Friends, and Groups ◆ How SNSs
Are Used ◆ Hours on SNSs ◆ Disclosing and Protecting Personal Information ◆ Reasons for
Nonparticipation in SNSs
Appendix A
Acknowledgments ................................................................................................99
Appendix B
Students and Information Technology in Higher Education:
2008 Survey Questionnaire ................................................................................. 103
Appendix C
Qualitative Interview Questions ........................................................................... 113
Appendix D
Participating Institutions and Survey Response Rates............................................ 115
Appendix E
Bibliography ........................................................................................................ 119
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
3
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Foreword
There was a time when students expressed
their rejection of heartless university bureaucracies by carrying signs reading “do not fold,
spindle, or mutilate.” The ubiquitous punched
card that gave them their slogan perfectly
symbolized the reduction of human relationships to the level of the machine—most
particularly, the computer.
Today, students are using information
technology (IT) itself to fold, spindle, and
mutilate received ideas about how personal
relationships and communities operate. In
social networking sites (SNSs), they’ve found
one of those quintessential new forms that
define a generation. This study’s Introduction
by Nicole Ellison, assistant professor of telecommunication, information studies, and
media at Michigan State University, tells us
that SNSs are “fundamentally changing the
fabric of the university” by helping students
stay in touch with a broader range of people
(and perspectives), by making it easier for
relationships to form, and by providing a new
channel for interaction with classmates.
Where students lead, institutions must
follow, and the ambition of the EDUCAUSE
Center for Applied Research (ECAR) in its
annual studies of undergraduates and IT has
always been to help the two stay connected.
The tendency for IT to serve up hot new
topics on short notice hasn’t always made
that easy, so with this fifth study we introduce a new element in our survey design: a
focused special topic that supplements the
more general core information that, with
appropriate changes, we track from year to
year. The social networking results presented
here in Chapter 6 are the first fruit of what
we hope will become a tradition of cuttingedge research on emergent (but still reasonably “ripe”) topics.
It didn’t take a lot of agonizing for us to
choose social networking as our premiere
focus topic. Our 2006 and 2007 studies told
us that use of SNSs rose in one year from
72% to 80% among students at institutions
that took part in both surveys. Facebook had
become a classic example of dorm-room
entrepreneurialism, the news was full of
sometimes lurid stories of cyberstalking and
naive self-expression on SNSs, and “Web 2.0”
was driving a new investment boom in Silicon
Valley. The need for some empirical information about this new phenomenon was clear.
So what did we discover? Reading Chapter
6 is the best way to find out, but overall we
confirmed the extraordinary popularity of
SNSs (85% of respondents use them, and
an amazing 95% of those 18–19 years old),
and we also found that students are neither
obsessed with them nor careless in the way
they share information about themselves.
©2008 EDUCAUSE. Reproduction by permission only.
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
5
Students and Information Technology, 2008
Most of our respondents spend 5 hours or less
per week on SNSs, and almost 9 in 10 place
access restrictions on their profiles.
Some students vociferously objected in
their written comments to any institutional
intrusion into SNSs; others seemed to keep
the door open at least a crack. Yet it’s clear
that, like other more traditional forms of
student socializing, SNSs make a contribution to academics. Half of students report
using SNSs to communicate with classmates
about course work—almost 10 times the
rate of those who say they use them to
communicate with instructors. This is surely
a place for institutions to tread carefully,
if only to avoid the risk of stifling organic
relationships that bring more benefit than
any “official” initiative can. But regardless
of how the institutional presence evolves,
we can have little doubt that colleges and
universities concerned about the quality of
their communities have an interest in what
goes on in social networking.
Besides our social networking focus
topic, of course, our 2008 study continues
to report on topics our past studies investigated, including students’ ownership and
use of technology, their self-assessment of
their skills, and their perspectives on how
IT affects their engagement and success in
course work. One of the most significant
trends we report this year is the continuing
“mobilization” of the student body. Laptops
continue to gain as the computer platform
of choice, and two-thirds of our respondents report owning an Internet-capable
cell phone, though a variety of barriers—
probably high monthly data-access fees
above all—mean that only a fraction use
their portable devices to access the Internet.
That caveat notwithstanding, it appears that
the stage is set for a potential tidal wave
of new student demands for mobile device
support. We also report that students have
had generally positive experiences with
course management systems and tend
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ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
to agree that IT services are available for
course work when needed, but they are
more critical about their instructors’ ability
to use IT effectively in courses.
As always, this year’s study required much
collaboration and mutual support. For the
second year in a row, our principal investigators Gail Salaway and Judy Caruso have coauthored a crisp and fascinating study. Caruso,
who has been involved in every student study
we’ve conducted since the series inception
in 2004, managed a complex institutional
review board (IRB) process with finesse and
led the student focus groups that contribute
so much of this study’s flavor. Salaway
contributed excellent methodological skills
and an unbending concern for clarity and
precision. ECAR Fellow Mark Nelson once
again brought his qualitative research skills
to bear on the survey’s open response questions. We also thank our colleague Julie Little,
interim director of the EDUCAUSE Learning
Initiative, for her expertise and careful review
of the study text.
We owe a great deal to our colleagues
and friends at institutions of higher education.
Ellison, one of the pioneers in the blooming
field of SNS research, contributed a fine
Introduction that we recommend highly to
anyone interested in what participants really
get out of SNSs. She also reviewed the study
text and made many valuable contributions
to our analysis. We’re grateful as well to
James Jonas, Information Services/Electronic
Resources librarian at the University of
Wisconsin–Madison, for his assistance with
our literature search.
From the beginning of our work on undergraduates and IT, we’ve been conscious of
the sensitivities that surround the study of
student populations. We could not possibly
carry out the laborious and complex coordination of IRB approvals without the generous
assistance of individuals at participating
institutions, and we are further indebted
to them for developing random samples
Students and Information Technology, 2008
of their freshman and senior populations
and for deploying the survey. One measure
of our obligation is that these colleagues
are too many in number to name here, so
we direct the reader to Appendix A to find
their names. In addition, we’d like to thank
our colleagues at Coppin State University;
Presbyterian College; University College
Dublin; the University of Maryland, Baltimore
County; and the University of North Carolina
at Pembroke for organizing and hosting
student focus groups, and we thank the
participating students for their insights.
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
We are also indebted to a dedicated and
professional production team for turning
our analysis into a product that makes the
proverbial ECAR “thump” on the table (and
its virtual equivalent online!). ECAR Fellow
Toby Sitko coordinated our study production
with the skill, grace, and good humor that
she brings to so many ECAR projects. We
also thank Gregory Dobbin, EDUCAUSE’s
editor and project manager, and Nancy Hays,
publishing operations manager, for editing the
manuscript and managing the many details
that brought this study to life.
Ron Yanosky
Boulder, Colorado
7
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
1
Executive Summary
I don’t look at it as “getting on the Internet.” The Internet is a part of life. It’s a lifestyle.
—An undergraduate student
For today’s traditional-age undergraduates,
information technology (IT) plays an integral
role in their everyday lives. They actively use
many different technologies for school, work,
and recreation. They adopt new technologies
when they perceive the benefits and costs are
aligned. They report a wide range of preferences, uses, skills, and opinions about IT in
the academic context. And many of these
views and practices change quickly over time.
In this fifth annual study, the EDUCAUSE
Center for Applied Research (ECAR) again
employs analytics to better understand
undergraduates’ experiences with IT and how
they are evolving. The purpose of the study
is threefold:
◆ to provide information on the technology behaviors, preferences, and
attitudes of higher education’s undergraduates, especially as it relates to
their academic experience;
◆ to provide information to college and
university administrators that will help
them implement campus technology
environments for students; and
◆ to inform the practices of teaching
faculty who are working to incorporate
IT in rich and meaningful ways into their
curricula and pedagogies.
The 2008 survey that informed this study
has two components. First, as in previous
years, the core survey queries undergraduates
about their use of, and skill with, technologies
and their perceptions about the impact of IT
on their academic experience. In addition,
ECAR believes that there is value in providing
more in-depth findings about specific topics
that are both relevant and timely to higher
education. For 2008, the survey therefore
included a focus area topic about social
networking sites (SNSs)—a technology that
students are enthusiastically adopting and that
is already changing the social fabric of universities. Nicole B. Ellison, assistant professor of
telecommunication, information studies, and
media at Michigan State University, provides
the Introduction to this study (Chapter 2),
describing her perspectives and research
about the impact of SNSs on both students
and the academic community.
Methodology
The 2008 study builds on previous ECAR
studies of undergraduates and IT and uses a
multipart research approach that includes
◆ a literature review (extending the 2007
literature review) and review of other
relevant surveys;
◆ a quantitative web-based survey of
college and university freshmen and
seniors at 90 four-year institutions and
students at 8 two-year institutions;
©2008 EDUCAUSE. Reproduction by permission only.
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
9
Students and Information Technology, 2008
◆
student focus groups, which provided
qualitative data from 75 students at
four institutions;
◆ analysis of qualitative data from 5,877
written responses to the open-ended
survey question; and
◆ a comparison of longitudinal data
collected in the 2006, 2007, and 2008
surveys, where available.1
The great majority of the 27,317 student
respondents are among those commonly
called traditional students—under 25 years
of age (78.8%), attending a four-year institution (87.8%), and going to school full time
(84.0%). Most attend public institutions
(74.8%), and about a third (32.3%) attend
institutions with enrollments greater than
15,000 students.
Key Findings
Undergraduates had much to say about
their experiences with IT, and many themes
and findings emerged from their responses.
The following stand out as especially interesting or relevant to helping college and
university administrators as they make investment and priority decisions about IT deployment at their institutions.
Mobility: Laptops and
Internet-Capable Cell Phones
Laptops continue to gain as the computer
platform of choice. This year, 80.5% of
respondents own them, and longitudinal
data for just those institutions that have
participated in ECAR studies for the past
three years show that laptop ownership has
increased from 65.9% in 2006 to 82.2% in
2008. Most freshmen at four-year institutions
have new laptops when they enter college—
with 71.1% owning one that is less than a
year old. Most respondents (68.9%) own a
computer of some type that is two years old
or less, well within recommended equipment
replacement cycles. However, about one-sixth
of respondents (16.8%) have a computer four
10
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
years old or older, more likely to encounter
reliability and/or performance problems.
And 1.5% of respondents still don’t own a
computer at all.
Colleges and universities are tracking the
maturation and price points of converged
mobile handheld devices as a platform for
providing IT services to students. ECAR data
show that Internet-capable cell phones are
now owned by fully 66.1% of respondents.
Yet, most do not take advantage of the
Internet capability, citing high cost, slow
response, and difficulty of use as primary
reasons. Despite these barriers to use, ECAR
finds that almost one-fourth of respondents
do access the Internet from a cell phone or
PDA at least monthly, and 17.5% do so weekly
or more often. Among respondents who say
they are early adopters of technology, 25.9%
already access the Internet from handheld
devices weekly or more often.
Computer and Internet
Activities
ECAR respondents spend an average of
19.6 hours per week actively doing online
activities for work, school, or recreation.
Although more than two-thirds (69.0%)
spend 20 hours or less, about 1 in 14 (7.4%)
spends more than 40 hours per week—in
the range typically considered a full-time
job. Time spent online varies by major, with
engineering majors using the Internet most
often (mean of 24.8 hours per week) and
life/biological sciences and education majors
using the Internet least often (means of
17.9 and 17.6 hours per week, respectively).
Community college students show significantly less overall time online (mean of 14.8
hours per week). Today, almost all respondents report using high-speed access to the
Internet; only 1.9% of respondents report
still using dial-up services.
For undergraduates, technology is first
about communication. After discovering in
previous surveys that e-mail use is ubiquitous,
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
the ECAR survey did not ask about it this
year. A much newer mode of communication, social networking, has become nearly
ubiquitous as well: 85.2% of respondents
use SNSs (primarily Facebook), and most
do so on a daily basis to keep in touch with
others. Text messaging (used by 83.6%)
and instant messaging (IM) (used by 73.8%)
are immensely popular, especially among
younger students. More than one-third
of respondents are also interactive on the
Internet by contributing content to blogs,
wikis, and photo or video websites.
Students are also actively involved in
creating visual and audio media. About
one-third of respondents (males more than
females) use audio-creation or video-creation
software, and 73.9% use graphics software
(Photoshop, Flash, or the like). Further,
highly interactive games are popular, with
almost one-third of respondents (more males
than females) engaging in online multiuser
computer games such as World of Warcraft,
EverQuest, and poker. And the emerging
online virtual worlds (such as Second Life)
are already being used by about 1 in 11
respondents (8.8%).
College and Research Libraries (ACRL).2 Not
surprisingly, respondents consider themselves
quite Internet savvy. A full 79.5% give themselves glowing reports about their ability to
“use the Internet effectively and efficiently
to search for information,” with half rating
themselves as “very skilled” and another third
rating themselves as “experts.” Further, about
half of respondents say they are “very skilled”
or “expert” when it comes to “evaluating the
reliability and credibility of online sources of
information” or “understanding the ethical
and legal issues surrounding the access and
use of digital information.”
Many educators believe that students’
perceptions about their IT skill levels and
Internet savvy are questionable, characterizing
their approach to information literacy as do-ityourself and often relying too heavily on peers
rather than on library staff or faculty.3 In addition, students may have confidence because
they are unaware of the complexities involved
or just because they have grown up with
technology. This potential gap between actual
and perceived skills and literacy is important
to understand and factor into strategies for
teaching and learning at the institution.
IT Skills and Internet Literacy
IT in Courses
ECAR survey respondents generally
perceive that they are “fairly skilled” to
“very skilled” in core applications used
for course work—presentation software
(such as PowerPoint), spreadsheets (such as
Excel), course management systems (CMSs),
and the college/university library website.
Seniors report higher skills than freshmen in
using spreadsheets and the college/university library website, reflecting experience
gained from taking more courses. Gender
differences are not great, with the exception that males report much stronger skills
in computer maintenance.
This year ECAR asked three questions
about information literacy, derived from the
standards published by the Association of
Although respondents are generally enthusiastic about IT, most say they prefer only a
“moderate” amount of IT in their courses
(59.3%). This finding has been consistent over
the past five years’ studies, even as new technologies have emerged and the overall digital
environment has become increasingly dense.
It suggests a widespread perception among
students that IT resources are best situated
in a variety of other learning environments.
Especially, respondents emphasize that technology should not eclipse valued face-to-face
interaction with instructors.
Males prefer somewhat more IT in courses
than females. This year, for the first time,
students from all age groups show the
same pattern of preference for IT in courses.
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
11
Students and Information Technology, 2008
Previous years’ studies found that younger
respondents preferred less technology in their
courses than older respondents. In 2007 the
difference was slight, and ECAR speculated
that we might see a trend away from age as
a differentiator (which the 2008 data now
validate). This finding likely reflects that technology is becoming increasingly integrated
into the lives of students of all ages.
Respondents identified which technologies they were actively using as a part of their
courses during the quarter/semester of the
survey (February 15 through April 7, 2008.)
Several basic technologies were used by many
respondents during that term—college and
university library websites, spreadsheets, and
presentation software. For these and other
technologies used in courses, student major
plays a key role. Engineering and physical
sciences majors used more programming
languages and discipline-specific IT; business and engineering majors used more
spreadsheets; and fine arts majors used
more graphics, audio-creation, and videocreation software. Community college
students showed less use of technology in
courses during this time. Of special note is
that although few respondents (4.2%) used
podcasts this quarter/semester, student
comments from focus groups and from the
survey were extremely positive about podcasts
as a supplemental tool for courses. This
mimics last year’s finding.
ECAR also asked students if they liked to
learn using specific types of technologies.
The most frequently cited item was running
Internet searches (80.2%). More than onethird of respondents (44.3%) say they like to
learn through text-based conversations over
e-mail, IM, and text messaging or by contributing to websites, blogs, or wikis (35.5%).
Interestingly, a solid half (50.8%) like to learn
through programs they can control, such as
video games or simulations. This is important
in the context of discussions about digital
game–based learning in higher education and
12
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
whether the extent of learning justifies the
resources required to implement a game.4
ECAR was interested in the extent to
which students participate in online courses,
especially considering earlier years’ findings
that most students prefer a balance between
technology and in-class interactions. Only
11.9% of respondents were taking one or
more online courses at the time of the survey,
and only 2.8% were taking exclusively online
courses. This makes sense, given that the ECAR
survey respondent base is heavily weighted
with so-called traditional students. In fact,
part-time students and older students were
more likely to be taking online courses.
Asking this question triggered many
written comments about online courses.
Positive comments pointed to convenience
and the ability to take courses that would
otherwise be unavailable to a student.
The majority of comments, however, were
negative. Four themes emerged—that the
lack of face-to-face interaction detracts
from learning, that online courses facilitate
cheating, that technical problems still exist,
and that online courses require students to
“teach themselves,” making the courses
more demanding.
Further, some institutions are considering
the value to students of experiencing online
courses. ECAR therefore asked students if
during their college career “it would benefit
students if my institution required students to
take at least one entirely online course.” There
is a resounding lack of support for this idea,
with only 23.0% of respondents in agreement. The negative response is likely due both
to the lackluster response to online courses as
well as to students’ taking issue with the idea
of making the course a “requirement.”
Currently, 82.3% of respondents have
used a CMS, most of them using it several
times per week or more often. At fouryear institutions, only slightly more seniors
(85.3%) have used a CMS than freshmen
(77.1%). Among respondents from the eight
Students and Information Technology, 2008
participating community colleges, 60.1%
have used a CMS. Consistent with previous
years’ findings, respondents generally like
using a CMS; 57.8% of respondents say their
CMS experience is positive, and an additional
11.7% go so far as to say their experience is
very positive. However, about 1 in 20 students
(5.3%) do report an overall negative experience with CMSs.
In response to previous years’ comments
from students about course problems related
to reliability of CMSs, networks, and other IT
services, ECAR asked directly about the availability of IT services for course work. Half of
respondents (49.8%) agreed with the statement “My institution’s IT services are always
available when I need them for my course
work.” One-third (33.4%) were neutral, and
16.8% disagreed. Clearly, from a student
perspective, there is room for improvement
in the performance of most campus IT infrastructures and services.
Instructor Use of IT in Courses
As in previous years, hundreds of students
commented about the link between technology, instructors, and learning. Qualitative
analysis shows that the themes expressed in
2008 are consistent with those from last year
(see the 2007 study report for an in-depth
analysis).5 To supplement ECAR’s understanding of issues that came up in previous
surveys’ qualitative remarks, the 2008 survey
asked students three specific quantitative
questions about instructor use of IT. ECAR
finds that fewer than half of students think
that most of their instructors use IT effectively
in courses. The data show that
◆ two-fifths of respondents (44.0%)
report that most of their instructors
use IT effectively in courses,
◆ one-third of respondents (34.1%)
report that most of their instructors provide students with adequate
training for the IT the instructor uses
in his or her course, and
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
◆
one-third of respondents (35.2%)
report that most of their instructors
understand the IT skill levels of their
students.
Students who are positive about their
CMS experience are much more likely to
think that more of their instructors use IT
effectively than those who report negative
CMS experience. Similarly, respondents who
agree that their institution’s IT services are
always available when needed for course
work are also more positive about instructor
use of IT in courses.
The Impact of IT in Courses
How does higher education’s use of IT
impact student success? This is a bottom-line
concern for both educators and administrators and has been an ongoing challenge for
decades. Adding a technology component
to the mix means factoring in issues such as
information literacy and emerging technologies. Still, the ECAR survey provides a valuable opportunity to learn more about how
students perceive the impact of IT on their
academic course work. To this end, ECAR
designed questions about each of three
important dimensions of student success.6
◆ Learning: “The use of IT in my courses
improves my learning” (45.7% of
respondents agree).
◆ Student engagement: “I get more
actively involved in courses that use IT”
(31.8% of respondents agree).
◆ Convenience: “IT makes doing my
course activities more convenient”
(65.6% of respondents agree).
Convenience is the clear front-runner.
Each year, in both the quantitative data and
the qualitative data, respondents tell us that
convenience is the most valued benefit of IT
in courses. Still, 9.4% of 2008 respondents
disagree with the convenience statement.
With respect to learning, almost half of
respondents (45.7%) agree that IT in courses
improves their learning; another 39.3% are
13
Students and Information Technology, 2008
14
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
neutral, and 15.1% disagree. Perceptions
about IT’s impact on courses are consistent
across most demographic factors, with a few
exceptions. Engineering and business majors
agree slightly more with all of these statements about IT in courses.
What are the common characteristics
of respondents who are positive about the
impact of IT? This cadre of students describe
themselves as preferring more IT in their
courses and as early adopters of technology.
They are more positive about their experiences
with CMSs and with the availability of campus
IT services when needed for courses. Most
important, they are more likely to say they
have instructors who use IT effectively.
audio, and video. They largely view technology as having positive outcomes on their
course work. In contrast, those who identify
themselves as not very technology oriented
prefer less IT in courses and are less likely to
claim strong IT skills in the basics required
for courses—CMSs, presentation software,
and spreadsheets. They are less likely to view
technology as having a positive impact on
their course work.
This self-described “digital divide” highlights the reality that a one-size-fits-all technology strategy for teaching and learning may
not be as effective as one that explicitly factors
in the differences between these high-tech
and low-tech groups.
A Digital Divide
Social Networking Sites
ECAR asked respondents to describe
themselves in terms of technology on two
dimensions—how much IT they preferred
in their courses and how they adopt technology (from leading edge to trailing edge).
Responses to each question form a traditional
bell-shaped curve, indicating a wide range
of views, from those who prefer extensive IT
in courses and adopt technologies early to
those who prefer limited or no IT in courses
and adopt technologies only when necessary.
Overall, student preferences for IT in courses
and adoption practices do not vary significantly with age, class standing, or Carnegie
classification. But they do differ when it
comes to gender. For example, half of males
(52.8%) consider themselves early adopters of
technology, compared with only one-fourth
of females (25.2%).
These different segments of undergraduates report very different experiences when
it comes to technology. Those who are more
technology oriented report that they experiment with new technologies and want to use
them in courses. They spend more time online
and accessing the Internet from cell phones
and are more engaged in sophisticated software such as that used for creating graphics,
Ellison’s Introduction to this study describes
the fast-paced evolution and adoption of SNSs
and how, after just a short few years, SNSs
play an essential role in the lives of college and
university students. Her essay is itself evidence
that after several years during which journalism
and pop cultural analysis dominated discussions
of social networking, researchers are now
taking SNSs seriously, studying a broad range
of related issues. ECAR, as well, was prompted
to ask undergraduates about SNSs.
SNS Users’ Profiles
Overall, 85.2% of respondents are now
using SNSs. In fact, ECAR longitudinal data
about basic SNS usage from the 2006 survey
to the 2008 survey—an elapsed time of only
two years—show that for the 44 institutions
that participated in all three years’ surveys,
the percentage of respondents who use SNSs
has increased, from 74.8% to 88.8%. But the
striking change is in how many respondents
now use an SNS on a daily basis, up from
32.8% in 2006 to 58.8% in 2008. SNS usage
has increased, and dramatically so.
Age is the single most important factor in
looking at usage of and perceptions about
SNSs. Younger students are clearly leading
Students and Information Technology, 2008
the charge. Virtually all respondents 18 or 19
years old use SNSs (95.1%), in contrast with
about half of respondents aged 25 or older
(50.2%). Facebook is currently the SNS of
choice at doctoral, master’s, and bachelor’s
institutions, while MySpace is the SNS of
choice at associate’s institutions. Seniors,
closer to entering the workforce, are more
likely to use the growing career SNS LinkedIn
than are freshmen.
Most respondents report using just
one (52.9%) or two (38.4%) SNSs, and
by far, most keep only as many profiles as
the number of SNSs they use. These SNS
profiles appear to be stable, with 80.7% of
respondents saying they change a profile
only monthly or less often. SNS friends are
an entirely different matter, with more than
one-fourth of respondents (28.4%) saying
they have more than 300 SNS friends.
Most respondents (55.8%) spend 5 hours
or less per week on SNSs, and another fourth
(26.9%) spend between 6 and 10 hours per
week. What are students doing with all of
their time on SNSs? Hands down, the most
common use is to stay in touch with friends
(96.8%). Repeatedly, the open-ended survey
comments spoke about the value of SNSs
for getting and (creatively) staying in touch
with family, local friends, long-distance
friends, high school friends, and a host of
other colleagues. Two-thirds of respondents
value SNSs as a way to share photos, music,
videos, and other works; about half report
using SNSs to find out more about people,
to plan or invite people to events, and to
communicate with classmates about courserelated topics. For these activities, younger
students are more active.
Interestingly, SNSs do not seem to be
so much about making friends of people
students have never met in person (only
16.8% do so) or about finding someone to
date (only 4.9% do so). As expected, males
are more likely to use SNSs to find someone
to date (8.2%) than females (3.0%).
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Perhaps most interesting to colleges and
universities is the finding that half of SNS
users (49.7%, and females more than males)
have integrated SNSs into their academic life
as a mechanism for communicating with
classmates about course-related topics. Only
5.5%, however, extend their use of SNSs to
communication with instructors about courserelated matters. Students in focus groups and
in the survey comments expressed both pros
and cons about the involvement of instructors
in their SNS lives—many being adamant that
social networking sites should be the exclusive
realm of students, but others liking the idea
of interacting with instructors and using the
same SNS mechanism they already use to
communicate with friends and classmates.
ECAR asked the 14.8% of respondents
who do not use SNSs, why not? Two-thirds
of these respondents say that one of their
top three reasons is that they are just not
interested, and two-fifths say they actually
don’t like SNSs. However, a significant number
of respondents point to security concerns
(19.0%) and privacy concerns (34.6%), and
some of these might choose to use SNSs if
they believed that privacy and security problems were remedied.
SNS Privacy and Security
Much attention, from both the popular press
and researchers, has focused on SNS privacy
and security issues. Are undergraduates at risk
for identity theft, harassment, or other misuse
of personal information? ECAR asked students
their opinions about basic privacy concerns, and
also about their practices to prevent exposure—
what they reveal about themselves on SNSs and
to what extent they place restrictions on access
to their SNS profiles.
It is common for all age groups to reveal
their first name and personal photos on SNS
profiles (about 90%). Younger respondents
are more likely to reveal all types of personal
information ECAR asked about, especially
last name, date of birth, e-mail address or IM
15
Students and Information Technology, 2008
screen name, and cell phone number. Data
patterns for revealing information are similar
for males and females, with the following
exception: Females report revealing less information that is especially helpful in identifying
them directly—last name, cell phone number,
and home phone or address.
Overall, SNS users do not appear to be
overly concerned about privacy and security issues. Only about half of respondents
(54.4%) are at least moderately concerned
that their information will be misused. None
of the concerns ECAR asked about—misuse of
information, security problems (for example,
exposure to files with viruses), cyberbullying
or cyberstalking, and leaving a history that
could cause problems (such as when applying
for a job)—led even one-third of SNS users to
characterize themselves as “very concerned”
or “extremely concerned.” Females are more
concerned than are males about security
issues and about cyberbullying or cyberstalking. Older students are more concerned
than are younger students about security
problems and misuse of their information.
Why this lack of strong concern? One
possibility is that students who say they are
less concerned may just be unaware of the
risks inherent in SNSs. Alternatively, since
SNSs have capabilities for protecting personal
information, it is likely that respondents who
do actively place restrictions and/or take care
in what they put on SNSs factor that into their
answers and express less concern. In fact, most
respondents using SNSs do put restrictions on
who can access their profiles (87.4%), and
nearly half (45.4%) say they put a lot of restrictions on them. Females are more likely to place
restrictions and to place more restrictions than
males. Younger respondents are somewhat
more likely to do so than older respondents.
However, older respondents are less likely to
reveal personal information in the first place.
The strongest finding is that respondents
who are more concerned about privacy
and security are much more likely to place
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ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
restrictions on their SNS profiles. These
SNS users are also somewhat more likely to
reveal less personal information on SNSs.
This suggests that understanding the risks
and consequences of security and privacy
exposure along with understanding methods
of protecting personal information can help
students choose what information they reveal
and/or protect.
Conclusion
Most of the 2008 survey respondents
belong to the Net Generation, and the
ECAR data confirm the IT use characteristics
often assigned to this generation. Findings
indicate that they value IT’s role in providing
convenience and expect IT services to be
available when they need them; they actively
use multiple modes of IT to communicate,
socialize, and stay connected with others; they
perceive themselves as net savvy; they choose
mobile technologies and use of visual media;
and they take advantage of Web 2.0 technologies to express themselves on the Internet in
varied and creative ways. Older students show
many of these characteristics as well.
At the same time, Net Generation students,
along with older students, report that they
are not looking for extensive use of IT when
it comes to their academic courses. They do
not take lots of entirely online courses, and
most indicate that even when course lecture
materials are posted online, they still do not
skip classes. Instead, we found a widespread
attitude that IT resources—no matter how
students think about them—are best situated
in learning environments where technology is
balanced with other learning activities, especially face-to-face interactions with faculty
and students in the classroom. As one engineering major summed up, “I feel that IT is a
wonderful tool when it is fully understood by
both the course instructor and the students.
Anything less than that and the tool suddenly
becomes something that merely looks pretty,
or, in the worst case, is a clunky monster.”
Students and Information Technology, 2008
Upcoming: The 2009
ECAR Study
In 2009, ECAR will again conduct the
survey of undergraduates and IT. The survey
will be updated to reflect changes in technology and to incorporate what has been
learned from the 2008 study. Questions about
the use of IT in and out of courses and about
student perceptions regarding the impact of
IT on their academic experience will continue
to form the core of the survey.
The 2009 survey will again feature a
special topic area. Because many colleges
and universities are now making decisions
about delivering IT services to Internetcapable cell phones, the 2009 survey will ask
students about their use of Internet-capable
handheld devices. It will likely include
questions about what services and content
students use, or plan to use, and their opinions about these devices as a platform for
accessing institutional IT services.
ECAR invites colleges and universities to
participate in and support the 2009 survey
and, in return, receive the data from their institution’s respondents.7 For more information,
see the ECAR website, http://www.educause
.edu/ECAR/Reference/StudentStudy/5822.
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Endnotes
1. For comparison of 2006, 2007, and 2008 data, we
used data from the 44 institutions that participated
in the student study each of these years. Although
the institutions are the same, they surveyed different
students each year.
2. Association of College and Research Libraries,
“Information Literacy Competency Standards for
Higher Education,” January 18, 2000, http://
www.ala.org /ala /mgrps/divs/acrl/acrlstandards/
informationliteracycompetency.cfm.
3. George Lorenzo, Diana Oblinger, and Charles
Dziuban, “How Choice, Co-Creation, and Culture
Are Changing What It Means to Be Net Savvy” (ELI
Paper 4) (Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative,
October 2006), http://connect.educause.edu /
Library/ELI/HowChoiceCoCreationandCul/39342.
4. Richard Van Eck, “Digital Game-Based Learning: It’s Not
Just the Digital Natives Who Are Restless,” EDUCAUSE
Review 41, no. 2 (March/April 2006): 20, http://
connect.educause.edu/Library/EDUCAUSE+Review/
DigitalGameBasedLearningI/40614.
5. Gail Salaway and Judith Borreson Caruso, with
Mark R. Nelson, The ECAR Study of Undergraduate
Students and Information Technology, 2007
(Research Study, Vol. 6) (Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE
Center for Applied Research, 2007), 85–8, available
from http://www.educause.edu/ecar.
6. Peter Ewell and Jane Wellman, “Enhancing Student
Success in Education: Summary Report of the NPEC
Initiative and National Symposium on Postsecondary
Student Success” (National Postsecondary Education
Cooperative, 2007), http://www.cpec.ca.gov /
CompleteRepor ts / ExternalDocuments / NPEC_
Ewell_Report.pdf. ECAR used this and other articles
generated from the initiative.
7. Students participating in the survey are assured that
no confidential information about them will be made
available to their institutions.
17
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
2
Introduction: Reshaping
Campus Communication and
Community through Social
Network Sites
Nicole B. Ellison, Michigan State University
In the last few years, social network sites
(SNSs) such as Facebook and MySpace
have become standard fixtures on college
campuses throughout the United States,
and they now constitute an integral part of
the daily communication practices for many
students. For those of us involved in higher
education, it is particularly important to
understand SNS practices, outcomes, and
motivations for use because these sites are
fundamentally changing the social fabric
of the university and thus a wide range of
campus activities.
On a purely social level, they offer
students vast amounts of information
about one another— information that
provides the impetus for social interactions
that might not otherwise occur. When used
as an organizing tool, they provide new
ways for student groups to reach out to
members, share information, learn about
campus events, and mobilize support and
action. Finally, although many instructors
see SNSs as a distraction in classrooms
with Internet access, their use is indirectly
affecting teaching and learning practices as
students use them to arrange study groups,
talk about course work, and connect with
classmates. In short, for many students,
SNSs figure prominently in shaping their
campus experience from the moment
they check out their future roommate on
Facebook to the day they join their school’s
“alum” network.
Of course, SNS use is growing among other
segments of society. Elsewhere, my colleagues
and I have argued that SNSs are affecting
greater society in important ways.1 First,
SNSs enable users to manage large extended
networks more effectively, including people
we otherwise wouldn’t track, thus increasing
our ability to access resources embedded in
social relationships. Second, SNSs give us
information about people we may meet in
various casual encounters throughout our
daily activities. This information can serve as
a social lubricant, enabling new kinds of interactions that may have positive outcomes for
individuals and communities. Third, these sites
give individuals new ways of connecting with
one another over shared interests, problems,
or experiences and then to mobilize coordinated displays of support or action.
We see similar patterns of use unfolding
on campuses across the United States. Due
to their particular stage of psychological
development and because they are such
avid users of these sites, undergraduate
students as a group are an especially
fascinating focus for SNS researchers. For
those of us who work with students inside
and outside the classroom, attempting
©2008 EDUCAUSE. Reproduction by permission only.
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
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Students and Information Technology, 2008
to describe, measure, and understand
changes introduced by SNS use on campus
is even more compelling.
SNSs create new opportunities for educational institutions as well as new challenges.
Universities must consider policy decisions
that would have been inconceivable just a
few years ago. For instance, should students
who find something troubling in an SNS
profile be allowed to change their assigned
roommate before meeting him or her faceto-face? Should these technologies be incorporated into the classroom, and if so, how?
What about student-instructor “friending”?
Will students expect special treatment from
professors who accept their friend requests?
How should universities react to problematic
SNS content: by imposing penalties, offering
educational programs, or turning a blind eye?
These are just a few examples of the kinds of
questions now facing institutions of higher
learning in relation to SNSs.
Definitional Issues
In an overview of social network sites we
wrote for the Journal of Computer-Mediated
Communication, danah boyd and I defined
SNSs as “web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public
profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate
a list of other users with whom they share a
connection, and (3) view and traverse their
list of connections and those made by others
within the system.”2 As the above suggests,
SNSs constitute a new medium that incorporates many aspects of earlier online modes
of communication, such as personal web
pages and messaging systems, but with new
features that build upon the social network
that is at the heart of these systems.
The SNS profile itself can resemble a
personal web page (although the format is
more constrained), with photographs and
self-descriptive text. What differentiates
SNSs from other, earlier forms of online
self-representation is the articulated social
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ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
network these sites enable and the ways
in which they help users manage what can
quickly become a large extended network
of contacts. The social network is created
when users of Facebook, MySpace, or other
SNSs link to the profiles of others on the
system (or, in the vernacular of many of the
sites, they “friend” other users). Features
such as Facebook’s News Feed or MySpace’s
Friend Updates allow users to monitor all
of their friends’ recent online activity on
one page.
Depending on the site and the customized
add-ons users choose to install, these sites
provide users with a vast array of possibilities
for creating content and connecting with
one another. Users can share photos, music,
blog posts, and videos with one another and
can comment on content posted by their
peers. They can join groups; affiliate with
brands, organizations, or political causes;
or search for others with shared interests.
These sites host a variety of communication
tools: synchronous and asynchronous, one to
one and one to many, massively public and
intimately private, ranging from the mundane
to the perplexing (as with one third-party
Facebook application that allows users to
throw virtual sheep at each other).
History and Usage
SNSs have been around for more than
a decade: The first SNS, sixdegrees.com,
launched in 1997. The last few years have
seen an increase in the introduction of new
services, including the creation of LiveJournal
and BlackPlanet (both 1999), Cyworld (2001),
Friendster (2002), LinkedIn (2003), and
YouTube (2005). SNS use has now become
a mainstream online activity, most visibly for
younger users. The Pew Internet & American
Life Project, for instance, recently found that
55% of the teens (aged 12–17) surveyed
had a profile on an SNS such as Facebook or
MySpace.3 Publications from 2007 estimated
that users spent about 20 minutes a day on
Students and Information Technology, 2008
Facebook4 and on other SNSs.5 However, this
number has no doubt increased in the last
year as these sites add new communication
features such as instant messaging (IM), which
encourages users to keep the program open
in a window throughout the day. College
students are particularly avid users. Estimate
ranges depend on the particular campus,
but it is clear that SNS activity is the norm
rather than the exception. A full 85.2% of
the students participating in the ECAR study
reported joining at least one SNS; among
Eszter Hargittai’s survey of the University of
Illinois at Chicago first-year students, 88%
were SNS users.6
There are hundreds of SNSs around the
globe, such as Orkut in Brazil, Cyworld in
Korea, and Bebo in the United Kingdom. Two
of the sites that dominate this space, especially
among U.S. undergraduates, are MySpace
and Facebook.
MySpace was started in 2003 and was
embraced by bands seeking publicity and
the ability to reach new and existing fans.
Attracted by the possibility of connecting
with bands and one another, teens soon
gravitated to the site and began creating
profiles that became increasingly elaborate
as users learned to alter the profiles’ look
and feel through code they copied and
pasted from other websites. MySpace was
purchased by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.
in mid-2005 for $580 million, a sum that
Fortune later claimed was low.7 Currently,
MySpace has an estimated 110 million
monthly active users, making it by far the
largest SNS in the United States.8
As suggested by the ECAR findings,
Facebook is especially popular among collegeaged students. Facebook was started in 2004
by a Harvard undergraduate, Mark Zuckerberg.
It was originally limited to university students
but then opened up to high school students
and businesses and is now available to anyone.
(Currently, Facebook claims that more than
half of its user base is not associated with a
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ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
college.) Facebook shares the general SNS
characteristics of MySpace but offers less
ability to personalize the appearance of one’s
profile. Thus, the pages appear more uniform,
which can be less daunting to older users and
advertisers. Facebook also recently opened up
its application programming interface (API),
enabling hundreds of developers to create
applications that extend Facebook’s functionality. Currently, Facebook receives between 22
and 25 million visitors each month.9
MySpace and Facebook are two of the
most popular sites on college campuses, but
research suggests that there are systematic
differences among users that affect which
site (if any) they choose to use. Hargittai’s
work suggests that demographic variables
play a role in predicting whether students
use Facebook, MySpace, or another site.10 She
finds that women are more likely than men
to use MySpace; that students of Hispanic
origin are more likely to use MySpace, whereas
white/Caucasian students are more likely
to use Facebook; and that students whose
parents have less than a high school degree
are more likely to be MySpace users, whereas
students whose parents have a college degree
are more likely to be members of Facebook.
Facebook and Social
Relationships on Campus
It is clear that students have embraced the
social and technical affordances provided by
these sites, but until recently there was little
empirical research that examined outcomes
from and motivations for SNS use. Although
it has shifted a bit in the last year or so, for a
long time media coverage of SNSs on campus
focused on negative outcomes, such as
privacy concerns or poor self-presentational
choices that diminished students’ attractiveness to employers or got them in trouble with
campus officials and law enforcement. Typical
popular-press titles include “Alarms Sound
over Athletes’ Facebook Time”11 or “Cop
Snares College Pals in Own Web.”12
21
Students and Information Technology, 2008
A few years ago, my Michigan State
University (MSU) colleagues Charles Steinfield
and Cliff Lampe and I noticed a discrepancy
between the high usage we saw among
undergraduates at our institution and the
negative outcomes prevalent in the popular
narratives that circulated about Facebook and
other SNSs. We began a program of research
focusing on Facebook use and social capital
to understand more about the motivations for
student use of Facebook and to describe the
benefits, if any, they might be receiving from
such use. Although our research has focused
on Facebook use among undergraduates,
many of these trends can be seen in other
SNSs and populations.
Benefits of Facebook
“Friends”: Research on
Facebook Use and Social
Capital
Our research uses social capital as our
theoretical lens, which gives us a grammar for
describing the kinds of benefits we suspected
students might be experiencing from their
use of Facebook. Social capital refers to the
benefits we receive from our relationships
with others. In his well-known book Bowling
Alone (2000), Robert Putnam examines
patterns of social capital in the United States
and describes some of the reasons why
this valuable resource might be declining.13
Putnam discusses two kinds of social capital.
We typically get bonding social capital from
our close friends and family; this comes in
the form of emotional support and tangible
resources. If we need a shoulder to cry on or
money to cover this month’s rent, these are
the people we turn to. Bridging social capital,
however, is important as well. Bridging social
capital is associated with our “weak ties”—
people we are not particularly close to, such
as friends of friends. These people aren’t likely
to loan us money, but they are more likely to
provide us with access to diverse perspectives and new information. Also, because we
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ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
interact with close friends more frequently,
we tend to know what they know. This isn’t
the case with weak ties, and in fact research
has shown that we are more likely to receive
information about an employment opportunity from someone we see rarely, a pattern
sociologist Mark Granovetter (1973) describes
as the “strength of weak ties.”14
The notion that SNS use might be associated with larger networks of weak ties and
thus higher levels of bridging social capital
was something we suspected when we developed our Facebook study. For the past three
years, we have surveyed MSU undergraduates
about their use of Facebook and other variables such as social capital. Our first survey,
fielded in April 2006, revealed that intensive
use of Facebook was associated with higher
levels of all three kinds of social capital we
examined: bridging (the benefits associated
with weak ties, such as new information and
diverse perspectives), bonding (emotional and
tangible support garnered from close friends
and family), and maintained social capital (a
concept we developed to describe the ability to
mobilize resources from a previously inhabited
network, such as one’s high school). Intensive
use of Facebook was a significant predictor of
bridging social capital. Interestingly, general
Internet use was not, suggesting that only
certain kinds of Internet activities are related
to the creation and maintenance of bridging
social capital. We also found similar patterns
for bonding and maintained social capital,
although the effects were not as strong.
However, our cross-sectional survey data
didn’t allow us to determine the causal direction of our findings. Our results could indicate that heavy users of Facebook gain social
capital through their use, but it may also be
that individuals who start out with higher
levels of social capital tend to use Facebook
more. For insight into this and other questions, we approached our respondents one
year later and invited them to take the survey
again. When we examined the responses of
Students and Information Technology, 2008
only those who took the survey both years,
we were able to argue more conclusively
that Facebook use precedes gains in bridging
social capital. The relationship between
Facebook use at the first survey and social
capital at the second survey was much higher
than the correlation between social capital
at the first survey and Facebook use at the
second survey.15
Critical-thinking skills and expertise in
one’s field of study are essential objectives
of the college experience. But higher education should also develop other relevant skills,
such as learning how to initiate and maintain
different kinds of social relationships and
successfully manage one’s online self-presentation. And community building, after all, is
one of higher education’s key concerns. SNSs
can be a significant tool in assisting students
as they learn these kinds of skills, which will
be increasingly important for them as they
develop into successful citizens, community
members, and professionals.
Social Aspects of SNS Use
Although more work is needed to fully
understand the mechanism behind our social
capital findings, we can speculate on the
basis of what we know about the technical
characteristics of these sites and how they
tend to be used. Facebook, for instance, has
a number of features that support keeping
in touch with one’s network of weak and
strong ties. First, individuals have the ability to
include vast amounts of information in their
profile, ranging from musical preferences to
an open-ended “About me” section. If they
wish, they can populate a number of contact
information fields, such as instant messaging
screen name, phone number, and address.
(In our most recent study, about a quarter of
respondents listed their cell phone number on
their profile, and more than two-thirds listed
their instant messaging screen name.) One’s
privacy settings determine who can view this
information. Inclusion of contact information
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ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
assists users in staying in touch, and our interview data suggest that some undergraduate
students use Facebook as a makeshift contact
list or address book. As one student told us,
“Honestly, I can’t remember what I did before
Facebook. It sounds really pathetic, but it’s just
so easy to access information about people.
It’s not bad information, it’s just instead of ‘Do
you have this person’s phone number?’ or ‘Oh
God, where do they live, they live in this dorm
but I need the room number,’ it’s just so easy
to just go on there and find it.”16
Second, the site itself offers a variety of
tools that enable communication among
users, useful when contact information isn’t
available or a phone call would be awkward.
These include public postings (the “Wall”); a
web-based messaging system; a lightweight,
content-free digital nudge known as a “poke”;
and, most recently, instant messaging. In
my own use of the site, I appreciate the fact
that it enables me to keep in touch with
people whom I wouldn’t normally track in my
own address book, such as old high school
acquaintances I will probably never see faceto-face (save for a once-a-decade reunion).
Now, students at a party can ask those they
meet to “Facebook me!” with the knowledge
that this fleeting connection can be digitally
revitalized at any time should the need or
desire arise. Other sites have similar features
that can help individuals, once they have
made a connection, keep in touch with one
another. For instance, Cyworld users can visit
one another’s “minihomes” and leave notes
in their guest book; MySpace allows users
to send messages to one another, instant
message others, or leave public comments
for one another.
Third, many SNSs enable users to get
updates about friends when these individuals
have engaged in public activity on the site,
such as making changes to their profile
or commenting about a photograph. In
Facebook, this is known as the News Feed.
Although it was the subject of user concern
23
Students and Information Technology, 2008
when it was first introduced (individuals who
weren’t comfortable with early implementations of the feature claimed it felt like stalking),
users now seem to appreciate the ease with
which it enables them to keep up to date on
their friends’ activities on the site. Although
some of this information is likely to be shared
in phone, IM, or face-to-face conversations
with close friends, being able to monitor the
activities of weak ties enables these relationships to be maintained more easily.
Recently I updated my status in Facebook
to announce I was celebrating my 10-year
wedding anniversary. Among the congratulatory messages I received were two from my
extended network of weak ties—one from a
childhood friend whom I hadn’t seen in 25
years, and the other from an SNS researcher
from Finland whom I met once at a conference. I enjoyed hearing from both of these
people and without the use of an SNS would
be unlikely to maintain contact with either of
them. Of course, I enjoy seeing updates about
these people as well and appreciate the ability
to engage in lightweight social surveillance
of their lives. Knowing what is going on in
their lives—whether it’s a major milestone
or a quotidian occurrence—makes future
interactions more comfortable. Moments that
might otherwise be awkward, such as seeing
a vague acquaintance after a few months,
are smoothed by these ready-made topics of
conversation. Having a base level of information about others can help avoid awkward
inquiries; anyone who has ever inadvertently
asked about someone who has passed away
or a relationship gone sour can understand
the value of these tidbits of information in
smoothing social interaction.
A valid question for many is, “What is the
point of keeping in touch with people you
wouldn’t otherwise talk to?” The concept of
social capital allows us to articulate why these
large networks of weak ties are important to
us both as individuals and as a society. From
a bridging social capital perspective, the
24
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
benefits of keeping in touch with our weak
ties are practical: new information, ideas, and
opportunities. These might not be connections that are engaged often, but they can
be harnessed when and if the need arises. For
instance, one of our interview respondents
described the way that she envisioned her
high school friends would continue to use
Facebook to keep in touch, and that even at
their 40th reunion they wouldn’t hesitate to
ask favors from one another.
The benefits of these SNS-enabled weak
ties can also be psychological: Many of us
enjoy reading a quick note of congratulation
or a happy birthday wish, even if it’s from
someone we don’t know that well. In fact, our
research shows that the influence of Facebook
use on bridging social capital is particularly
strong for those with low self-esteem.17
As described above, bridging social capital
is associated with exposure to new ideas and
perspectives. This kind of social capital may be
particularly important during the undergraduate
years because the period between the ages of
18 and 25, which has been called “emerging
adulthood” by psychologist Jeffrey Arnett,18
is important for psychosocial development.
During this time, individuals are relatively free
from the social expectations they experienced
as teenagers or will experience as adults, and
they can explore different orientations toward
work, interpersonal relationships, and the world
in general. Encountering new ideas, engaging in
new experiences, and meeting diverse kinds of
people are especially important during this time
because they expose individuals to different life
experiences and paths. Indeed, expanding one’s
horizon is one of the hallmarks of the higher
education experience. SNSs may be particularly
helpful in this regard because they allow us to
maintain a larger network of weak ties through
mechanisms such as rekindled relationships from
the past or the ability to maintain a connection
with individuals who otherwise would exist as
ephemeral connections—people we meet once
and then never see again.
Students and Information Technology, 2008
Friendship and SNSs
The ease with which SNSs allow individuals
to connect with others and thus maintain
these connections is a concern for some,
who believe that this will somehow dilute the
meaning of friendship. “How can someone
have 500 friends?” is a common refrain asked
by people who may not fully understand the
meaning of “friends” in this context. Christine
Rosen, for instance, writes in The New Atlantis:
“Friendship on these sites focuses a great deal
on collecting, managing, and ranking the
people you know. Everything about MySpace,
for example, is designed to encourage users to
gather as many friends as possible, as though
friendship were philately.”19
Although for some the metaphor of friends
as postage stamps to be studied may be apt,
many of the Facebook users we’ve surveyed are
very savvy about the wide range of relationships
that are articulated as “friends” in Facebook.
Other research on the topic supports this notion
as well; boyd lists the reasons why someone
might accept a friend request, including
impression management (having lots of friends
makes you look popular), politeness norms, selfexpression needs, and getting access to content
otherwise protected by privacy settings.20 Actual
friendship is a reason, of course, but it is only
one of many. I believe that the undergraduates who use Facebook are more aware of the
ambiguities surrounding the “friends” label than
we might think. In fact, in one of our studies we
asked students to articulate how many of their
Facebook friends were actual friends. It turned
out to be about one-third, on average. In my
assessment, Facebook doesn’t appear to be
cheapening or threatening “real” friendships
and in fact may be enabling its users to expand
their social networks in positive ways.
Online and Offline Patterns of
Communication
Many of the early forms of computermediated communication brought strangers
together to discuss, argue, and provide
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ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
support for one another. Indeed, the fact
that the Internet allowed people to come
together on the basis of interests, not accidents of geography, was celebrated: Think
of Rheingold’s book The Virtual Community
(although many of those participants were
located in and around California’s Bay Area).21
Online dating is a similar case, because
participants are specifically seeking individuals
outside their existing pool of contacts.
SNSs are different because these sites
often support connections between people
who share some sort of offline connection,
such as living in the same dorm or working
at the same institution. Research suggests
that students are using Facebook to supplement, not replace, face-to-face communication. Scott Golder and his colleagues
found that Facebook use decreases during
times traditionally associated with faceto-face socializing for college students. 22
For instance, use of Facebook was higher
during the week than on weekends and
higher during breaks (such as the summer
months and winter break) than during the
school year.
SNSs and Past, Present, and
Future Relationships
One useful way of thinking about Facebook
and relationships is to consider past, present,
and future relationships. Although the bulk of
my research examines Facebook specifically,
these trends will hold true for other SNSs as
well.
Regarding “past” relationships, one of
the primary uses of Facebook is to maintain
connections with people from previously
shared geographical (or other) places. For
college students, this can mean acquaintances from high school or from their hometown. As these sites are adopted by a broader
cross section of the public, we can expect
to see them used to keep track of former
colleagues, neighbors, or extended family
in other cities. As I discuss above, one may
25
Students and Information Technology, 2008
have Facebook friends whom one never sees,
but the lightweight connections enabled by
these services are helpful.
SNSs can also be used to maintain current
relationships, although this use might not be
as valuable to users because close friends
usually use a variety of communication media
to keep in touch. Features such as birthday
reminders and invitations to parties and other
events can support existing relationships.
Close friends may use Facebook to share or
comment on one another’s photos, allowing
them to connect once in a face-to-face setting
and again in a mediated context. In fact,
Facebook is one of the most popular sites for
sharing photos on the web.
The notion of SNSs supporting “future”
relationships may be a bit misleading, but
I believe the information available in SNSs
can lower the barriers to initial communication and serve as a social lubricant, easing
the way for relationships to form. Our
research on Facebook suggests that typically individuals don’t browse the profiles of
total strangers (as happens in other online
contexts such as online dating sites) or try
to “friend” them; more likely, the individuals
have some shared connection with another
person and then use the site to find out
more about them. This shared connection
could be a shared class or dormitory, a brief
encounter at a social event, or a mutual
friend. Identity information from Facebook
(such as musical tastes, friendship networks,
or political orientation) can then be used to
initiate a face-to-face conversation.
This theme emerged again and again
when we spoke with MSU undergraduates
about their Facebook use. For instance,
one of the undergraduates we spoke with
told us that Facebook “just makes it a little
bit more intimate in your friendships with
people. And gets more information out
there that…someone would feel weird
asking me, like, what I like to do.” This
individual (a male) explained that he enjoyed
26
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
shopping for shoes, and that having this
information in his profile had resulted in
several conversations that wouldn’t have
otherwise occurred.
Self-Presentation and Privacy
Facebook and other SNSs let individuals
construct an online representation of self,
but users are sometimes unaware of their
audience or experience problems due to
the different groups that converge in online
spaces such as Facebook. For students, this
may include close friends, distant friends,
family, professional contacts, and professors.
Privacy concerns are frequently mentioned
in conjunction with SNS use, especially for
younger users who may not be aware of the
true audience for their online self-disclosures. Early work on the subject pointed
out that although students claimed to be
concerned about privacy, they were likely
to include personal information in their SNS
profiles. In one of the first academic studies
addressing this topic, Gross and Acquisti
examined thousands of student Facebook
profiles and described the potential privacy
threats they discovered. For instance, they
argued it was possible to reconstruct users’
Social Security numbers using information
commonly found in Facebook profiles, such
as hometown and birthday. 23
Norms have changed since this early
research: Features such as Facebook’s News
Feed may have made individuals more aware
of the true audience of their profile information, and recent surveys show that 66% of the
online teens who have profiles limit access to
their profile in some way; of those who don’t,
about half include some false information.24
The ECAR data reveal similar trends.
Educational Uses of SNSs
Like many communication and information
technologies, SNSs are being assessed for their
potential to support classroom instruction and
other activities. Instructors are drawn to them
Students and Information Technology, 2008
for many reasons, chief among them being
the pedagogical possibilities inherent in the
social processes they support (for instance,
identity information that might humanize
a large lecture class) and the practical fact
that these technologies are already ingrained
into the daily communication practices of
their students. As an EDUCAUSE report on
Facebook stated, “Any technology that is able
to captivate so many students for so much time
not only carries implications for how those
students view the world but also offers an
opportunity for educators to understand the
elements of social networking that students
find so compelling and to incorporate those
elements into teaching and learning.”25
Among instructors, early adopters are
using SNSs in the classroom in a wide range
of ways. At one end of the spectrum, instructors are replacing more traditional media with
SNSs as a way to broadcast course announcements, recognizing that Facebook messages
are more likely to be seen by students who
check Facebook on a daily basis but e-mail
less frequently.26 Others hope to energize
course material by capitalizing on the fact
that a new medium is often more engaging
and interesting (at least initially) for students
than one they’ve experienced hundreds of
times and that the identity information found
in SNSs can reinvigorate online and offline
discussions. It may be that students appreciate
the convenience of using an SNS to receive
course-related announcements (as opposed to
logging into a separate course management
system such as Blackboard or ANGEL), but this
is not where the true opportunities for higher
education are found.
The real opportunities will be realized
by instructors who infuse SNS practices into
learning activities using sound pedagogical
practices, drawing upon concepts such as
digital literacy to articulate the instructional
potential of these tools. Classes that take
the technological, psychological, and sociological aspects of SNSs as a focus are natural
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ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
contexts for this approach. BJ Fogg at Stanford
is an innovator in this regard. In fall 2007 he
taught a class focusing on creating Facebook
applications27; the following spring, he and
his students examined Facebook from a
psychological perspective. Reflecting upon
the experience, he writes, “As a teacher and
researcher, I find that dealing head-on with
Facebook is the right approach. The students
resonate with projects related to Facebook.
They respond well to any assignments I give
via a Facebook channel. And when they post
work on Facebook, the students’ friends
outside the class often comment. So I’m
seeing lots of benefits. On top of that, by
using Facebook I’ve learned a lot about the
challenges students face, what matters to
them, and how my approach to teaching can
benefit them most. Finally, Facebook matters
because it’s an indicator of what’s coming
next. The changes Facebook has made in
the last 14 months have rippled through the
technology industry. You can’t understand
what’s going on today—or what’s likely to
happen—without understanding what makes
Facebook tick.”28
Not all instructors see the appeal of SNSs.
Some are concerned about the increased
(and, they believe, inappropriate) familiarity
these sites may encourage between students
and instructors; others view the sites as
distractions from the real work of learning.
Recent research by Haya Ajjan and Richard
Hartshorne suggests that some instructors
resist using Web 2.0 tools even though they
recognize the benefits.29
We will likely see new technical and
pedagogical innovations in the near future
as private companies, institutions, and individual instructors engage with novel teaching
methods and create new technical tools to
support student learning using SNSs. Inigral,
for instance, has recently introduced a new
Facebook application called Schools, which
is currently being tested at pilot institutions
such as Abilene Christian University. While
27
Students and Information Technology, 2008
acknowledging institutional needs for privacy
and security, the tool integrates data from
each school’s registrar to show students their
friends’ course schedules and enables studentto-student communication. As founder
Michael Staton explains, “Through testing
an earlier version of our tool, Courses, we
learned that students are not very interested
in assignments and documents; they are
much more interested in sharing and viewing
information that helps them start or maintain
a relationship with a classmate or friend, and a
lot of that information is about school. We set
aside our earlier project, Courses, and rebuilt
it as Schools, which emphasizes features that
support relationship-building and informationsharing in the academic context.”30
Christine Greenhow is a researcher in
learning technologies at the University of
Minnesota’s College of Education and Human
Development who has been studying the
use of SNSs in educational contexts and is
currently conducting research to explore what
connections might exist between SNS participation and learning for teenage students. She
argues, “I think the message for educators,
especially K–12 and college undergraduate
instructors, is that it’s more about teaching
students how to use these tools to reinforce
and develop the new learning competencies
that are increasingly being called for. It’s not
so much about putting curriculum or links
to assignments inside these spaces—I think
that’s a misuse and a misunderstanding
of the opportunity these SNSs present—
but knowing and supporting the ‘informal
learning’ students are already doing in tandem
with ‘formal learning.’”31
The observation that students are using
SNSs to support informal learning practices
is supported by our survey data. Regardless
of whether instructors are explicitly incorporating SNSs in their curricula, it is clear that
students are integrating these tools into
their educational experiences and that SNSs
are influencing what happens in the class-
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ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
room in a variety of direct and indirect ways.
In April 2008 we asked a random sample
of MSU undergraduates about educational
uses of Facebook—specifically, whether
students had engaged in various behaviors
in the six months prior to the survey. (Note
that 96% of our respondents reported
being a member of Facebook.) Although
only 10% of the MSU respondents said they
used Facebook as part of an assigned class
exercise, about half had used Facebook to
arrange a study group or meeting, more
than half had used it to discuss classes or
schoolwork, and about one-third reported
using Facebook to “collaborate on an assignment in a way that your instructor would
like.” Most of our respondents (69%) had
used Facebook to contact another student
with a question related to class or schoolwork. The ECAR data presented in Chapter
6 of this study reflect a similar contrast
between low use of SNSs for student
communication with instructors and much
higher usage for communication about class
assignments between classmates. These
social, informal, peer-to-peer discussions are
important because this kind of on-demand,
supportive interaction is now accepted as a
valuable component of the learning process.
The fact that they are happening on SNSs
rather than on institutional CMSs suggests
that SNSs may be challenging the careful
plans of both CMS vendors and instructional technology administrators to provide
“official” tools for student interaction and
collaboration.
I believe that SNSs have real potential to
be used to support teaching and learning
practices, although their true utility will be for
supporting informal, peer-to-peer exchanges
and campus connections, as opposed to being
utilized as a repository for documents or
other traditional uses. The social affordances
of SNSs, such as making identity information more salient during class discussions or
supporting peer-to-peer connections, can
Students and Information Technology, 2008
accommodate different learning styles inside
and outside the classroom. SNS activity
doesn’t have to be limited to course-related
activities. At a broad level these tools should
be leveraged as environments in which
students have the opportunity to practice
managing their online self-presentation within
the relatively safe confines of the university
(as opposed to after graduation in the “real
world”). Finally, and most important, SNS use
has the potential to help students hone their
digital literacy skills, which will be increasingly
critical as they transition into successful digital
citizens and professionals.
SNSs and Campus Life
Students and faculty aren’t the only ones
using SNSs. Other groups on campus have
also started to explore ways to incorporate
SNSs into their activities. Some universities,
such as the University of Miami, have started
to purchase Facebook ads to promote intramural sports. Other institutions have explored
using SNSs to recruit new students, to keep
in touch with alumni, and to gain insight into
campus trends. University libraries and librarians have been particularly engaged in finding
new uses of SNSs. For instance, libraries can
create groups that let them communicate with
their patrons, and a few libraries have created
Facebook applications that let users conduct
literature searches from within the site.
Campus administrators would do well to
explore how to harness the social connections
that SNSs support. One study that examined
Facebook use on campus found that student
use of Facebook was positively correlated with
feelings of connection to the campus,32 and
anecdotal evidence of this is easily found. For
instance, in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech
shooting, students used Facebook to mourn,
support one another, and share information.
In short, the next few years promise to reveal
more varied uses of SNSs on the campus as SNS
companies continue to innovate and as users
continue to adopt and adapt these services.
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ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Areas of Concern
Given these trends, many institutions
are wondering how and whether to enact
formal policies about SNS use on campus.
Administrators, faculty, and staff within institutions of higher education need to consider
a number of issues when pondering questions such as whether these tools should be
used to submit graded assignments. First, the
private companies that run many SNSs are
not accountable to the university; they may
change their terms of use and intellectual
property and privacy policies at their discretion. Additionally, any instructor or institution that relies on a third-party site to host
student material that will be graded needs to
be aware that this content (or the site itself
for that matter) could disappear at any time
and may not be archived. Obviously, this is
unlikely to happen with a popular service
such as Blogger, Facebook, or MySpace,
but it is something instructors should reflect
on when assessing the trade-offs between
in-house applications and third-party tools,
which may be more technically sophisticated
and more likely to be used by students after
they graduate.
Additionally, there are ethical considerations
that surround the formal use of SNSs within
the classroom. For instance, is it appropriate to
mandate that students become members of a
commercial enterprise that seeks to monetize
their attention through advertising revenues?
In a related vein, the Family Educational Rights
and Privacy Act (FERPA) prohibits the public
release of certain kinds of information. A
problematic scenario may arise if, for instance,
a student’s participation in a particular courserelated group is mandatory and this membership information is available to the general
public through the SNS.
Perhaps most important to consider is
how students will view the incorporation of
SNSs in their formal academic lives. Student
resistance is a reason to tread cautiously
in this arena. Students may associate SNSs
29
Students and Information Technology, 2008
with a specific set of practices; for many, it
is a playful environment separate from their
academic pursuits. Reminding them about a
final exam via Facebook may be the equivalent
of showing up at a frat party on a Saturday
night with some calculus problems to solve—
and just as welcome.
Similarly, it is worth considering the
relationship between instructors and their
students and how this might be affected by
the “friending” mechanism available on most
SNSs. As a recent piece in The Chronicle of
Higher Education pointed out, “friending”
between instructors and students is uncharted
territory.33 Even instructors who aren’t interested in exploring SNSs in the classroom are
faced with decisions about their own SNS use.
For instance, should instructors post public
profiles on these sites? If so, what information is appropriate to include? Including one’s
musical tastes is unlikely to invite controversy,
but what about religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or political affiliation? Should students
and instructors be Facebook friends? Will
friended students expect preferential treatment, as some instructors fear? Is it ethical
for instructors to use information they gather
from SNSs when deciding whether to accept
students’ excuses about missed exams or to
grant paper extensions? Will students think a
friend request from an instructor is creepy?
Norms regarding many of these issues
are still in flux, although some have begun to
calcify. Regarding student-instructor friending,
many instructors allow students to initiate
contact or friending, and some prefer to
wait until the course is over to accept these
requests. Early exploratory research on the
issue reported some student resistance to
faculty presence on Facebook but found that
contact on Facebook did not affect student
evaluations.34 The same study found that
about one-third of the students surveyed did
not believe that faculty should be present on
Facebook at all. More positive results were
found in a 2007 experimental study, which
30
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
found that students who were exposed to an
instructor’s highly disclosive Facebook profile
anticipated a better classroom climate than
students who saw a profile that was lower in
self-disclosure, with similar results for other
variables such as motivation.35 Although positive open-ended comments by participants
suggested that the self-disclosure encouraged students to find common ground with
the instructor, negative comments betrayed
a concern that the profile wasn’t “professional enough for a college-level professor.”
The authors also caution that although the
majority of the respondents reported positive perceptions of the Facebook profile,
instructors should be cognizant that students
might resent a lack of consistency between
an instructor’s online self-presentation and
classroom teaching style.
Unfortunately, little research is available
that assesses the educational effectiveness
of SNS tools. We need to conduct research
that examines SNSs from an educational
perspective and considers sound pedagogical
principles in conjunction with assessments
of the tools and the social practices that
accompany their use. As Greenhow explains,
“Most of the research that has been done
on SNSs to date has been done outside the
field of education and has tended to focus on
network structures, friendship characteristics,
and privacy issues. There is little that looks at
their connection to learning and the educational benefits they may bring.”
Conclusion
The classroom has changed much in the
last 20 or 30 years. Norms concerning studentinstructor interactions, campus codes of
behavior, and instructional style have evolved
in unexpected ways. Teaching and learning
practices have evolved as well. Spurred in part
by the changes encouraged by SNSs, learning
activities that happen outside the classroom
are acknowledged by many to be as important as what happens inside it. Three hours a
Students and Information Technology, 2008
week is simply not enough time to influence
the wide range of learning outcomes that
institutions of higher learning want to affect—
outcomes that transcend the acquisition of
information and include ways of interacting
with the world, exploring identity issues, and
forming and maintaining social relationships
with peers. As I’ve tried to outline above, SNSs
may be able to support these processes in
vitally important ways. As these services and
our use of them evolve, the next few years
promise to be a very exciting time for students
and those of us who support their development inside and outside the classroom.
Endnotes
1. Nicole B. Ellison, Cliff Lampe, and Charles Steinfield,
“Social Network Sites and Society: Current Trends
and Future Possibilities,” Interactions 15, no. 6,
(in press).
2. Although the term social networking sites is used
frequently, I choose to refer to these sites as
social network sites. As danah boyd and I write,
“’networking’ emphasizes relationship initiation,
often between strangers. While networking is
possible on these sites, it is not the primary practice on
many of them, nor is it what differentiates them from
other forms of computer-mediated communication
(CMC).” See danah m. boyd and Nicole B. Ellison,
“Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and
Scholarship,” Journal of Computer-Mediated
Communication 13, no.1 (2007): 210–230.
3. Amanda Lenhart and Mar y Madden, “Social
Networking Websites and Teens: An Overview” (Pew
Internet & American Life Project, 2007), http://www
.pewinternet.org/ppf/r/198/report_display.asp.
4. John Cassidy, “Me Media,” The New Yorker, May 15,
2006, 50–9.
5. Hitwise, “Average Time Spent on Social Nets 3X
Longer Than News and Media Sites,” http://weblogs
.hitwise.com /to-go-us /2007/ 05/average_time_
spent_on_social_n.html.
6. Eszter Hargittai, “Whose Space? Differences among
Users and Non-Users of Social Network Sites,”
Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 13,
no. 1 (2007): 276–97, http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol13/
issue1/hargittai.html.
7. Marc Gunther, “News Corp. (hearts) MySpace,”
For tune, March 29, 20 06, http: / /money.cnn
.com/2006/03/28/technology/pluggedin_fortune/
index.htm.
8. Brian Stelter, “From MySpace to YourSpace,” New
York Times, January 21, 2008, http://www.nytimes
.com/2008/01/21/technology/21myspace.html?ex=
1358571600&en=79ea4b4b77da1a6f&ei=5124&pa
rtner=permalink&exprod=permalink.
9. Brad Stone, “Big Changes Coming to Profile Pages
on Facebook,” New York Times, May 21, 2008,
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ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com /2008 / 05/21/bigchanges-coming-to-profile-pages-on-facebook/
indexhtml?ref=technology.
10. Hargittai, “Whose Space?”
11. Erik Brady and Daniel Libit, “Alarms Sound over Athletes’
Facebook Time,” USA Today, March 9, 2006.
12. Jodi S. Cohen, “Cop Snares College Pals in Own
Web,” Chicago Tribune, August 3, 2006.
13. Robert D. Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and
Revival of American Community (New York: Simon
& Schuster, 2000).
14. Mark S. Granovetter, “The Strength of Weak Ties,”
The American Journal of Sociology 78, no. 6 (1973):
1360–80.
15. Charles Steinfield, Nicole B. Ellison, and Cliff
Lampe, “Social Capital, Self-Esteem, and Use
of Online Social Network Sites: A Longitudinal
Analysis,” Journal of Applied Developmental
Psychology 29, no. 6 (in press).
16. Ibid.
17. Nicole B. Ellison, Charles Steinfield, and Cliff
Lampe, “The Benefits of Facebook ‘Friends’: Social
Capital and College Students’ Use of Online Social
Network Sites,” Journal of Computer-Mediated
Communication 12 (2007): 1143–68.
18. Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, “Emerging Adulthood: A
Theory of Development from the Late Teens through
the Twenties,” American Psychologist 55 (2000):
469–80.
19. Christine Rosen, “Virtual Friendship and the New
Narcissism,” The New Atlantis 17 (2007): 15–31,
http://w w w.thenewatlantis.com /publications /
virtual-friendship-and-the-new-narcissism.
20. danah boyd, “Friends, Friendsters, and MySpace Top
8: Writing Community Into Being on Social Network
Sites,” First Monday 11, no. 12 (2006), http://www
.firstmonday.org/issues/issue11_12/boyd/.
21. Howard Rheingold, The Vir tual Communit y:
Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier (London:
Harper Perennial, 1993).
22. Scott A. Golder, Dennis Wilkinson, and Bernardo
A. Huberman, “Rhythms of Social Interaction:
Messaging within a Massive Online Network” [paper
presented at the 3rd International Conference on
Communities and Technologies (CT 2007), East
Lansing, MI, 2007].
23. Ralph Gross and Alessandro Acquisti, “Information
Revelation and Privacy in Online Social Networks”
(Workshop on Privacy in the Electronic Society,
Alexandria, VA, 2005), http://www.heinz.cmu
.edu /~acquisti /papers /privacy-facebook-grossacquisti.pdf.
24. Lenhart and Madden, “Social Networking Websites.”
25. EDUCAUSE, “7 Things You Should Know about
Facebook” (EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative) (Boulder,
CO: EDUCAUSE, 2006), available from http://www
.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7017.pdf.
26. Even traditional course management systems such
as Blackboard are getting in on the act. Blackboard
recently announced a Facebook application that
informs users when changes are made in their
Blackboard account.
27. S e e t h e St anfo rd Fa ce b o o k Cl a s s , ht t p : / /
credibilityserver.stanford.edu/captology/facebook/.
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Students and Information Technology, 2008
28. BJ Fogg, personal communication, July 25, 2008.
29. Haya Ajjan and Richard Hartshorne, “Investigating
Faculty Decisions to Adopt Web 2.0 Technologies:
Theory and Empirical Tests,” The Internet and Higher
Education 11, no. 2 (2008): 71–80.
30. Michael Staton, personal communication, July 20,
2008.
31. Christine Greenhow, personal communication, June
5, 2008.
32. Matthew Robert Vanden Boogart, “Uncovering the
Social Impacts of Facebook on a College Campus”
(MS thesis, Kansas State University, Department of
Counseling and Educational Psychology, 2006).
33. Sara Lipka, “For Professors, ‘Friending’ Can Be
Fraught,” The Chronicle of Higher Education,
December 7, 2007, 54.
32
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
34. A nne H ew it t and A ndrea F or te, “Cros sing
Boundaries: Identity Management and Student/
Faculty Relationships on the Facebook” [poster/
e x t e n d e d a b s t r a c t , Co m p u t e r S u p p o r t e d
Cooperative Work ( CSCW ) , Banf f, Canada,
2006], http://www-static.cc.gatech.edu/~aforte/
HewittForteCSCWPoster2006.pdf.
35. Joseph Mazer, Richard Murphy, and Cheri Simonds,
“I’ll See You On ‘Facebook’: The Effects of
Computer- Mediated Teacher Self- Disclosure
on Student Motivation, Affective Learning, and
Classroom Climate,” Communication Education 56
(2007): 1–17.
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
3
Methodology and
Respondent Characteristics
I’m all for IT: I completed this entire survey via my iPhone.
—An undergraduate student
The ECAR study of undergraduates and
information technology (IT) is designed
explicitly to help inform college and university leaders, technology staff, and faculty
as they make critical decisions about their
institutions’ technology investments and
implementations.1 ECAR collects, analyzes,
and makes available both qualitative and
quantitative data that profile undergraduate
use of technology in general, that is relevant
to administrators in deploying the overall
campus technology environment, and that
is useful to instructors and instructional
technology staff as they decide how to
incorporate IT into the curriculum.
This 2008 research of undergraduates
and IT marks ECAR’s fifth annual study.2 In
2004, the first ECAR study was launched
with a baseline of 13 institutions; this year, 98
U.S. institutions participated, along with two
international institutions—one from Ireland
and one from Spain.3 The data presented in
this study reflect only the results from student
respondents of the U.S. institutions.
Each year, questions about undergraduate
use of IT in and out of classes and about
student perceptions regarding IT’s impact
on their academic experience form the core
of the survey. Starting in 2008, the survey
adds value by also including a special focus
area—a more in-depth set of questions
about a topic (which changes each year) that
is currently important to higher education.
For 2008, ECAR chose student use of social
networking sites (SNSs) for the survey focus
area, adding research-based information to
the already widespread discussion about
student adoption of SNSs and their impact
on colleges and universities.
Methodology
The 2008 study builds on and extends
previous studies and consists of the following
data collection and analytical initiatives.
Literature Review
A literature review was conducted
(extending the 2007 literature review), along
with a review of other relevant surveys. The
bibliography appears in Appendix E.
Web-Based Survey
A web-based survey of college and university undergraduates supplied the quantitative
data about student experiences with IT in
higher education. The 2008 survey was based
on the 2007 survey, with improvements made
to some core questions and to the survey
structure overall,4 and a section was added
to include questions about the focus area
(student use of SNSs). The survey questionnaire appears in Appendix B.
©2008 EDUCAUSE. Reproduction by permission only.
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
33
Students and Information Technology, 2008
Institutions were asked to sample their
freshman and senior students. Each university used a different sampling model, and
a number of them chose to include their
entire freshman and senior classes. In
the absence of weighting of institutional
responses, this means that the results can
be generalized to the sampled students but
not to the 98 institutions.5
participated in all three studies. Where survey
questions were consistent over only the past two
years, ECAR was able to use comparative data
from the 66 institutions that participated in both
the 2007 and 2008 studies. However, it is important to note that this study does not attempt to
follow the same students over time.
Student Focus Groups
The following conventions are observed in
analyzing and reporting data results:
◆ Some tables and figures presented in
this study include fewer than 27,317
respondents. They were adjusted for
missing information.
◆ Percentages in some charts and tables
may not add up to exactly 100%, due
to rounding.
◆ The Likert scales used in the online
surveys are footnoted in the tables and
figures showing results for the survey
questions.
◆ Associations between survey questions
(variables) that are both statistically
significant and meaningful are reported
in the text and/or supporting figures
and tables. Note that a statistically
significant relationship between two
variables doesn’t necessarily indicate a
causal relationship.
ECAR collected qualitative data by means
of student focus groups at University College
Dublin; the University of North Carolina,
Pembroke; Coppin State University; the
University of Maryland, Baltimore County; and
Presbyterian College. The interviews included
as diverse a group of students as possible. A
total of 75 students participated in the focus
groups, and each focus group meeting lasted
for an hour. The focus group interview questions appear in Appendix C.6
Qualitative Analysis of Student
Comments
A total of 5,877 respondents (21.5%)
answered an open-ended question in the
online survey. They expressed opinions on
their use of and skill with IT, the state of their
institution’s IT support services, their perceptions of technology use in their courses,
and their experiences with SNSs. These
comments, focusing on selected topic areas,
were analyzed using the content analysis tool
SPSS Text Analysis for Surveys. This provided
additional insight into the substance of the
qualitative data.7 These findings have been
incorporated into the text of the study.
Longitudinal Analysis
The data from the 2006, 2007, and 2008
surveys were compared where possible to
identify any significant changes during the past
three years. Where questions were consistent
over the past three years, ECAR was able to use
comparative data from the 44 institutions that
34
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Analysis and Reporting
Conventions
Research Team
Judith Borreson Caruso and Gail Salaway
are the principal investigators. Mark Nelson’s
contribution to the study is a content analysis
of student comments to an open-ended survey
question. Nicole B. Ellison of Michigan State
University’s Department of Telecommunications,
Information Studies, and Media contributed the
Introduction, Chapter 2.
Judith Borreson Caruso
Judith Borreson Caruso is Director of Policy
and Planning at the University of Wisconsin–
Madison and has been an ECAR Research Fellow
Students and Information Technology, 2008
since July 2002. She has been in higher education IT roles for almost 30 years in the areas of
application development, data management,
policy, and security. Caruso is active in several IT
professional organizations, including EDUCAUSE.
She has served on the EDUCAUSE Current Issues
and EDUCAUSE Quarterly editorial committees. Currently, she serves on the executive
committee of the University of Wisconsin System
IT Management Council. While with ECAR, she
participated in the enterprise resource planning
(ERP), IT security, and student studies.
Nicole B. Ellison
Nicole B. Ellison is an Assistant Professor in the
Department of Telecommunications, Information
Studies, and Media at Michigan State University.
She studies the social implications of new information and communication technologies such
as SNSs, online dating sites, and blogs. Recent
projects include an investigation of the relationship between Facebook use and social capital
among college students and a special issue of the
Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication
on SNSs, which she coedited with danah boyd.
Previously, she has examined misrepresentation
in online dating profiles, student perceptions
of educational blogging, and technology use
by telecommuters, the latter explored in her
2004 book Telework and Social Change. Ellison
received her PhD from the Annenberg School
for Communication at the University of Southern
California in 1999.
Mark R. Nelson
Mark R. Nelson earned his PhD in information science from the University at Albany,
State University of New York, in 1998. He is
the Digital Content Specialist at the National
Association of College Stores ( NACS).
Recently, he was appointed Vice President for
Strategy and Development for NACS Media
Solutions. Formerly, Nelson was Assistant
Professor in Management Information
Systems and Information Technology at the
Lally School of Management and Technology
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Nelson
has served as an ECAR Fellow since summer
2003. In this capacity, he has contributed to
major research studies including IT leadership,
IT in medical school research, and the annual
student studies. He has also authored several
research bulletins. He is a specialist in qualitative research methods.
Gail Salaway
Gail Salaway earned her PhD in management of information systems from the
University of California, Los Angeles, in 1984.
She is a former Director of Administrative
Computing and Communications at UCLA,
where she was responsible for campus-wide
administrative information systems and
telecommunications services, and management of academic and general computing
initiatives. As an ECAR Fellow, she has been
principal investigator of research studies on IT
leadership, IT alignment, IT networking, and
undergraduates and IT.
Participating Institutions
Participation in the study was voluntary, and
each institution obtained approvals from its institutional executives and its institutional review
board (IRB).8 Therefore, the institutions participating in the study do not represent a statistical
representation of U.S. higher educational diversity as a whole (see Table 3-1). Specifically, they
are overwhelmingly four-year institutions (90 out
of 98 U.S. institutions participating). Responses
are further biased toward doctoral institutions
(46.5%), larger institutions (66.4% enroll more
than 8,000 students), and public institutions
(74.8%). Findings are therefore considered to
be instructive or indicative rather than conclusive of student experiences at different types
of institutions. Even considering these biases,
the 98 U.S. institutions that participated in this
study do reflect a mix of the different higher
education institution types in the United States,
in terms of Carnegie class, size of institution,
private versus public status, sources of funding,
35
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Table 3-1. Profile of Participating Institutions
Number of
Institutions
(N = 98)
Number of
Respondents
(N = 27,254)
Percentage of
Respondents
DR
44
12,664
46.5%
MA
32
9,051
33.2%
BA
10
1,443
5.3%
AA
8
3,317
12.2%
MED
1
198
0.7%
ENGR
2
142
0.5%
Other
1
439
1.6%
1–2,000
13
1,371
5.0%
2,001–4,000
13
2,328
8.5%
4,001–8,000
23
5,468
20.1%
8,001–15,000
24
9,303
34.1%
15,001–25,000
18
6,883
25.3%
More than 25,000
7
1,901
7.0%
Carnegie Class
Student FTE Enrollment
Control
Private
34
6,865
25.2%
Public
64
20,389
74.8%
and levels of technology emphasis. In this 2008
study, there was more participation from AA
institutions—eight institutions accounting for
12.2% of student respondents, compared with
four AA institutions accounting for 6.6% of
student respondents in the 2007 study.
Respondent
Characteristics
Invitations to participate in the survey
were sent by e-mail to more than 250,000
students—seniors and freshmen at 90 U.S.
four-year institutions and to general students
at 8 community colleges (see Appendix D).9 A
profile of responding students appears in Table
3-2. Although four-year institutions invited
only seniors and freshmen, some students
responded “other” when asked “What is
your class standing?” These students’ understanding of their own standing differed from
that of the official institutional record.
36
Freshmen from four-year institutions
make up 32.9% of the respondents, seniors
from four-year institutions make up 42.8%
of the respondents, and community college
students make up 12.2%. Female students
make up 63.2% of the respondents, despite
the strategy of oversampling male students
in the population. As in past years, student
respondents are weighted toward so-called
traditional students. The majority of respondents are under 25 years old (78.8%) and go to
school full time (84.0%). Freshmen most often
live on campus (79.0%), while seniors (78.4%)
and community college students (97.1%) most
often live off campus. The grade point averages for our respondents show 75.7% having
a B or better grade point average.
The overall student response rate in the
2008 study was 11.9%.10 A significant variation
by institution was observed, and the response
rate may be affected by a number of factors.
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Table 3-2. Profile of Student Respondents
Four-Year Institutions
Two-Year
Institutions
Total
Seniors
(N = 11,629)
Freshmen
(N = 8,924)
Other
(N = 3,272)
All Students
(N = 3,317)
All Students
(N = 27,317)*
Male
37.7%
37.5%
39.7%
29.1%
36.8%
Female
62.3%
62.5%
60.3%
70.9%
63.2%
18–19
0.4%
91.8%
12.5%
19.5%
34.3%
20–24
75.0%
4.4%
60.3%
29.6%
44.5%
25–29
10.1%
1.4%
8.6%
14.4%
7.6%
Gender
Age
30–39
7.2%
1.1%
8.7%
17.8%
6.6%
40-49
4.9%
0.9%
6.5%
13.4%
4.8%
50 and older
2.4%
0.4%
3.3%
5.3%
2.2%
On campus
21.6%
79.0%
33.7%
2.9%
39.7%
Off campus
78.4%
21.0%
66.3%
97.1%
60.3%
Full time
85.5%
96.5%
81.2%
48.0%
84.0%
Part time
14.5%
3.5%
18.8%
52.0%
16.0%
A
19.3%
17.0%
23.4%
21.7%
19.3%
A-
22.2%
18.8%
20.6%
12.8%
19.7%
B+
21.7%
20.0%
21.5%
19.3%
20.9%
B
16.2%
16.3%
14.0%
15.0%
15.8%
B-
11.2%
11.4%
7.6%
11.1%
10.8%
C+
4.7%
4.4%
4.0%
4.1%
4.5%
C
3.1%
4.6%
3.8%
4.7%
3.9%
C- or lower
0.3%
1.6%
0.9%
0.6%
0.9%
Don’t know
1.2%
5.8%
4.2%
10.6%
4.2%
Residence
Full/Part-Time Status
GPA
*There were 175 students who did not answer the question about their class standing.
First, there continues to be a proliferation
of spam, and since many spam e-mails can
contain computer viruses and other forms of
malware, it is not unlikely that students are
increasingly cautious about responding to the
e-mail invitation. Second, students continue to
receive numerous e-mails throughout the year
asking them to take a survey and win a prize.
Respondents identified their majors (see
Table 3-3). Note that the total number of
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
responses is larger than the overall number
of respondents (N = 27,317) due to many
respondents’ reporting more than one major
(14.8%). Because so many respondents are
freshmen, it is not surprising to find that 7.0%
are undecided. Also, more students selected
“other” than any other major category. This is
likely due to the proliferation of unique majors
and combination majors that don’t seem to
fit the listed major categories.
37
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Table 3-3. Student Respondents’ Majors
Major
N
Percentage
Other
5,853
21.4%
Life/biological sciences, including agriculture and health sciences
4,966
18.2%
Business
4,363
16.0%
Social sciences
4,085
15.0%
Education, including physical education
2,745
10.0%
Engineering
2,524
9.2%
Humanities
2,210
8.1%
Fine arts
1,911
7.0%
Undecided
1,902
7.0%
Physical sciences, including math
1,324
4.8%
Endnotes
1. ECAR is indebted to Robert Albrecht (ECAR), Carole
Barone (then with EDUCAUSE), Darwin Handel
(University of Minnesota), Diana Oblinger (then with
ECAR), Robert Kvavik (then with ECAR), and others
who participated in creating the ECAR study.
2. Previous years’ ECAR studies on undergraduate use of
IT are publicly available on the ECAR website, http://
www.educause.edu/ecar.
3. There is a single English-language version of the
survey that is designed to work internationally.
4. Some questions were deleted because they did not
work well or were no longer needed; other questions
were changed to make them clearer; new questions
were added to address issues identified as important
in 2007; some questions were reordered or their
format changed to tables in order to streamline and
simplify the survey; and questions were added about
student use of social networking sites.
5. In addition to potential sampling errors, there are
other potential sources of error that are not sample
related, such as the wording of the survey questions
(their meaning may not be clear) and, most notably,
nonrepresentative responses (a large percentage of
the students declined to take this survey). Because
the response rates in this study were lower than
hoped for at a number of schools, one cannot be
certain of how representative the respondents are
of their respective institutions or of this population
in general. Therefore, caution should be exercised
in assuming that the findings generalize beyond the
sampled students.
6. Staff from participating institutions used a variety of
methods to recruit students—posting advertisements
in various campus locations, making announcements
in large-enrollment classes, and e-mailing students.
Food and beverages were provided as incentives
to attend. Students who work in general-access
undergraduate student computing laboratories or for
student technology help desks were also included in the
focus groups. Students were advised of IRB regulations
that govern the research and their rights and of the
responsibility of the investigators to protect their rights.
Notes were taken. None of the comments made by
38
students and cited in this study identify any individual
student. In some instances, we corrected their English
but made no change in meaning.
7. The qualitative analysis for this study used a simple,
iterative codification analysis process. SPSS Text Analysis
for Surveys (v2.0) software was used as follows: (1)
terms and concepts were identified by frequency, (2) the
terms were evaluated by “type,” such as whether a term
or combination of terms had a positive or negative tone,
(3) terms and term pairings were reviewed for accuracy
and greater contextual understanding than provided
by the software, and (4) as needed, responses were
force-coded into additional categories, reclassified as
synonyms, and/or new study-specific terms were added
to the software dictionary. In addition, all responses
were reviewed manually for additional concepts, topics,
or patterns that need to be codified within the data.
This process required multiple reviews of the data, as
is common in grounded theory and similar approaches
to qualitative data analysis.
8. Each institution required approvals from institutional
executives and the IRB to participate in the study.
The approval processes, although navigated by an
institutional contact, varied considerably in difficulty
from institution to institution. Often, the information
required for approval was different from one institution
to the next. Although the investigators made every
attempt to provide all information required at the start
of the study solicitation, additional details were added
throughout the approval process to provide what
each institution required. The information collected
is confidential. No data from the quantitative survey
are presented that would make it possible to identify a
particular respondent. The data files used for analysis
have been purged of any information that would have
similar consequences. The IRB applications, application
dates, and approval dates are available from ECAR.
9. To encourage a larger response from the students,
ECAR offered 38 $50 gift certificates and 10 $100 gift
certificates to be awarded to students, using a lottery.
10. Several participating institutions did not provide
enrollment and sample information, so these data
were not included in the calculation for overall
response rate.
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
4
Ownership of, Use of, and Skill
with IT
We are a tech-savvy generation. But technology is moving too fast—even for us.
—An undergraduate student
Key Findings
◆
◆
◆
◆
◆
◆
◆
Laptop ownership increased again this year. Overall, 80.5% of respondents own them, and of
students living on campus, 90.8% own them. Freshmen arrive at college with laptops—71.1% own
a laptop less than one year old.
Two-thirds of respondents own an Internet-capable cell phone, but only 30.8% actually access the
Internet from a cell phone or PDA. Cost is cited as the primary reason.
Respondents spend an average of 19.6 hours per week actively doing online activities for school,
work, and recreation. Engineering students report the most time online. Community college students
spend less time online than their four-year counterparts.
Almost all students (more than 90%) use the college or university library website or use presentation software. Most use spreadsheets (85.9%), course management systems (82.3%), and graphics
software (73.9%).
Males download web-based music or video, play online multiuser games, and use video- and
audio-creation software more often than females. Younger students use communication tools
of text messaging, instant messaging (IM), and social networking sites (SNSs) more often than
older students.
Overall, respondents report that they are between “fairly skilled” and “very skilled” in the core technology and information literacy skills increasingly important to the academic experience. Seniors report
stronger skills than freshmen for using spreadsheets and using the college or university website.
Half of respondents (51.4%) say they are mainstream adopters of technology, 35.4% say they are
early adopters, and 13.2% say they are late adopters. Early adopters are more often male, report
stronger technology skills, and spend more time online.
W
hen ECAR launched its first study of undergraduates and IT in 2004,1 desktops, instead
of laptops, were the most popular computer
platform (63%), one in five students still used
dial-up Internet services (19%), and cell phones
were not yet ubiquitous, owned by only 82% of
respondents. Web 2.0 and its associated applications were too recent to even be included
in the survey. Now, just four years later, that
2004 technology world—dominated by e-mail,
word processing, a relatively unsocial Internet,
and simple cell phones—is truly the dark ages
©2008 EDUCAUSE. Reproduction by permission only.
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
39
Students and Information Technology, 2008
for today’s undergraduates. In fact, the 2008
survey no longer even asks about e-mail, word
processing, or simple cell phone ownership.
It comes as no surprise that the 2008 study
now finds most undergraduates highly active,
mobile, and versatile in the many technologies
they use. They especially take full advantage
of IT that supports creative communication
and flexible community—integrating IM, text
messages, blogs, and SNSs to chat, share all
kinds of digital photos and materials, and
plan, convene, and participate in every kind of
group imaginable. Beloit College’s “Mindset
List” for students graduating in 2010 and 2011
provides a sense of this generation’s culture
and their relationship to technology:2
◆ They are wireless, yet always
connected.
◆ “Google” has always been a verb.
◆ Being tech-savvy has always been
inversely proportional to age.
◆ The World Wide Web has been an
online tool since they were born.
◆ Music has always been “unplugged.”
◆ Text messaging is their e-mail.
This chapter begins our 2008 update,
presenting many useful findings from survey
data about the undergraduate experience
with both mainstream and selected emerging
technologies. It includes
◆ the current profile of student ownership of laptops, desktops, and webenabled cell phones,
◆ what computer and Internet activities
students currently engage in,
◆ how students assess their IT skills and
information literacy, and
◆ whether students think of themselves as early, mainstream, or late
adopters of technology, and how
these groups differ.
Technology Ownership
Past ECAR surveys have asked students what
technologies they owned, including music/video
devices, game devices, PDAs, and cell phones.
40
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Now, as mobile devices rapidly converge in the
functionality and services they offer, the actual
physical devices students own becomes less
meaningful. This year, the survey focused on
what actual activities students engage in using
technology, regardless of the physical delivery
system. The survey did, however, retain questions about personal computer ownership,
along with a question about ownership of
Internet-capable cell phones.
Personal Computers
Almost all respondents (98.5%) own a
computer (see Figure 4-1). Laptops are by far
the most popular choice (80.5%), although
more than half of respondents (53.8%) still
own desktops. Overall, new computers are
largely laptop computers—more than onethird (36.8 percent) of laptops are less than
one year old, whereas only 6.8% of desktops
are less than one year old. Again this year,
laptops gained relative to desktops. Among
respondents at the 44 institutions participating
in each of the past three studies, laptop ownership increased from 65.9% in 2006 to 82.2% in
2008 (see Table 4-1). The trend toward laptops
vis-à-vis desktops is expected to continue, but
more interesting will be watching what some
technologists are predicting—that converged
handhelds such as the iPhone will at some point
eliminate the need to carry around multiple
devices, including laptops.
One-third of respondents (35.5%) own
both a laptop and a desktop; for some the
laptop is newest, for others the desktop is.
Since newer computers generally have more
capabilities and better performance and are
more robust, ECAR looked at the profile of
students’ newest computer. In fact, most
respondents (68.9%) do own at least one
fairly new desktop or laptop computer (two
years old or less). However, about one in five
students (16.8%) does not own any computer
less than four years old and therefore is
more likely to encounter maintenance and/
or performance problems.
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
41.8
Less than 1 year
36.8
6.8
12.2
1 year
9.9
4.2
14.9
2 years
11.7
8.6
Age of Computer
Figure 4-1. Age of
12.8
3 years
Computers Owned
9.6
10.3
by Students
10.2
8.1
8.9
4 years
6.6
5 years or more
4.4
14.9
1.5
19.5
Don’t own
46.2
0%
5%
10%
15%
20%
25%
30%
35%
40%
45%
50%
Percentage of Students
Newest computer (N = 27,142)
Laptop computer (N = 27,220)
Desktop computer (N = 27,215)
Table 4-1. Change in Computer Ownership from 2006 to 2008 (44 Institutions)*
2006
2007
2008
(N = 14,329) (N = 13,375) (N = 13,057)
Absolute
Change**
Relative
Change**
Personal desktop computer
71.0%
59.7%
51.2%
-19.8%
-27.9%
Personal laptop computer
65.9%
73.5%
82.2%
16.3%
24.7%
*Data are based on student responses from the 44 institutions that participated in each of the 2006,
2007, and 2008 studies. While institutions remain the same, the actual students responding are different
each year.
**Absolute change is the difference between the 2006 and 2008 percentages. Relative change is the
absolute change as a percentage of the 2006 percentage.
Gender differences in computer ownership
are minor. Males own desktop computers at
a slightly higher rate (60.0%) than females
(50.1%), but there is no significant gender difference in ownership of laptops, which are increasingly the dominant platform. Most freshmen at
four-year institutions have new laptops when
they enter college, with 71.1% owning one less
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
than a year old and 80.4% owning one less
than two years old (see Figure 4-2). In addition,
those students who live on campus, regardless
of age or class standing, are more likely to own
laptops. A full 90.8% of on-campus students
have them. This makes sense because institutions and nearby local businesses both increase
the reach of wireless networks.
41
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
21.6
19.5
Less than 1 year
71.1
10.6
10.0
9.3
1 year
11.9
14.1
2 years
5.3
of Laptop, by
Class Standing
Age of Laptop
Figure 4-2. Age
7.9
3 years
12.7
2.7
3.4
4 years
15.5
1.2
4.2
5 years or more
6.5
1.6
40.4
Don’t own
21.8
8.8
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
Percentage of Students
Community college students (N = 3,306)
Seniors (N = 11,597)
Freshmen (N = 8,898)
Respondents from community colleges,
however, more often rely on older machines
and are less likely to own laptops, suggesting
that they may need greater use of computer
labs and other on-campus IT resources. Only
32.2% own a laptop less than two years old,
and two-fifths (40.4%) do not own a laptop
at all. Instead, they are more likely to own
desktops (77.0%) than students at four-year
institutions (50.5%). This general pattern
for community colleges held true for the
2006 and 2007 data as well. Finally, 1.5%
of respondents (416) report that they still do
not own any kind of computer. These respondents are fairly evenly distributed across the
demographic and institutional characteristics
ECAR asked about.
42
Internet-Capable Cell Phones
Colleges and universities are tracking the
maturation and price points for converged
handheld mobile devices as a platform for
providing IT services to students. Medical
schools are leading the way, aligning
student education with current medical
practices that make extensive use of handheld technology. Other schools are also
experimenting with web-enabled cell phone
applications, grappling with the technology
challenges of migrating applications to small
devices and extending the campus technology infrastructure as necessary—all in
an environment where vendor technology
platforms vary significantly and technology
is evolving quickly.
Students and Information Technology, 2008
Campus services accessed by handheld
mobile devices require that students, as well
as universities, be ready. Students not only
must own Internet-capable mobile devices
but also must activate and pay for using the
Internet feature. With respect to ownership, it
appears that many respondents are switching
out simple cell phones for web-enabled cell
phones, possibly as existing contracts expire.
Although the 2007 data showed that 86.1%
of respondents owned a simple cell phone
that did not have web access, the current
2008 data show that 66.1% of respondents
own a cell phone that does have web access,
and another 5.3% plan to own one within
the next 12 months (see Figure 4-3).3 Further,
respondents generally have clear plans about
whether they will or will not be purchasing a
web-enabled phone, with only 3.9% saying
they don’t know.
Even though two-thirds of students own
web-enabled phones, activating and using
this capability may or may not follow. Table
4-2 shows the distribution of answers to
the survey question “How often do you
access the Internet from a cell phone or
PDA for work, school, or recreation?”
About one-third of respondents (30.8%)
say that they do, and 17.5% are doing so
at least weekly. This suggests that students
are beginning to integrate Internet access
from mobile devices into their lives. Most
of this access is likely from cell phones,
since PDA s are a declining plat form.
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Interestingly, this trend was consistent
across the demographics of gender, age,
class standing, and Carnegie class.
Focus group students had a similar profile.
Among the 75 students who participated, 18
of them (24%) considered themselves users
of Internet applications with their cell phones.
One longtime user said, “I use it for e-mail,
web browsing, and calendaring to keep track
of projects. I’ve done this for two years.”
However, many of these active users said they
focused on just a few applications such as
music, e-mail, text, or maps. Market research
expects rapid growth of Internet use over smartphones. A February 2007 survey conducted by
Harris Interactive of adult cell phone owners
contrasted relatively high SMS (short message
service) text messaging use (36%) with much
less common Internet-based activities such
as checking e-mail (9%), finding information
using a search engine (7%), and accessing
the Internet for reasons other than search and
download (8%). Although these numbers are
low, many respondents also said they planned
to make much greater use of the Internet from
cell phones over the next three years.4
Students gave clear reasons for not using
the Internet from cell phones: The screen
is too little, the response is too slow, and,
especially, it is too expensive. One student
explained, “Accessing the Internet with your
cell phone is not worth it. It’s dumb to use
something so slow. It’s costing me and the
screen hasn’t popped up yet! While I’m talking
66.1
Yes
No, but plan to
purchase one in
next 12 months
Figure 4-3.
Internet-Capable
5.3
Cell Phone
Ownership
No, and don't plan
to purchase one in
next 12 months
24.8
(N = 27,200)
3.9
Don’t know
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
Percentage of Students
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
43
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Table 4-2. Use of the Internet from a Cell Phone or PDA (N = 27,163)
Frequency
Percentage of Students
Never
69.2%
Once per year
3.4%
Once per quarter or semester
4.4%
Monthly
5.5%
Weekly
3.8%
Several times per week
3.5%
Daily
10.2%
on the phone, the Internet is still on. That’s
costing me. When you get the bill for $100,
you realize that it’s not worth it.” Recognizing
the cost barrier, Apple dropped the price of its
8GB iPhone from $599 to $399 in September
2007. A marketing research firm, SurveyU,
polled 1,000 students and noted a dramatic
increase in demand for the iPhone after the
price reduction.5 Now available, the secondgeneration iPhone 3G, promoted as a web
device, is cheaper and is addressing some of
these student concerns. Similar competitive
devices are also coming to market.
Hours Online and
Internet Access Method
Respondents vary widely in how much
time they spend each week doing online
activities for school, work, and recreation
(see Figure 4-4).6 About one-third (36.2%)
spend 10 hours or less online each week,
and another third (32.9%) spend 11 to 20
hours per week online. The overall mean is
19.6 hours per week, and the median is 15
hours per week. At the high end of time spent
online, 7.4% of respondents spend 40 hours
per week or more on the Internet, about
double the mean response and in the range of
what is typically considered a full-time job. A
spring 2007 survey by Youth Trends reported
similar total time spent online and also looked
at time spent online for academic activities.
They found that full-time students at fouryear institutions spent 19.2 hours per week
online, up one hour from their previous year’s
44
findings. Further, females, on average, spent
12.4 hours per week on entertainment and
7.3 hours on academic activities. For males,
the average entertainment time was 12.1
hours per week and time spent on academic
activities was 6.6 hours per week.7
Differences based on age, gender, and
senior versus freshman standing are minor
overall. However, Carnegie classification
does seem to matter. Respondents at
doctoral institutions show the most hours
online (mean of 21.0 hours per week),
followed closely by master’s and bachelor’s
institution respondents (means of 19.2
and 19.1 hours per week, respectively).
Associate’s institution respondents report
spending by far the fewest hours doing
online activities (mean of 14.8 hours per
week), with well more than half using the
Internet 10 hours or less per week. A number
of factors may account for this pattern, such
as doctoral institutions having more engineering students and associate’s institutions
having more nontraditional students, whose
greater family and job responsibilities may
translate into less Internet use.
Time spent online also varies with student
major (see Table 4-3). Engineering majors
show the most time and life /biological
sciences and education majors show the least
time. Focus group students were sensitive
to the impact of their major on time spent
online. One student said, “I am both a nursing
major and a psychology major. For my nursing
work, I am on the computer all the time. This
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
27.3
9.1
0–5
10.2
28.7
6–10
24.2
23.9
12.7
18.7
18.4
11–15
11.5
16.1
16–20
Hours per Week
14.7
Figure 4-4. Hours
per Week Actively
5.3
21–25
9.4
9.8
Doing Online
Activities, by Class
Standing
5.0
8.2
8.3
26–30
1.2
3.1
3.5
31–35
2.7
36–40
3.9
3.3
5.5
7.1
More than 40
8.0
0%
5%
10%
15%
20%
25%
30%
Percentage of Students
Community college students (N = 3,307)
Seniors (N = 11,589)
Freshmen (N = 8,872)
is not the case with my psychology major.”
Computer science, engineering, and business
students said they are online more than their
social science friends. However, considering
the wide variation in major requirements, the
actual gap between the lowest- and highestuse majors does not seem large—just 7 hours
per week, or about an hour a day.
Now, in 2008, almost all respondents
use high-speed connections for their time
online. In previous years, although most
respondents reported use of high-speed
Internet access (either wired or wireless
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
broadband provided by the campus or
by the commercial sector), a significant
number of respondents reported that they
were still using dial-up services (11.9% in
2005, 9.8% in 2006, and 7.1% in 2007).
This year, the survey question was streamlined to simply ask whether Internet access
was via “high-speed (wired or wireless)” or
“dial-up services.” Virtually all respondents
now say their primary method of connection is high-speed Internet service (98.1%);
only 527 respondents (1.9%) reported
using dial-up services.
45
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Table 4-3. Hours per Week Actively Doing Online Activities, by Major
N
Mean Hours
per Week
Median Hours
per Week
2,511
24.8
20
Physical sciences, including math
1,313
21.2
15
Humanities
2,206
21.0
17
Social sciences
4,072
20.2
16
Business
4,343
19.9
15
Fine arts
1,901
19.9
15
Life/biological sciences, including agriculture and
health sciences
4,948
17.9
14
Education, including physical education
2,735
17.6
14
Major
Engineering
Computer and Online
Activities
What are students actually doing on
their computers and on the Internet all
these hours? Table 4-4 presents a profile
of selected student IT activities—basic core
applications, communications technologies,
and some new or emerging technologies—
and associated demographic factors.8 Last
year’s study found that the use of e-mail and
word processing had become ubiquitous,
so the 2008 survey did not again ask about
these activities. Technology basics for course
work—college and university library websites,
course management systems (CMSs), presentation software, and spreadsheets—are very
widely used. Fully 82.9% of respondents use
both spreadsheets and presentation software,
and only 5% do not use either. Even the more
complex software tools needed to create
audio or video are used by about one in three
respondents, with most of them doing so at
least once a quarter or semester.
Respondents make frequent use of
multiple modes of electronic communication. The ECAR 2007 data showed that use
of e-mail was universal, and the 2008 data
show that about three-fourths of respondents
use text messaging, SNSs, and IM. Fully 61.1%
use all three of these modes of communication. Some colleges and universities are now
taking advantage of students’ avid use of
46
text messaging, especially for emergency
notifications. Our focus group participants
were divided on this issue, with some liking
the idea and others saying that they do not
want to receive text messages from their
institutions. Cornell University finds a similar
interest pattern; they established an “opt-in”
program for SMS text messaging notifications
of campus emergencies, and as of February
2008, 56% of their students had opted to
receive these messages.9
Internet users increasingly contribute to
the online commons—by creating websites,
blogging, and posting photos, artwork,
videos, and other digital materials, to name
some of the most popular ways. ECAR
looked at this trend among undergraduates
to learn the extent of student participation
in Internet activities that go beyond traditional “surfing.” Specifically, the survey
asked whether students contribute content
to the web via three common venues: wikis
(such as Wikipedia, or a course wiki), blogs,
and photo or video websites (such as Flickr
or YouTube). Nearly one in five respondents (18.4%) reported adding content
to all three of these types of websites,
and 22.5% add content to at least one.
At the other end of the scale, almost two
in five students (38.7%) say they do not
add content to any of these three types
of websites.
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Table 4-4. Student Computer and Internet Activities
Students
Engaged
(N = 27,317)
Median
Frequency
of Use*
Associated
Demographic
Factors
Use the college/university library website
93.4%
Weekly
4-year institutions/
social sciences
Presentation software (PowerPoint, etc.)
91.9%
Monthly
4-year institutions/
seniors
Spreadsheets (Excel, etc.)
85.9%
Monthly
Seniors/business/
engineering
Social networking websites (Facebook, MySpace,
Bebo, LinkedIn, etc.)
85.2%
Daily
Age (younger)/reside
on campus
Text message
83.6%
Daily
Age (younger)
Course management system
82.3%
Several times/
week
4-year institutions
Download web-based music or videos
77.3%
Weekly
Male/age (younger)
Graphics software (Photoshop, Flash, etc.)
73.9%
Monthly
Fine arts
Instant message
73.8%
Almost All Students Engaged
Most Students Engaged
Several times/ Age (younger)/reside
week
on campus
Some Students Engaged
Contribute content to photo or video websites
(Flickr, YouTube, etc.)
46.6%
Monthly
–
Contribute content to wikis (Wikipedia, course wiki,
etc.)
38.2%
Monthly
–
Contribute content to blogs
34.1%
Monthly
–
Video-creation software (Director, iMovie, etc.)
32.9%
Once per
quarter/
semester
Male
Audio-creation software (Audible, GarageBand, etc.)
32.5%
Once per
quarter/
semester
Male
Use the Internet from a cell phone or PDA
30.8%
Weekly
–
Online multiuser computer games ( World of
Warcraft, EverQuest, poker, etc.)
29.4%
Monthly
Male
Podcasts
29.1%
Monthly
Male
Webcasts
25.0%
Monthly
Male
Social bookmark/tagging (del.icio.us, etc.)
16.7%
Monthly
–
Online virtual worlds (Second Life, etc.)
8.8%
Once per
quarter/
semester
–
*The median frequency of use is calculated only for those students engaged in an activity. It is the midpoint in
a series of data values; half the data values are above the median, and half are below. Data values are once a
year, once per quarter/semester, monthly, weekly, several times/week, and daily.
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
47
Students and Information Technology, 2008
The most popular of these three venues
are photo or video websites, with 46.6%
of respondents contributing material, most
often on a monthly basis. When talking about
video, students in focus groups frequently
mentioned YouTube. A male senior majoring
in television production described himself as
“a YouTube junkie. I put stuff out there and
look at stuff out there. I watch everything:
documentaries, music videos, someone’s
how-to video, everything.” Another male
student said, “I’m on YouTube all day long. I
watch home videos and television shows. You
name it, I watch it.”
Contributing to blogs also has a strong
showing; about one-third (34.1%) of respondents say they do so. A Pew Internet &
American Life Project study asked slightly
different questions and found that 33% of
college students keep and regularly post to
their own blog and that 54% read blogs.10 Our
student respondents described diverse uses for
blogs. A senior history major noted, “I started
my personal journal blog when I was abroad.
My family and friends could keep track of what I
was doing through my blog. Now my blog is my
ramblings. I get to show the world how witty I
am.” Another student wrote a comment about
a blog used for student government activities:
“Our student government blog is updated by
someone every day. This makes it interesting
and useful. We keep track of what is happening
through the blog. I also have a personal blog I
use to showcase my poetry.”
The survey also included questions about
two other highly interactive technologies:
online multiuser computer games and online
virtual worlds. Almost one-third (29.4%) of
students are engaged in online multiuser
computer games, and 8% of respondents
say they play these games several times per
week or more. Comments from students
indicated a few themes. One was the lack of
access to gaming due to institutional bandwidth limitations or other controls. Typical
of these comments were requests for their
48
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
institutions to “administer a persistent online
game environment” and “stop blocking online
gaming.” A handful of comments mentioned
online games in the learning context, such
as, “I especially like it when courses have
interactive games that let you practice skills or
review for tests.” Finally, students in the focus
groups expressed concern about time spent
on games, with comments such as, “I am
addicted to games at games.com, primarily
Scrabble and Monopoly. This is 24 x 7. I’ll be
up until 3:00 a.m. trying to beat a game” and
“I have a friend who skipped classes 10 days
in a row because he was playing a game.”
There is much less engagement in online
virtual worlds such as Second Life (used by
only 8.8% of respondents). However, given
the newness of this technology, it is notable
that about 4.1% of students already participate monthly or more often.
Where Gender Makes a
Difference
Despite the declining significance of gender
in such areas as computer ownership and time
spent on the Internet, gender differences persist
in the use of some emerging technologies, especially audio and video creation and multiuser
gaming. Figure 4-5 shows that almost twice as
many males as females use software to create
audio or video. Smaller gender differences exist
for use of podcasts and webcasts. And, as
found in previous years’ studies, males dominate
computer gaming. In 2008, more than twice
as many males (44.0%) as females (20.9%)
report playing online multiuser computer games.
Further, 21.1% of male respondents say they
play online multiuser computer games at least
once a week, and only 7.1% of females do so.
Where Age Makes a Difference
Today, traditional-age undergraduates are all
members of the Net Generation (millennial)—
born between 1982 and 1991—and have a
generally accepted set of defining characteristics. One compendium of essays, Educating
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Download web-based
music or videos
84.0
73.4
Audio-creation software
(Audible, GarageBand, etc.)
46.9
24.0
Video-creation software
(Director, iMovie, etc.)
44.8
25.7
Online multiuser computer games
(World of Warcraft, EverQuest, etc.)
Figure 4-5.
Use of Selected
44.0
20.9
Technologies, by
Gender
37.7
Podcasts
24.2
33.9
Webcasts
19.7
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
Percentage of Students
Male (N = 9,864)
Female (N = 16,918)
the Net Generation, looks at this generation
from the various perspectives that are relevant
to college experience.11 The authors highlight
the Net Generation’s social nature, their practice of creating and participating in a wide
range of flexible communities, and their use
of technology to facilitate this socialization and
connection with others—IM, text messaging,
gaming, blogging, and social networking.
The ECAR 2008 data reveal these characteristics, showing that this age group is the most
active in using the communication and collaboration technologies of IM, text messaging, and
SNSs (see Figure 4-6). Even within the Net
Generation, younger respondents are more
actively involved. Compared with respondents
20 to 24 years old, about 10% more of those
aged 18 and 19 use IM and SNSs several times
per week or more often. These communication
technologies are extremely pervasive among
the youngest students.
SNSs continue to gain in popularity from
previous years and are now used by fully
85.2% of respondents. Chapter 6 presents
a wealth of information and interesting
findings about how students are currently
engaged in SNSs.
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
Student Technology
Skills
Strong IT skills are essential for success
in the 21st century—for working within an
increasingly (electronically) collaborative
world, using computers and their growing
numbers of applications, navigating electronic media and information effectively, and
continually adapting to changing technologies. In response, a number of organizations
and initiatives have emerged to help engage
American education in understanding and
improving the IT skills of students.
This ECAR study, as well, looks at student
skills (on the basis of self-assessment) for
a set of computer technologies and information literacy practices important to the
undergraduate experience (and beyond).
ECA R also recognizes that academic
research finds that self-assessment is not a
perfect proxy for actual skills and, further,
that males often rate their skills higher than
females.12 Nevertheless, the ECAR skill data
about IT can provide insight into students’
perceptions about their IT skills and where
they are most and least comfortable with
these skills.
49
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
87.3
Social networking
websites (Facebook,
MySpace, Bebo,
LinkedIn, etc.)
76.9
47.2
15.9
Figure 4-6. Use of
Communication
Technologies
76.3
69.4
Text message
61.0
Several Times per
33.9
Week or More
Often, by Age
57.5
47.1
Instant message
31.1
22.1
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
Percentage of Students
18–19 years (N = 9,120)
20–24 years (N = 11,749)
25–29 years (N = 1,896)
30 years and older (N = 3,238)
Technology Skills SelfAssessment
Respondents have confidence in their skills
with presentation software, spreadsheets,
CMSs, and college and university library
websites, generally rating themselves between
“fairly skilled” and “very skilled” (see Table
4-5). For the top-rated skill—presentation
software—more than half of respondents
(55.8%) say they are “very skilled” or an
“expert,” and another third (36.6%) say they
are “fairly skilled.” However, skill ratings for
graphics software, used by a large number of
respondents (73.9%), are lower, somewhat
below “fairly skilled.”
Table 4-5 also notes demographic factors
associated with skills. The only significant
gender difference, even considering the
tendency of males to rate themselves
somewhat higher than females, is for
computer maintenance skills. Although
46.8% of males say they are “very skilled”
or “expert,” only 17.6% of females do so.
Perhaps more interesting is that males and
females report similar skill ratings for the
core technologies used in courses—CMSs,
50
spreadsheets, presentation software, and
the college/university library website.
As found in previous years’ studies,
students are not comfortable with their
computer maintenance skills. Slightly more
than one in four respondents (28.5%) rate
themselves as “very skilled” or “expert.” At
the other end of the scale, more than one in
three respondents (36.9%) rate themselves
as “not very skilled” or “not at all skilled.”
Invariably, when asked about their skills
with computer maintenance, focus group
attendees groan. A political science student
observed, “For computer maintenance, I
should have stronger skills. But I’m stronger
than my parents!” This is an important gap
in technology skill, considering that everyone
who owns a computer needs to engage in
computer maintenance to some degree.
There are also differences based on
student majors. Fine arts majors report somewhat more skill with graphics software, and
engineering and business majors report somewhat more skill with spreadsheets. In focus
groups, students spoke about the impact of
major on IT skills:
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Table 4-5. Student Technology and Information Literacy Skills
Associated
Demographic
Factors
Students
Using the
Technology
Mean*
Std.
Deviation
Presentation software (PowerPoint, etc.)
24,964
3.62
0.843
College/university library website
25,437
3.48
0.855
Seniors
Technology Skills
Age (older
students)
Spreadsheets (Excel, etc.)
23,387
3.41
0.893
Seniors/
engineering/
business
Course management system
21,578
3.39
0.832
–
Computer maintenance
27,028
2.90
1.130
Male/engineering
Graphics (Photoshop, Flash, etc.)
20,069
2.84
1.026
Fine arts
Using the Internet to effectively and
efficiently search for information
27,163
4.10
0.779
–
Evaluating the reliability and credibility of
online sources of information
27,159
3.62
0.919
–
Understanding the ethical/legal issues
surrounding the access and use of digital
information
27,181
3.42
1.010
–
Information Literacy Skills
*Scale: 1 = not at all skilled, 2 = not very skilled, 3 = fairly skilled, 4 = very skilled, 5 = expert
Note: Means and standard deviation calculations include only the students who use the technology.
◆
“Depending upon your major, you
become proficient in different areas [of
technology]. In biology, you use Excel and
PowerPoint. In philosophy, you use Word
and the course management systems. For
my philosophy major, I never have library
research. But I have for my biology major.”
(A junior biology and philosophy major)
◆ “My life would be in shambles if I didn’t
have Excel [for my economics major].”
(A senior economics major)
◆ “Arts students are strong in word
processing. They write more essays.
I’m strong in programming skills. Other
majors don’t have the programming
skills that I do.” (A sophomore electrical
engineering major)
For which technologies do skills increase
over the college years? In fact, seniors
reported stronger skills in two areas ECAR
asked about. For using the institution’s library
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
website, 54.9% of seniors rate themselves
as “very skilled” or “expert,” compared with
37.0% of freshmen. For spreadsheets, 51.2%
of seniors rate themselves as “very skilled” or
“expert,” compared with 34.8% of freshmen.
The lack of difference between seniors and
freshmen for other IT skills—presentation
and graphics software, CMSs, and computer
maintenance—could be due to a number of
factors. Freshmen may already bring CMS
and presentation software skills from high
school; the college experience may not affect
some skills such as computer maintenance;
freshmen may be more tech savvy in general;
or freshmen may be less realistic about their
IT skills and overrate them compared with
seniors. It’s also interesting that the skill levels
reported by community college students were
generally comparable to those reported by all
respondent populations (combined seniors
and freshmen) at four-year schools.
51
Students and Information Technology, 2008
This year again, students raised the issue of
tech savviness increasing with each younger
generation. Several students working on a
university help desk discussed this phenomenon. One said, “Older students seem to have
more technology problems. They often need
to know things like how to format their paper
and how to use the Internet, etc. Those who
come to college right out of high school are
more tech savvy.” Students also told us that
middle and high school students often know
more than they do. A freshman said, “The
youngsters are catching up faster than we
can go. My 11-year-old brother is teaching me
about technology. He and his friends know
how to bootleg a Nintendo DS!”
Finally, and as expected, the data show
that respondents who rate their technology
skills as being stronger have a higher technology use profile. They report that they
◆ engage more often in computer and
Internet activities,
◆ spend more hours per week online,
and
◆ identify themselves as earlier adopters
of technology.
Information Literacy SelfAssessment
There are many definitions for information
literacy, but in general it has been understood
to be the ability to know when information is
needed, how to find it, how to discern good
information from bad, and how to use it appropriately.13 ECAR asked three survey questions
about information literacy, derived from the
Association of College and Research Libraries
(ACRL) Information Literacy Competency
Standards for Higher Education—now the
most used framework for creating information
literacy initiatives and programs.14 Results show
that, overall, respondents consider themselves
to be quite Internet savvy (see Table 4-5 and
Figure 4-7). A full 79.5% give glowing reports
of their ability to search the Internet effectively
and efficiently. Almost half (46.4%) rate them-
52
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
selves “very skilled,” and another third (33.1%)
rate themselves as “experts.” Although their
confidence in their ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of online information and
their understanding of related ethical and legal
issues are lower, overall ratings are still high.
These positive perceptions about using the
Internet to find information seem to transcend
demographic differences. Response patterns
are generally consistent across gender, age,
student major, and Carnegie class.
In our student focus group sessions, students
also claimed strong information-seeking skills
and told us some of their strategies.
◆ “We can’t use Wikipedia as a source,
but I use it as a stepping-stone to other
sources such as dot-gov and dot-edu.
I also use library resources.” (A junior
history major)
◆ “Reliable sources are easy to find. I’ve
never seen anyone get higher than a
C grade on their paper when they use
Wikipedia. It’s unreliable and can be
changed all the time. I had a friend who
made an intentional error (changing
the army rank for an individual) and it
was still there four or five weeks later.”
(A sophomore political science major)
◆ “If a web page looks like it hasn’t been
updated since the beginning of the
Internet, it’s probably not OK. If it seems
up to date, it seems more reliable.” (A
sophomore computer science major)
◆ “They drill it into you since middle school
not to copy and paste. They teach you
about plagiarism.” (A sophomore)
Many educators believe that students’
perceptions about their net savviness are
questionable. It is a do-it-yourself approach
to information literacy; students rely on peers
(and may perpetuate misinformation from
peers) rather than on library staff or faculty;
and students may have excessive confidence
because they are unaware of the complexities
involved or just because they have grown up
with technology.15
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
0.4
1.6
Not at all skilled
3.6
1.6
Not very skilled
8.4
Figure 4-7.
13.4
Student
Information
18.5
Fairly skilled
34.1
34.8
Literacy SelfAssessment
46.4
Very skilled
38.6
33.6
33.1
Expert
17.3
14.6
0%
5%
10%
15%
20%
25%
30%
35%
40%
45%
50%
Percentage of Students
Using the Internet to effectively and efficiently search for information (N = 27,163)
Evaluating the reliability and credibility of online sources of information (N = 27,159)
Understanding the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of digital information (N = 27,181)
Student Technology
Adoption Profile
In the 2006 study, ECAR first asked
students about their “technology adoption” practice, using a standard scale
developed by Everett Rogers.16 In fact,
technology adoption turned out to be
ver y meaningful. It is strongly associated with respondents’ use and experience with IT both generally and in the
academic context. Therefore, in both 2007
and 2008, ECAR again asked students
to describe how they adopt technology.
Table 4-6 shows the overall distribution
of responses—a bell-shaped curve—with
half of respondents identifying themselves
as mainstream adopters. Note that more
than half of males (52.8%) claim that they
are early adopters or innovators, whereas
only one-fourth of females (25.2%) do
so. These findings parallel those from the
earlier ECAR studies.
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
Innovators and early adopters indicate
much better computer skills (see Figure
4-8). For example, even though presentation software is a basic tool and used by
91.9% of respondents, only about onethird (33.4%) of late adopters /laggards
think they are “very skilled” or “expert,”
compared with more than t wo -thirds
of innovators /early adopters. Especially
striking are the skill ratings for computer
maintenance, with more than half (54.8%)
of innovators /early adopters reporting
that they are “very skilled” or “expert,”
compared with only 8.7% of late adopters/
laggards. This same pattern of responses
also occurs for the information literacy skills
ECAR asked about (refer to Table 4-5).
This IT adoption factor is associated
with other technologies as well, especially
those that are new or more complex. For
example, twice as many innovators/early
adopters make frequent use of web-enabled
53
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Table 4-6. Respondent Technology Adoption, by Gender (N = 26,888)
Descriptor
Males
Females
All
Students
I am skeptical of new technologies and use them
only when I have to.
Laggard
3.0%
4.4%
3.9%
I am usually one of the last people I know to use
new technologies.
Late adopter
6.3%
11.1%
9.3%
I usually use new technologies when most
people I know do.
Mainstream
adopter
37.9%
59.3%
51.4%
I like new technologies and use them before
most people I know.
Early adopter
35.8%
20.1%
25.9%
Innovator
17.0%
5.1%
9.5%
Which best describes you?
I love new technologies and am among the first
to experiment with and use them.
71.1
Presentation software
(PowerPoint, etc.)
(N = 24,861)
50.4
33.4
60.4
Figure 4-8.
Respondents
Who Are Very
Skilled or Expert
with Technology,
by Technology
Adoption
36.8
Spreadsheets
(Excel, etc.)
(N = 23,288)
24.7
56.4
Using the college/
university library
website (N = 25,333)
43.3
32.2
Computer maintenance
(software updates,
security, etc.)
(N = 26,916)
54.8
15.2
8.7
37.9
Graphics software
(Photoshop, Flash,
etc.) (N = 19,975)
15.9
13.4
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
Percentage of Students
Innovator/early adopter
Mainstream adopter
Late adopter/laggard
cell phones or PDAs, online multiuser
games, and online virtual worlds than do
mainstream adopters (see Figure 4-9).
Understanding these differences between
early and late adopters may be useful in a
number of ways. Watching innovator/early
adopters’ use of new technologies provides
54
early information in preparation for the
mainstream adopters’ use that will follow.
Second, variation in technology adoption
implies variation in how students respond
to their institutions’ applications and technologies, and it is an important factor to
consider in deploying technology.
Students and Information Technology, 2008
Use the Internet from
a cell phone or
PDA weekly or more
often (N = 4,715)
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
25.9
13.3
10.8
Spend 30 hours or
more per week
actively doing online
activities (N = 3,792)
21.6
10.7
Figure 4-9.
7.0
Technology
Adoption Profile
Play online multiuser
computer games
weekly or more often
(N = 3,322)
19.7
8.7
6.5
Use online virtual worlds
(Second Life, etc.)
weekly or more
often (N = 671)
3.9
1.7
2.1
0%
5%
10%
15%
20%
25%
30%
Percentage of Students
Innovator/early adopter
Mainstream adopter
Late adopter/laggard
Concerns about Society
and Technology
A g a i n t h i s y e a r, s t u d e n t w r i t t e n
responses raised issues about the negative impact of IT on society. Although
these responses reflect the opinions of
a small portion of respondents, they are
consistent with previous years’ comments.
There was some discussion of legal issues
important to society, including intellectual
rights problems and the use of IT to harm
people. However, the primary concern was
about the depersonalization of society
and the overdependence on technology.
Following are representative views from
respondent comments:
◆ “We are a society so technically
advanced that we are beginning to
trade roles with technology. Instead
of humans being in charge of technology, technology is running our
lives...because we have given it
permission to do so.”
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
◆
◆
◆
“I could get to the point where I don’t
know how to talk with my friends
in person, because I’m so used to
communicating with them through
the written medium. I know IT helps
our society, but I’m afraid its hindering
effects are being glossed over, and
when the next generation grows up,
we will see negative consequences.”
“I think the creative flow and connection between people will be in danger
if we go too cyber. I think it will overall
damage our society if we begin to
rely too much on machines and not
on ourselves.”
“By incorporating technology into every
aspect of our lives, we are embracing
greater social distance and decreasing
the social development of many students.
Relationships can hardly be called so when
so many people never meet face-to-face.
We need to learn technology’s possibilities, but not guide our lives by it.”
55
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Endnotes
1. Robert B. Kvavik, Judith B. Caruso, and Glenda
Morgan, ECAR Study of Students and Information
Technology, 2004: Convenience, Connection, and
Control (Research Study, Vol. 5) (Boulder, CO:
EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, 2004),
available from http://www.educause.edu/ecar. This
initial study had fewer institutions (13) than the
following studies in 2005, 2006, and 2007.
2. The list can be found at http://www.beloit.edu/
mindset/index.php.
3. The number of respondents with Internet-capable
handheld devices may be larger, because this
question did not include ownership of Internetcapable devices other than cell phones—for example,
PDAs, pocket PCs, or the iPod touch.
4. Harris Interactive Public Relations Research, “A Study
about Cell Phone Usage,” http://www.resourceshelf
.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/06/ingenio.pdf.
5. Peter Cohen, “iPhone Price Drop Attracts College
Students,” Macworld, September 6, 2007, http://
w w w.macworld.com /article / 59880 /2007/ 09 /
surveyu.html.
6. This question was slightly changed for 2008 to
clarify that this was for time actively spent online.
The 2007 question was “How many hours each
week do you normally spend doing online activities
for school, work, and recreation?” The overall mean
was 18 hours per week. The 2008 question was
“Approximately how many hours each week do you
spend actively doing online Internet activities for
school, work, and recreation?” The 2008 overall
mean is 19.6 hours per week.
7. eMarketer.com, “Online Collegians Learn, Avoid
Learning,” August 10, 2007, http://www.emarketer
.com/Article.aspx?id=1005245&src=article2_newltr.
8. Demographic factors analyzed include gender, age,
major, on-campus or off-campus residence, part-time
or full-time enrollment status, and class standing
(senior, freshman, or community college student).
56
9. Joseph Lalley, “Emergency Communications Update”
(presentation at the annual [email protected] meeting in
Tempe, AZ, February 10, 2008), http://net.educause
.edu/ir/library/powerpoint/NMD08006D.pps.
10. Lee Rainie, “2.0 and the Internet World” (presentation
at Internet Librarian 2007, October 28, 2007), http://
www.pewinternet.org / PPF/r/108 /presentation_
display.asp.
11. Diana O bling er and Jam e s O bling er, e ds .,
Educating the Net Generation ( Boulder, CO :
EDUCAUSE, 2005), http://www.educause.edu /
EducatingtheNetGeneration/5989.
12. Eszter Hargittai and Steven Shafer, “Differences
in Actual and Perceived Online Skills: The Role
of Gender,” Social Science Quarterly 87, no. 2
(June 2006).
13. According to the American Library Association’s
“Presidential Committee on Information Literacy:
Final Report” (1989), “To be information literate, a
person must be able to recognize when information
is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate,
and use effectively the needed information.” See
http://www.ala.org/ala/acrl/acrlpubs/whitepapers/
presidential.htm.
14. Association of College and Research Libraries,
“Information Literacy Competency Standards
for Higher Education,” January 18, 2000, http://
www.ala.org /ala /mgrps/divs/acrl/acrlstandards/
informationliteracycompetency.cfm.
15. George Lorenzo, Diana Oblinger, and Charles
Dziuban, “How Choice, Co-Creation, and Culture Are
Changing What It Means to Be Net Savvy” (EDUCAUSE
Learning Initiative) (Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE, October
2006), http://connect.educause.edu/Library/ELI/
HowChoiceCoCreationandCul/39342.
16. Everett M. Rogers, Diffusion of Innovations (New
York: Simon & Schuster, 2003).
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
5
IT and the Academic
Experience
You have to watch! If you see technology being substituted for teaching, run.
—An undergraduate physics student
Key Findings
◆
◆
◆
◆
◆
◆
◆
◆
◆
Most respondents (59.3%) prefer a moderate amount of information technology (IT) in their courses. Males
prefer somewhat more IT in courses than females.
Seniors report more use of spreadsheet, presentation, and graphics software in their courses the quarter/semester
of the survey; freshmen report more use of social networking sites (SNSs); and community college students report
generally less use of technology overall. Student major is a differentiator of which technologies are used.
Only 23.0% of students agree that it would benefit students if their institution required them to take at least
one entirely online course; 22.6% disagree and 23.4% strongly disagree.
Half of respondents say they like to learn through programs they can control such as simulations and
video games. About one-third of respondents like to learn by contributing content to websites or through
podcasts and webcasts.
The percentage of respondents who have used a course management system (CMS) increased in 2007 and
remains at that level in 2008 (82.3%). Respondents are still positive (69.5%) about their CMS experience;
only 5.3% are negative.
Only half (49.8%) of respondents agree that their institution’s IT services are always available when they
need them for course work; 33.4% are neutral and 16.8% disagree.
Among respondents, 44.4% say that “most” or “almost all” of their instructors use IT effectively in courses,
and about one-third of respondents say that “most” or “almost all” of their instructors provide adequate IT
training, or understand student IT skill levels.
Most respondents (62.3%) say they do not skip classes when materials from course lectures are available
online. However, 17.1% do so.
Of IT outcomes about student engagement, improved learning, convenience of course activities, and workplace preparedness, respondents are most positive about convenience. Respondents who are positive about
these outcomes more often prefer more IT in courses, adopt IT earlier, and have a positive experience with
CMSs and instructor use of IT.
Chris Dede of the Harvard School of Education
observes that “faculty have typically used
advances in IT either to automate conventional
forms of instruction or to make small steps in
expanding the range of communication and
experience. But we have just scratched the
©2008 EDUCAUSE. Reproduction by permission only.
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
57
Students and Information Technology, 2008
surface in examining the options emerging
technologies offer for expanding the repertoire
of ways we think and learn together.”1 Our 2008
data on the technologies students employ in their
courses are consistent with this observation. Most
undergraduates now use common workplace
technologies and some specialized IT tools in
their course work, but even though students are
quickly adopting technologies emerging from the
Web 2.0 world in their personal lives, they do not
use them to any great extent in their course work.
Blogs, wikis, graphics, video- and audio-creation
software, podcasts, webcasts, multiuser games,
virtual worlds, and a host of other technologies
are still primarily used in the domain of students’
personal, rather than academic, lives.
At the same time, most students report
that they are not looking for extensive use of
IT in their courses. They are enthusiastic about
the convenience afforded by CMSs and other
IT, yet they place real value on face-to-face
interactions with instructors and classmates.
Even when course lecture materials are available online, most say they do not skip classes.
To a lesser extent, students perceive that IT
can improve their learning. And central to this
expectation of IT as enabler of convenience
and learning, students count on the institution’s IT services to be available any time they
need them. This need is not entirely met, with
only half of responding students agreeing that
institutional IT services are available whenever
they need them for courses.
Chapter 5 continues our 2008 update,
looking more deeply into findings about IT
and the academic experience, including
◆ how much IT students prefer in their
courses,
◆ a snapshot of technologies students
were using during the quarter/semester
of the survey,
◆ what types of technologies students
like to use for learning,
◆ the extent of CMS use and whether
students’ experience with them is positive or negative,
58
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
◆
◆
student opinions about their instructors’ use of IT in courses, and
student perceptions about the impact
of IT on their courses.
Preference for IT in
Courses
Each year, ECAR has asked students how
much IT they prefer in their courses, using a
5-point scale from “no IT” to “exclusive IT.”
Initially, ECAR expected that today’s undergraduates who have grown up with the
Internet and computers would prefer courses
heavily weighted with technology, in support
of both learning and course administration.
This has not been the case. In each of the past
three years’ studies, students report preferring
only a “moderate” amount of technology in
courses (between 55% and 60% of respondents). Now, in 2008, 59.3% of respondents
again say they prefer moderate IT in their
courses (see Figure 5-1).2 Few respondents,
about 1 in 20, prefer the extremes—either
no technology (1.9%) or exclusive technology
(3.6%) in their courses.
Amazingly, this desire for moderate IT in
courses has remained constant, while technology
has not. The types and number of technologies
in use have increased; what technologies are
popular with students has changed; and the
overall density of technology is much greater. It
follows that what respondents considered “IT”
four years ago is likely different from what they
consider “IT” today. In addition, various student
populations undoubtedly have different views
of what constitutes “IT.” For example, students
who experience technology as fully integrated
into their daily lives (rather like a fish in water)
may no longer think of some technologies, such
as networked services or enhanced cell phone
capabilities (including Internet access), as IT.
Despite this fluid technical environment and
diversity of perceptions, respondents continue
to state that they prefer only moderate IT in
courses. This strongly suggests a widespread
attitude that IT resources—no matter how
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
70%
59.3
60%
Figure 5-1.
Percentage of Students
50%
Preference for
40%
IT in Courses
(N = 27,168)
30%
21.4
20%
13.9
10%
3.6
1.9
0%
Prefer no IT
Prefer limited IT
Prefer moderate IT
students think about them—are best situated
in learning environments where technology is
balanced with other learning activities, including
face-to-face interactions in the classroom and
with faculty and classmates.
Consistent with previous years’ studies, male
respondents express a stronger preference for IT
in courses, with 33.7% preferring extensive or
exclusive IT in courses, compared with 19.8%
of females. However, there is little difference on
the basis of the other student demographics of
age, class standing, major, part-time or full-time
status, and on-campus or off-campus residence.
Especially interesting is the finding that for the
first time this year, age no longer makes a meaningful difference. Previous years’ studies found
that younger students preferred less technology
in courses and older students preferred more.3 In
2007, that difference was slight, and it appeared
that there might be a trend away from age
being a differentiator. Now, looking at the 2008
data, that trend is confirmed, and the pattern of
preference for IT in courses is generally consistent across age groups. One speculation is that
this is largely because technology is becoming
increasingly integrated into the lives of learners
in all age groups.
The desire for moderate IT in courses was
evident in student comments from both the
survey’s open-ended question and student
focus groups. Students place real value on
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
Prefer extensive IT
Prefer exclusive IT
face-to-face instruction. One student said,
“Nothing can adequately replace face-toface lectures and recitations. Nothing. I don’t
care how expensive the computers are, how
high-definition the video is, or how fancy
the presentation software is.” Research by
Lotkowski, Robbins, and Noeth supports these
comments. They examined more than 400
studies about factors contributing to student
retention and degree completion, validating
that improving student success is associated
with strengthening the formal and informal
contacts with the institution that develop
confidence and competence in core communication skills. In sum, “face time” with faculty
and peers contributes to students’ feeling
included and integrated into the academic
environment, and ultimately contributes to
their success.4 Further, data from previous
ECAR studies find that students aren’t always
positive about how instructors use IT, and this
may also contribute to their preference for
only moderate technology in courses.
Technologies Used the
Quarter/Semester of the
Survey
Respondents identified which technologies they were actively using as part
of their courses at the time of the 2008
ECAR survey (February 15 through April
59
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
7, 2008). Table 5-1 shows that three technologies were used by many respondents:
spreadsheets, presentation software, and
college or university library websites. Given
the prodigious amount of information on
the web, it’s significant that two-thirds
of respondents (67.7%) report accessing
their institution’s library website during the
quarter/semester of the survey. Surprisingly,
the range of use reported by different
majors is relatively small. All majors other
than engineering show between 67%
and 77% of respondents using the library
website during the quarter/semester of the
survey; fewer engineering students (55.5%)
report doing so.
Seniors from four-year institutions report
using more presentation, spreadsheet, and
graphics software in courses this quarter/
semester than either freshmen or community college respondents. This usage profile
reflects that upper-division courses, often
smaller and focused on student major,
make greater use of these core applications.
Community college use is lower for most
technologies on the list.
Some technologies are used much more
overall (for combined school, work, and recreation) than just specifically in courses during the
quarter/semester of the survey (see Table 4-4
for overall use). Of special interest is the much
higher overall use of podcasts (29.1%) and
Table 5-1. Technologies Used in Courses the Quarter/Semester of the Survey, by Class
Standing
Community
College
Seniors
Freshmen
Students
(N = 11,629) (N = 8,924) (N = 3,317)
All Students
(N = 27,317)
Many Students Used This Quarter/Semester
College or university library website
70.8%
69.5%
53.2%
67.7%
Presentation software (PowerPoint, etc.)
73.1%
58.9%
41.8%
63.5%
Spreadsheets (Excel, etc.)
50.9%
38.8%
26.0%
43.3%
Few Students Used This Quarter/Semester
60
Wikis
19.3%
21.1%
14.9%
19.3%
Social networking websites (Facebook,
MySpace, Bebo, Linkedln, etc.)
15.4%
21.0%
11.3%
16.6%
Graphics software (Photoshop, Flash, etc.)
16.5%
10.7%
10.5%
13.5%
Instant messaging
12.8%
16.5%
8.8%
13.4%
Programming languages (C++, Java, etc.)
10.6%
9.7%
5.3%
9.8%
Discipline-specific technologies
(Mathematica, AutoCAD, STELLA, etc.)
10.5%
8.5%
5.1%
9.3%
Blogs
7.9%
7.5%
5.4%
7.4%
E-portfolios
8.1%
3.9%
3.0%
5.9%
Podcasts
4.2%
4.8%
1.5%
4.2%
Video-creation software (Director,
iMovie, etc.)
4.7%
3.6%
2.0%
3.9%
Audio-creation software (Audible,
GarageBand, etc.)
3.4%
3.4%
2.1%
3.2%
Webcasts
2.9%
2.1%
2.6%
2.7%
Online virtual worlds (Second Life, etc.)
1.0%
0.9%
1.6%
1.0%
Students and Information Technology, 2008
webcasts (25.0%) compared with their specific
use in courses during the quarter/semester of
the survey (4.2% and 2.7%, respectively). Yet,
even though webcast and podcast use is low
overall, at certain institutions usage of these tools
is high. Students in the focus group at Coppin
State University, for example, all reported using
webcasts in their courses and were pleased with
their contribution to learning.
In 2008 as in previous years, student
comments about podcasts (both audio and
video) were quite positive—valued as a tool for
missed classes and for studying course materials. A typical comment was, “Podcasts for
my cognitive psychology class were amazing.
It made studying for exams so much easier
because I was able to look at the holes in my
notes and relisten to the lecture to understand.
I was also more focused on listening in class
rather than frantically taking notes.”
There is a similar pattern for audio-creation
and video-creation software. While about a
third of respondents report using these software
tools overall, fewer than 4% were using them
for course work during the quarter/semester
of the survey. This suggests that students are
learning and using these technologies, but not
necessarily for formal academic reasons. In fact,
the 2007 ECAR survey found that two-thirds
of respondents said they learned video/audio
software out of personal interest.5
The data show that 8.8% of respondents
are already using online virtual worlds, and 1.0%
used them in courses the quarter/semester of
the survey. These online environments are in
very early stages of adoption, and ECAR will
track their growth in future studies. At this point,
according to Linden Lab, maker of Second Life,
at least 70 U.S. colleges and universities have
taken up the challenge of using Second Life in
an academic setting.6 A recent ECAR research
bulletin describes a sampling of use in higher
education teaching and learning. For example,
Vassar College has built a Vassar Castle and a
re-creation of the Sistine Chapel to enhance the
learning experience.7
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Blogging in the academic contex t
received mixed reviews. Negative comments
came from students who did not like blogs
used in place of class discussions, questioned the inclusion of personal information on class blogs, or felt faculty members
“force using blogs when it doesn’t seem
natural or necessary.” Others were enthusiastic about the course benefits of blogs,
with comments such as “I feel I have more
freedom to express myself” or “topics that
don’t get discussed long enough in class can
be fleshed out more online.”
Where Student Major Matters
In Chapter 4, ECAR reported qualitative data about students’ IT experience—
specifically, that because their majors vary
in the technologies required, students’
majors are influential in determining which
IT skills they develop. The quantitative data
on what technologies are used in courses
this quarter/semester, shown in Table 5-2,
support this idea, indicating how technology use varies by major. This finding is
generally consistent with past years’ studies
and lends support to the idea that careful
decisions about where IT is introduced
in courses can have a positive impact on
student skill levels.
Overall, engineering students are the
top users of spreadsheets, and also of the
complex technologies of programming
languages and technologies specific to their
engineering discipline. Business majors are
second in the use of spreadsheets, essential to the business world. Fine arts majors
make greater use of graphics, video creation, and audio-creation software.
E-portfolios continue to be primarily
used by education majors. They are often
used as a tool for teacher applicants to
communicate the status of their teacher
education requirements and qualifications
to school district administrators. There
is speculation that e-portfolios will be
61
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Table 5-2. Technologies Used in Courses This Quarter/Semester, by Major
N
Percentage
Engineering
1,401
55.5%
All other majors*
12,547
72.8%
Engineering
1,837
72.8%
Business
2,827
64.8%
743
56.1%
Life/biological sciences
2,372
47.8%
All other majors*
3,405
31.1%
Fine arts
636
33.3%
Engineering
521
20.6%
2,108
10.7%
Fine arts
186
9.7%
All other majors*
760
3.4%
College or University Library Website
Spreadsheets (Excel, etc.)
Physical sciences
Graphics Software (Photoshop, Flash, etc.)
All other majors*
Video-Creation Software (Director, iMovie, etc.)
Audio-Creation Software (Audible, GarageBand, etc.)
Fine arts
247
12.9%
All other majors*
587
2.5%
1,097
43.5%
Physical sciences
320
24.2%
All other majors*
986
4.9%
Programming Languages (C++, Java, etc.)
Engineering
Discipline-Specific Technologies (Mathematica, AutoCAD, STELLA, etc.)
Engineering
1,009
40.0%
Physical sciences
331
25.0%
All other majors*
1,045
6.6%
Education
616
22.4%
All other majors*
975
4.6%
E-Portfolios
*Responses not coded as one of the standard majors (“other” or “undecided”) are excluded.
adopted by other majors linked to professions requiring professional certifications.
To date, this does not appear to be the
case. Since 2006, when ECAR first asked
this question, the overall use of e-portfolios
has not significantly increased for education or other majors.
62
Textbooks and IT
In their written responses, students raised
issues about online course reading materials
and textbooks—with about as many positive
as negative comments. Much, but not all,
of the discussion centered on costs, and the
following themes emerged:
Students and Information Technology, 2008
◆
◆
◆
◆
Textbooks with IT elements. Some
students find the multimedia approach
to content beneficial. A typical comment
was, “I really enjoy the websites
connected with my textbooks, which
offer further study aids. My GPA is 4.0,
and I credit these sites with helping me
both achieve and maintain academic
excellence.” Others objected to the additional costs. For example, one student
said, “Books with IT are very expensive.
The two books for anatomy cost $240
because of the additional IT.”
Cost savings of online readings and
electronic books. Many students are
sensitive to textbook costs. One student
summed up, “Readings posted online
are mercifully free (instead of ridiculously
priced textbooks), and it’s nice to be
able to access them from anywhere.”
Another said, “The best use of IT would
be online textbooks. They cost too
much, especially when you consider that
students, the ones with no money, are
the ones required to buy them.”
To o much scre en time . Typical
comments were, “I do not like sitting
at my computer squinting at 30 pages
of text, but it is a pain to print them,
and at 10 cents a page it can get
expensive,” and “I hate reading textbooks online. This is because I spend
most of my day on a computer and
don’t want to go home and read on
the darn thing.”
De - emphasizing textbooks. One
student said, “I have found (via Google)
other four-year institutions that have
physics/chemistry lessons available
online that teach key concepts 10
times more effectively. Sometimes I
find myself learning concepts from
these sites rather than trying to use
the assigned textbook.” Another said,
“I didn’t buy textbooks this semester.
I haven’t missed them.”
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Online Courses
Are there differences in perspective
between students who are taking more
online courses and those who are not? To
answer this question, students were asked if
they were currently taking “entirely” online
courses. Only 2.8% of respondents were
enrolled exclusively in online courses, and an
additional 11.9% were taking a mix of online
and face-to-face courses.8
The strongest factor associated with
whether respondents are or are not taking
online courses is part-time or full-time status
(see Figure 5-2). Almost no full-time students
were taking all online courses, but more than
1 in 10 part-time students were doing so.
Older respondents, regardless of part-time
or full-time status, are also more inclined
toward online courses. Nearly one-third
(30.6%) of respondents aged 30 and older
were enrolled in one or more entirely online
courses the quarter/semester of the survey, in
contrast with only 8.0% of respondents 18
and19 years old and 13.6% of students 20 to
24 years old. This likely reflects the fact that
older students and part-time students often
have more family and work responsibilities,
and value the flexibility offered by online
courses.
In fact, nontraditional students (including
part-time and older students) are driving
the increase in online enrollments. In a fiveyear study on the growth of online learning
published in 2007, the Sloan Consortium
found that between 2002 and 2006, community colleges (with their higher numbers of
nontraditional students) had the highest
growth rates and accounted for more than
one-half of all online enrollments. Bachelor’s
institutions had the fewest enrollments and
lowest growth rate.9 Similarly, the ECAR
data show 20% of associate’s respondents
taking at least one online course the quarter/
semester of the survey, in contrast with
6.9% of bachelor’s respondents. The Sloan
Consortium expects this trend to continue.
63
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
100%
87.3
90%
80%
Enrollment in
70%
Online Courses the
Quarter/Semester
of the Survey,
by Part-Time/
Full-Time Status
(N = 26,963)
Percentage of Students
Figure 5-2.
74.9
60%
50%
40%
30%
20%
13.6
11.6
10%
11.5
1.1
0%
Full-time student
Part-time student
No online courses
Some online courses
All online courses
The question about online courses triggered
many student comments. For those who like
online courses, it is not surprising that the most
common reasons were the convenience offered
and the ability to take courses that would
otherwise not be available to them. Often these
responses came from nontraditional students.
Some students also commented positively
about online courses that were highly (electronically) interactive with other students and the
instructor. One student expressed these ideas,
saying, “I enjoy the convenience of online classes
and believe students put more thought into their
online posts than a student would have put into
a comment made aloud in a classroom. It also
allows discussion on any topic to continue to
develop over the course of a semester.”
However, despite perceptions that
students like online courses, the majority
of written comments were negative. The
following major themes emerged from the
open-ended comments:
◆ The lack of face-to-face interaction
detracts from learning. As expected, this
is the most common theme, with a typical
comment being “I feel that nothing rivals
human instruction and interaction. There
64
◆
◆
◆
is more in-depth understanding purveyed
in class through discussion and debate.
Expressions and body language and verbal
cues all contribute to our learning and
understanding of key concepts.”
Online courses are too conducive to
cheating. One student says, “Cheating
is practically encouraged in this domain.
One person I know has her husband
taking the class while she works.”
There are technical issues. Problems
are cited about network and software
performance and error-prone processes,
resulting in difficulties taking online exams
and submitting course work. One student
said, “It is frustrating when the server
crashes during finals week or during times
of high usage. There’s also too much
room for error, e.g., hitting the wrong key,
when taking online exams.”
Online courses are more demanding
and require students to “teach themselves.” One student summed this up,
saying, “I find that the course loads
are far heavier than in-class courses,
so all gains in terms of convenience
are totally lost.”
Students and Information Technology, 2008
Most comments expressed a preference
for balance, to incorporate technology
in courses for convenience and creative
teaching but to retain the valued classroom
experience. This adds support to our earlier
finding that most students prefer moderate
IT in their courses.
A number of institutions, thinking that
it is important for students to experience
online courses, are considering the value of
making this a requirement. The ECAR survey
therefore asked students whether they agreed
or disagreed with the statement “It would
benefit students if my institution required
students to take at least one entirely online
course.” Figure 5-3 shows a resounding lack
of support for this idea, with only 23.0% of
respondents agreeing. Are students who are
actively taking one or more entirely online
courses more positive? The data show that
they are, with 43.9% agreeing that the
requirement is a good idea.10 Still, not even
half of these students think a requirement is
a good idea. The negative response may be
due both to the general lack of enthusiasm for
online courses noted earlier from the qualitative data and to respondents’ taking issue
with making the course a “requirement.” One
student noted, “I have participated in many
online courses and my experience is positive.
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
However, I do not feel it should be mandatory.
That would restrict freedom of choice, and not
everyone learns well in that environment.”
How Students Like to
Learn with Technology
Educators using IT in courses are very interested in understanding how their students
think about technologies as learning tools.
To gather information about this topic, ECAR
solicited help from Edward Dieterle while
he was a doctoral student at the Harvard
Graduate School of Education. In 2007 he
designed a set of four questions (see Figure
5-4), and in 2008 ECAR added an additional
question about learning through creating or
listening to podcasts or webcasts.
Learning by searching the Internet has
become commonplace, and most respondents
say they like it (80.2%). The website students
most often talked about in focus groups,
and one that was also mentioned in survey
comments, was Wikipedia—its state of flux
and unreliability as a source, its contribution to
learning, and how instructors disallow its use
as a reference. Some students were adamantly
critical, with comments such as “Sites/services
like Wikipedia and the general Internet are
horrible and should not be used under any
circumstances in the academic realm.” Others
30%
25.0
25%
23.4
Figure 5-3. It
22.6
Percentage of Students
Would Benefit
Students if
20%
16.4
My Institution
Required Students
15%
to Take at Least
10%
6.6
One Entirely
6.1
Online Course
(N = 27,110)
5%
0%
Strongly
disagree
Disagree
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
Neutral
Agree
Strongly
agree
Don’t know
65
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
I like to learn by
running Internet searches.
(N = 27,021)
80.2
I like to learn through programs
I can control, such as video
games, simulations, etc.
(N = 26,908)
Figure 5-4. How
Students Like
to Learn with
Technology
13.2
50.8
I like to learn through text
-based conversations over
e-mail, IM, and text messaging.
(N = 26,971)
33.5
44.3
I like to learn through
contributing to websites,
blogs, wikis, etc.
(N = 26,866)
10%
14.5
46.9
29.0
0%
15.6
41.2
35.5
I like to learn through
creating or listening to
podcasts or webcasts.
(N = 26,869)
17.5
45.2
20%
6.6
30%
40%
50%
25.8
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
Percentage of Students
Yes
No
Don't know
do turn to Wikipedia for answers, writing
comments such as “In one of my classes there
is no textbook. Sometimes Wikipedia is where
we find the articles we are looking for.”
As in 2007, about half of respondents say
they like to learn through programs they can
control, such as video games and simulations
(males more so than females). This finding
that so many respondents are positive about
gaming in a learning context is consistent with
the assessment of digital game-based learning
(DGBL) by Richard Van Eck of the University of
North Dakota. He asserts that after years of
DGBL research, there is now widespread public
interest in using games as learning tools. He
cites three contributing factors: the ongoing
research conducted by DGBL proponents; the
increased popularity of games; and the match
between DGBL and Net Generation characteristics—that they require multiple streams
of information, prefer inductive reasoning, like
frequent and quick interactions with content,
and have exceptional visual literacy skills.11
66
Interestingly, the majority of respondents
are selective, with 50.9% reporting that
they like to learn using just two or three of
these technology groups. The number of
respondents who like to learn using all five
technology groups is relatively small (only
8.7%), as is the number of respondents who
do not like to learn using any of these technology groups (9.4%). Further, since many
respondents may not be experienced in these
technologies, especially in a learning context,
it is not surprising that a large proportion
(6.6% to 25.8%) report that they do not
know whether or not they like to learn using
these technology groups.
ECAR data show consistency between
respondents’ choice of technology groups
they like for learning and the technologies
they report using in general:
◆ Respondents who like to learn by
contributing to websites, wikis, blogs,
and the like also report more use of wikis
and blogs in their courses the quarter/
Students and Information Technology, 2008
semester of the survey and more often
add content to wikis, blogs, or photo
and video websites in general.
◆ Respondents who like to learn through
creating or listening to podcasts or
webcasts also report more use of
podcasts and webcasts in their courses
the quarter/semester of the survey
and make more use of podcasts and
webcasts in general.
There is noticeably more enthusiasm for
these learning technologies among those who
are early adopters of technology (see Figure
5-5). Currently, at least half or more of early
adopters/innovators like to learn using each of
these technology groups, and the differences
between early and late adopters are especially
large for the newer technologies on the list.
Course Management
Systems
The 2005 and 2006 ECAR studies reported
that about 72% of all respondents had taken
a class using a CMS.12 Then, in 2007, the data
showed a significant jump to 82.0% for the
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
whole respondent population. Other research
from EDUCAUSE and the Campus Computing
Project report corroborated this 2007 ECAR
finding.13 This year, ECAR data show that
exposure to CMSs remains at this increased
level (82.3%) and also indicate that the
frequency of CMS use has remained the same
as last year. Seniors, having spent more years
in college, report greater use of CMSs than
freshmen. Community college students report
the least use of CMSs (see Figure 5-6).
Most respondents say that their overall
CMS experience is either positive (57.8%)
or very positive (11.7%) (see Figure 5-7).
Although only 5.3% of respondents report a
negative CMS experience, that represents a
large number of actual respondents (about 1
in 20), especially considering the large number
of CMS users and their overall high frequency
of CMS use. Respondents reporting a positive
CMS experience show a stronger technical
profile. They prefer more IT in their courses,
are more often early adopters of technology,
use a CMS more frequently, and are more
confident about their CMS skills. These
76.5
I like to learn by
running Internet searches.
85.2
90.2
I like to learn through programs
I can control, such as
video games, simulations, etc.
41.5
53.5
Figure 5-5. How
75.9
Students Like
I like to learn through textbased conversations over e-mail,
IM, and text messaging.
40.4
to Learn with
49.0
Technologies,
59.8
by Technology
I like to learn through
contributing to websites,
blogs, wikis, etc.
30.2
Adoption
37.8
54.8
I like to learn through
creating or listening to
podcasts or webcasts.
26.5
34.5
49.5
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
Percentage of Students
Late adopter/laggard (N = 2,578)
Mainstream adopter (N = 9,907)
Innovator/early adopter (N = 7,368)
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
67
Students and Information Technology, 2008
90%
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
85.3
77.1
80%
Figure 5-6.
Students Who
Have Used a CMS,
by Class Standing
Percentage of Students
70%
60.1
60%
50%
40%
32.6
30%
18.3
20%
12.7
10%
7.3
4.6
2.0
0%
Seniors
(N = 11,629)
Freshmen
(N = 8,924)
Community college students
(N = 3,317)
Have used a CMS
Have not used a CMS
Don’t know
70%
57.8
60%
50%
Positive/Negative
Experience
Using a CMS
(N = 21,598)
Percentage of Students
Figure 5-7.
40%
25.2
30%
20%
11.7
10%
4.2
1.1
0%
Very negative
Negative
findings are generally consistent across the
institutional characteristics of Carnegie class,
size of student enrollment, and private versus
public status; across student demographics of
gender, age, and major; and across the past
three ECAR studies.
CMSs are very much on the minds of
students. Nearly one in six of the written
survey comments mentioned CMSs in some
context. Positive and negative comments
were about equal, with positive comments
focusing on the convenience of tracking
grades and getting posted assignments and
68
Neutral
Positive
Very positive
readings. Most of the complaints centered
on reliability, but they also included the lack
of user friendliness, poor faculty use, and
the lack of consistent use by instructors.
One student respondent thought that the
convenience of the CMS was so great that
the university should “make all professors use
this technology, at the minimum for posting
grades. It is great to have homework, notes,
examples, sample tests, etc., available to view.
It is more flexible than office hours, and much
more convenient for students to keep up with
their academic standing.” Results from the
Students and Information Technology, 2008
EDUCAUSE 2007 Core Data Service report
suggest that many students may have cause
for similar sentiments. At the vast majority
of campuses, faculty use CMSs selectively;
fewer than 30% of institutions report that
the CMS is used for all or nearly all courses.14
Some specific CMSs received more positive
(or negative) comments in student responses
than other systems, suggesting that from a
student perspective there is a difference in
CMSs and their implementations.
Availability of IT
Services for Course Work
In 2007 a considerable number of respondents discussed problems accessing IT
services—interruptions of the network,
unavailability of the CMS, difficulty uploading/
downloading files, and so forth. So in 2008,
the survey asked respondents whether they
agreed or disagreed with the statement “My
institution’s IT services are always available
when I need them for my course work.” The
question focused specifically on availability for
course work, excluding availability for recreation or work. The goal, of course, would be
to have all students agree, but in fact Figure
5-8 shows that only half (49.8%) do so. The
mean agreement is 3.39.
That leaves one-third of respondents
neutral (33.4%) and another 16.8% actually
in disagreement. A natural question, then, is
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
whether this opinion about service delivery is
consistent across the board or is found disproportionately at a subset of institutions. By far,
most institutions (81.6%) show between 40%
and 59% of students agreeing or strongly
agreeing that IT services are always available for course work (see Figure 5-9). Very
few institutions receive lower marks from
students, and only one institution had a rating
above 70%. Clearly, from a student perspective, there is room for improvement.
Table 5-3 shows that respondents’ CMS
experience is highly associated with how
they perceive their institution’s IT services
availability for course work. Of those who
agree or strongly agree that IT services are
always available, 78.3% report a positive
or very positive CMS experience; of those
who disagree or strongly disagree, only
54.3% do so. This is not surprising, considering that comments about CMSs from the
open-ended survey question often speak
to their availability.
Student written comments corroborate
this finding: They expect the network to be
reliable, easy to use, and fast enough not only
for course work but also for recreation. In
addition to online game players’ complaints
about network bandwidth or blocking of
games, students talked about videos being
too slow to watch, taking too long to load, or
experiencing breaks in the video stream.
45%
40.0
40%
Figure 5-8. My
33.4
Percentage of Students
35%
Institution’s IT
30%
Services Are
25%
Always Available
20%
When I Need
Them for My
12.8
15%
9.8
10%
Course Work
(N = 26,947)
4.0
5%
0%
Strongly disagree
Disagree
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
Neutral
Agree
Strongly agree
69
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
30
Figure 5-9.
24
25
22
Profile of Students
Who Agree That
IT Services Are
Always Available
Number of Institutions
Institutional
20
17
15
10
7
6
for Course Work
(N = 98 Institutions)
17
4
5
1
0
0
0
70–74%
75–79%
80–84%
0
0
35–39%
40–44%
45–49%
50–54%
55–59%
60–64%
65–69%
85–89% 90–100%
Percentage of Students Who Agree
Table 5-3. IT Services Are Always Available for Course Work, by CMS Experience
N
Mean*
Std.
Deviation
234
2.78
1.298
Negative
910
2.87
1.108
Neutral
5,391
3.16
0.949
Positive
12,340
3.49
0.896
Very positive
2,484
3.85
0.963
CMS Experience
Very negative
*Scale: 1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neutral, 4 = agree, 5 = strongly agree
Also, as with prior years, the expectation
level for wireless coverage on campus is high.
Numerous comments primarily asked for more
wireless access or that the existing wireless be
made more reliable and faster. For example,
“It is rather annoying that in certain places on
campus I cannot pick up a wireless signal to
access the Internet. I like to be able to reference or look up things online while a professor
is giving his/her lecture.”
Skipping Classes When
Materials Are Online
Increasingly, through the campus CMS
and other venues, course materials are made
available online—syllabi, reading materials,
sample exams, discussion boards, podcasts,
lecture notes, PowerPoint presentations, and
so on. In fact, in the 2007 study, almost all
respondents with access to a CMS used the
70
online syllabus (97.7%) and online readings
and links to other text-based course materials
(96.5%).15 Students report that this use of
technology is a great convenience. However,
they are also clear that they value face-toface classroom interaction. The survey asked
about the effect of easy online access to
course materials on classroom attendance—
are students tempted to skip classes? Figure
5-10 indicates that most students say “no.”
The mean value is 2.26 (on the scale of 1 =
strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree), and
almost two-thirds of respondents (62.3%)
disagree that they skip classes for this reason.
However, about one-sixth of respondents do
say that online access to course materials does
result in their skipping classes.
Students spoke to the issue of skipping class
in their open-ended comments. There was a
preference for instructors to post materials and
Students and Information Technology, 2008
35%
31.6
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
30.7
30%
Figure 5-10.
Percentage of Students
25%
I Skip Classes
20.6
When Materials
20%
from Course
13.7
15%
Lectures Are
Available Online
10%
(N = 27,016)
3.4
5%
0%
Strongly disagree
Disagree
a general opinion that if professors do not add
value in the classroom, then students are more
likely to skip class. One student summed it up:
“I believe that IT in courses is great when lecture
is emphasized along with it. When professors
repeat the same material that is on the website,
students often skip class. However, if professors
are able to communicate the online material
creatively, students often do attend class.”
Instructor Use of IT in
Courses
The 2007 ECAR survey asked respondents
whether “Overall, instructors use IT well in
my courses.” Although instructors received
generally good marks, with more than half of
respondents in agreement, more than 13%
disagreed.16 The questions for the 2008 survey
were modified on the basis of what students
said in the 2007 focus groups and open-ended
survey comments about instructor shortcomings using IT. To get more granular data on
student perceptions, the measurement scale
was changed, asking respondents to estimate
how many of their instructors—almost none,
some, about half, most, or almost all—used IT
effectively, provided students with adequate
IT training, and understood their students’ IT
skills (see Figure 5-11).
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
Neutral
Agree
Strongly agree
The bottom-line finding is that fewer than
half of students think that “most” or “almost
all” of their instructors meet the criteria stated
in each of our questions about IT in courses.
The distributions of responses for these questions are surprisingly consistent across student
demographics and types of institutions.
Respondents are most positive about the
effective use of IT in courses, with 44.4%
indicating that “most” or “almost all” of their
instructors do so. With respect to the new
questions about training, students are less
enthusiastic. Only one-third of respondents say
that “most” or “almost all” of their instructors
provide adequate IT training or understand
student skill levels; about half of respondents
say that only “some” or “almost none” of their
instructors do so. Many students commented
that instructors need more training themselves,
especially in commonly used software—not only
so that instructors will use technology better, but
also so they can help students. One comment
was, “Instructors should receive IT training
(Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, Desire2Learn,
etc.) and pass that knowledge to students. This
would make classroom learning more effective.”
This was echoed by a senior: “Faculty should just
use technology. It’s not going away. The longer
they wait, the harder it will be.”
71
Students and Information Technology, 2008
Use IT effectively
in courses
(N = 26,102)
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
8.1
26.3
26.4
21.3
18.0
Figure 5-11.
Instructors and IT
in Courses
Provide students with adequate
training for the IT the instructor
uses in his or her course
(N = 25,282)
20.9
Understand the IT skill
levels of their students
(N = 24,775 )
29.9
17.3
0%
10%
15.1
31.5
20%
30%
16.0
40%
50%
60%
70%
22.3
11.8
24.0
11.2
80%
90%
100%
Percentage of Students
Almost no instructors
Some instructors
About half of instructors
Most instructors
Almost all instructors
A number of older students confessed
to a lack of technology skills compared
with their younger peers and noted that
instructors do not take older students into
consideration. One older student said, “I
think many professors are more than willing
to use IT in courses but then provide no
support at all for students who are older
or just unfamiliar with IT. The professors
always pass the buck to IT support call
centers. The call centers do what they can,
but it would be preferable for the professors to provide support, considering it is
their content and their choice to use IT.”
What factors make a difference in
student perception about instructor use of
IT? The data show that respondents who
prefer more technology in their courses,
use technologies more frequently, and are
more skilled are generally more positive
about their instructors’ use of IT in courses.
This is especially true for CMSs, where
51.6% of respondents reporting positive
CMS experience say that “most” or “almost
all” of their instructors use IT effectively;
only 27.6% of those repor ting negative CMS experience do so. This finding
confirms that there is high payoff for work
72
done by campuses and their vendors to
ensure and improve high-quality, easy-touse CMSs for faculty and students.
Opinions about faculty use of IT—directly
or indirectly—again dominate responses to
the survey open-ended question. The content
and themes are consistent with those found
in the 2007 qualitative data and reported in
depth in the 2007 study report.17
IT Outcomes Related to
Student Success
One of higher education’s finest hours
will be when it can be shown definitively
that its enormous IT investments have a
positive impact on student success. Today,
however, after decades of research and
debate, a full understanding of what leads
to student success—even without factoring
in the IT component—remains an ongoing
challenge. To deepen higher education’s
knowledge of student success, the National
Postsecondary Education Cooperative (NPEC)
sponsored a three-year initiative on student
success. In their May 2007 summary report
of the project’s culminating symposium,
student success is defined at its simplest as
getting students into and through college
Students and Information Technology, 2008
to a degree or certificate. The report then
acknowledges that student success is a
generic label for a topic with many dimensions, ranging from student flow across the
entire educational pipeline, to quality and
content of learning and skills achieved as a
result of going to college, to positive educational experiences (such as student engagement or satisfaction).18
Because the question of student success
is so important, ECAR created four positive
“outcome statements” about the impact of
IT in courses and asked students whether
they agreed or disagreed. These statements
are derived from the significant body of
literature generated by the NPEC initiative, and each represents a key dimension
of student success.19 Findings about these
outcome statements are described in the
sections that follow.
◆ Student engagement. Over time,
student engagement has been consistently and positively linked to student
success. 20 ECAR asked if students
agreed with the statement “I get
more actively involved in courses
that use IT.”
◆ Convenience. Support for course
activities is known to be associated with learning. 21 ECAR asked if
students agreed with the statement
“IT makes doing my course activities
more convenient.”22
◆ Learning. ECAR included an overall
self-assessment by students, asking
them if they agreed with the statement
“The use of IT in my courses improves
my learning.”
◆ Workplace preparedness. In the 2007
comments, many students expressed
their desire to be prepared, IT-wise,
for jobs upon graduation. ECAR asked
students if they agreed with the statement “By the time I graduate, the IT I have
used in my courses will have adequately
prepared me for the workplace.”
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Perhaps the most obvious measure of
student success is grade performance (GPA).
For this reason, ECAR asks students for a
self-reported cumulative GPA and looks at
how GPA is related to other survey data.23
For example, are some current technologies—such as the Internet, spreadsheets,
video- and audio-creation software, or
complex gaming learning tools—associated
with higher GPAs? Are other technologies—such as downloading music and
video, gaming, or social networking sites
(SNSs) —so distracting to academic studies
that they negatively affect GPA? The ECAR
data suggest that after controlling for
known demographics that are related to
GPA, such as age and gender, the other
factors that ECAR analyzes are not strongly
associated with respondent GPA.
Overview of Student
Perceptions about IT’s Impact
on Courses
Figure 5-12 shows the distribution of
responses for the ECAR outcome questions about student engagement, learning,
convenience, and workplace preparedness.
Convenience is the clear front-runner. Here,
the number of agree responses (65.6%)
far out weighs the combined disagree
and neutral responses (34.4%). This is
not surprising, because repeatedly in past
studies—in both the quantitative data and
the qualitative data—students have told us
that convenience was the most valuable
benefit of IT in courses. As one student
told us, “Convenience makes it easier
to learn!”
Perhaps most important is whether
students perceive that IT in courses actually improves their learning. The data
show that just fewer than half (45.7%)
of respondents agree or strongly agree.
Students made frequent reference to IT in
this context, with comments such as “IT has
greatly enriched my learning experience”
73
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
60%
Figure 5-12.
Student
Perceptions about
IT in Courses
Percentage of Students
50%
46.9
44.4
39.3 38.4
40%
30%
37.0 38.5
25.9
25.0
18.7
17.3
20%
11.1
10.8
10%
6.5
5.9
7.3
4.3
3.2
6.2
9.5
3.9
0%
I get more actively
involved in courses
that use IT.
(N = 27,049)
The use of IT
in my courses
improves my learning.
(N = 27,009)
IT makes doing my
course activities
more convenient.
(N = 26,894)
By the time I graduate,
the IT I have used in my
courses will have adequately
prepared me for the workplace.
(N = 27,010)
Strongly disagree
Disagree
Neutral
Agree
Strongly agree
or “I took biology and if it weren’t for the
computer, I wouldn’t have learned it. I could
see the visualization of cells.” However,
typical comments qualified the benefit of
IT in learning—recognizing the contribution
IT makes and at the same time pointing
out that classroom learning is important
and that IT must be used effectively. A
common thought was, “Used effectively,
IT can enhance the learning experience—
sometimes even encourage students to learn
better. However, IT is only one tool out of
the many available for teaching/learning; it
is not the only tool.”
At the same time, more than one in
six students (15.1%) disagree that IT in
courses improves their learning. Some of
their comments belie the notion that all of
today’s students are happy digital natives.
One 22-year-old student, apparently in
this group, commented, “I have found
that I learn more, receive higher grades,
and participate more in classes that do
not require or even use IT as a part of the
learning experience. I much prefer taking
lecture notes (from a blackboard instead
of PowerPoint) and reading textbooks
74
to taking online quizzes and doing other
online course activities.”
It’s noteworthy that in previous years’
studies (2005 through 2007), student
responses to this question about learning
were more positive. More than 60% agreed
that IT in their courses had improved their
learning, compared with 45.7% agreeing
this year. At the other end of the scale,
previous years’ data showed that fewer than
10% of respondents disagreed, compared
with 15.1% disagreeing this year. ECAR
looked carefully at possible reasons for this
change. One factor may be the 2008 survey
instrument itself, which was streamlined
and changed the placement of this question
vis-à-vis other questions, and also changed
the wording from past tense to present
tense to be consistent with other questions. These differences in the 2008 survey
may have had some impact on respondent
answers. Another possibility is that the data
may be showing, at least in part, a real trend
toward less agreement. As IT continues to
be more integrated into respondent lives, it
may be shifting how students think about
IT in relation to their course work. This
Students and Information Technology, 2008
2008 change is interesting and possibly
quite important, but it is not yet possible to
establish a proper interpretive context for
this finding. ECAR will look carefully at both
qualitative and quantitative data in 2009 to
gain further insight.
About half of respondents (48.0%)
agree that upon graduation the IT used in
their courses will have adequately prepared
them for the workplace, and another third
(37.0%) are neutral. The large number of
neutral responses may indicate a lack of
familiarity with the workplace. Student
written responses included comments
about career and workplace preparedness—most often the need for institutions
to teach in their courses the IT that will be
needed in the workplace. This need is also
evident among those not yet in college. The
Project Tomorrow Speak Up 2007 survey
found that high school students consistently identified good technical skills as the
top capability they need to be successful in
the 21st century. 24
Students are concerned about knowing
both commonly used software and software specific to their majors. One student
says, “I have held several internships in
major Fortune 500 firms, and they expect
you to already have a very good knowledge
of software like Excel and PowerPoint. I
simply believe that students cannot be
successful without this knowledge.” A
computer science major says, “For my
major, applied math and computer science,
I believe I would benefit if the ‘tools of the
trade’ were actually used more often—for
example, learning and using Linux extensively in labs so that students are not just
programming.” A number of students in
the focus groups pointed to the value of
internship, with comments such as, “As a
biology major, we learn background information. We are not learning technology. If
it weren’t for internships, I wouldn’t learn
the technologies I need.”
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Of the four outcome statements, there is
least agreement about IT’s contributing to
student engagement. Instead of responses
skewed toward agreement, as with the
other outcome statements, responses
here form a more traditional bell-shaped
curve. Although nearly one-third (31.8%)
agree, the large majority of respondents
are either neutral or actually disagree.
The next section reports that IT’s impact
on student engagement is most strongly
associated with student preference for IT
in courses, indicating that those students
preferring more IT in courses are the ones
who most often report more engagement
in courses that use IT.
Chapter 4 reported that student use of
and skill with IT varies on the basis of student
major. Table 5-4 shows that student perceptions about the impact of IT on courses also
vary on the basis of major. Overall, actual
differences between majors are small, and
the pattern of responses is similar for each of
the four outcome statements. Business and
engineering majors are somewhat more positive about the value of IT to their academic
experience than students in the other
disciplines. For example, 56.0% of business
majors agree that IT in courses improves
their learning; only 35.1% of humanities
majors do so. Looking back at Table 5-2,
one explanation might be that students in
disciplines such as business and engineering
are using more IT in courses (for example,
spreadsheets or programming languages)
that directly applies to the course subject.
In contrast, students in majors such as social
sciences and humanities may use IT more as
a support function (such as CMSs) and find
face-to-face discussions more central to the
course subject matter.
Response patterns for the ECAR outcome
statements about the impact of IT on
courses are consistent across demographic
factors—gender, age, class standing, GPA,
part-time versus full-time enrollment status,
75
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Table 5-4. Student Perceptions about IT in Courses, by Major
By the time I
graduate, the IT
I have used in
my courses will
have adequately
prepared me for the
workplace.*
N
I get more
actively
involved in
courses that
use IT.*
The use of
IT in my
courses
improves my
learning.*
IT makes
doing my
course
activities
more
convenient.*
Business
4,288
3.31
3.54
3.90
3.57
Engineering
2,498
3.29
3.48
3.83
3.57
Physical sciences, including math
1,311
3.11
3.37
3.75
3.36
Education, including physical
education
2,701
3.01
3.26
3.63
3.36
Life/biological sciences, including
agriculture and health sciences
4,886
3.00
3.31
3.69
3.33
Fine arts
1,887
2.92
3.20
3.62
3.29
Social sciences
4,039
2.92
3.23
3.69
3.26
Humanities
2,179
2.78
3.10
3.57
3.14
26,894
3.07
3.34
3.72
3.39
Major
All students**
*Scale: 1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neutral, 4 = agree, 5 = strongly agree
** This includes responses for “other” and “undecided” majors
on-campus versus off-campus residence,
Carnegie class, institution size, and private
versus public status.
What, then, matters when it comes to
IT’s impact on courses? The ECAR data
show that the following factors are positively and strongly associated with the four
outcome statements:
◆ student preferences for IT in courses,
◆ student technology adoption
practices,
◆ experience with instructors’ use of
IT in courses,
◆ positive or negative experience with
CMSs,
◆ perceptions about the availability of
IT services for course work at their
institution
◆ how students like to learn using
technology, and
◆ student skill levels in using IT.
These are discussed in the sections that
follow.
76
Preference for IT in Courses,
IT Adoption Practice, and
Outcomes
The factor most strongly associated with
the outcome statements about IT’s impact
on courses is how much IT respondents
prefer in their courses (see Figure 5-13).
Respondents who prefer more IT in courses
agree more that IT has a positive impact on
course work. With respect to learning, only
15% of respondents who prefer limited
or no IT in courses agree that IT improves
their learning; in contrast, 74.4% of respondents who prefer extensive or exclusive IT
in courses agree. These relationships are
extremely strong, and the wide range of
student preference for IT is important to
recognize and integrate into institutional
decisions. For example, some institutions
now provide information about the IT that
will be used in scheduled courses so that
students can factor this into their course
enrollment choices.
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
2.95
IT makes doing my course
activities more convenient.
3.69
4.27
Figure 5-13.
2.58
The use of IT in my courses
improves my learning.
Student
3.30
3.91
By the time I graduate, the IT
I have used in my courses will
have adequately prepared
me for the workplace.
Perceptions about
IT in Courses, by
2.83
Preference for IT
3.37
3.78
in Courses
2.24
I get more actively involved
in courses that use IT.
3.01
3.76
0.0
0.5
1.0
1.5
2.0
2.5
3.0
3.5
4.0
4.5
Mean*
Prefer limited or no IT (N = 4,219)
Prefer moderate IT (N = 15,890)
Prefer extensive or exclusive IT (N = 6,675)
*Scale: 1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neutral, 4 = agree, 5 = strongly agree
Although not shown here, there is a similar
stair-step pattern when looking at respondents’
technology adoption practices. Respondents who
are early adopters of technology are more apt
to be positive about the impact of IT on courses
and learning. This is expected because students’
technology adoption practices and their preference for IT in courses are highly correlated.
Instructors’ Use of IT, Student
Experience with CMSs, and
Outcomes
Research about the connection between
instructor competence and student learning
validates the intuitive idea that when instructors
use effective educational practices, students
have a better academic experience.25 It follows
that when instructors integrate IT into effective
teaching practices, students would be more
likely to perceive both that their instructors use
IT well in courses and that the effect of IT on
their courses is positive. The data support this
premise (see Figure 5-14). Among respondents
reporting that “most” or “almost all” of their
instructors use IT effectively, 56.6% agree that
IT in courses improves their learning; among
respondents reporting that only “some”
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
or “almost none” of their instructors use IT
effectively, only 34% agree that IT in courses
improves their learning.
CMS experience is also a strong differentiator
when it comes to the ECAR questions about
IT’s impact on courses. Respondents having
an overall positive CMS experience more often
report that IT in courses improves learning,
convenience, and student engagement. Also
interesting, students who indicate that their
institution’s IT services are always available for
course work are much more likely to agree with
these outcome statements. It makes sense that a
robust IT services environment promotes convenience, which can positively impact learning.
Finally, two other factors are associated with
positive outcomes of IT in courses, although
not nearly as strongly as the factors already
discussed. Respondents reporting stronger IT
skills and respondents who say they like to learn
by using the technologies asked about in the
survey—such as programs they can control;
contributing to websites, blogs, wikis, and
the like; creating or listening to podcasts or
webcasts; and text-based conversations over
e-mail, IM, and text messaging—are more
positive about the benefits of IT in courses.
77
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
3.46
IT makes doing my course
activities more convenient.
3.77
3.93
Figure 5-14.
Student
Perceptions about
IT in Courses,
by Instructors’
Effective Use of IT
By the time I graduate, the IT
I have used in my courses
will have adequately prepared
me for the workplace.
3.08
3.38
3.65
3.07
The use of IT in my courses
improves my learning.
3.36
3.56
in Courses
2.81
I get more actively involved
in courses that use IT.
3.09
3.29
0.0
0.5
1.0
1.5
2.0
2.5
3.0
3.5
4.0
4.5
Mean*
Almost none or some instructors use IT effectively (N = 8,851)
About half of instructors use IT effectively (N = 5,468)
Most or almost all instructors use IT effectively (N = 11,431)
*Scale: 1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neutral, 4 = agree, 5 = strongly agree
Endnotes
1. Gail Salaway and Judith Borreson Caruso, with Mark
R. Nelson, The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students
and Information Technology, 2007 (Research Study,
Vol. 6) (Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE Center for Applied
Research, 2007), available from http://www.educause
.edu/ecar. See Chapter 2 by Chris Dede.
2. The distribution of responses in 2008 forms a bellshaped curve, as did the distribution of responses in
each of the 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 studies.
See Robert B. Kvavik, Judith B. Caruso, and Glenda
Morgan, ECAR Study of Students and Information
Technology, 2004: Convenience, Connection, and
Control (Research Study, Vol. 5) (Boulder, CO:
EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, 2004);
Robert B. Kvavik and Judith B. Caruso, ECAR
Study of Students and Information Technology,
2005: Convenience, Connection, Control, and
Learning (Research Study, Vol. 6) (Boulder, CO:
EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, 2005);
Gail Salaway, Richard N. Katz, and Judith B. Caruso,
The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and
Information Technology, 2006 (Research Study,
Vol. 7) (Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE Center for Applied
Research, 2006); and Salaway and Caruso, ECAR
Study of Undergraduate Students and Information
Technology, 2007, all of which are available from
http://www.educause.edu/ecar.
3. These findings are discussed in detail in the 2005, 2006,
and 2007 ECAR studies of undergraduate students and
information technology, whose bibliographical data
were given in endnotes 1 and 2.
4. Veronica A. Lotkowski, Steven B. Robbins, and Richard
J. Noeth, The Role of Academic and Non-Academic
Factors in Improving College Retention (ACT, 2004),
http://www.act.org /research/policymakers/pdf/
college_retention.pdf.
78
5. Salaway and Caruso, ECAR Study of Undergraduate
Students and Information Technology, 2007.
6. Linden L ab, ht tp: / /simteach.com / wiki / index
.php?title = Institutions_and_Organizations_in_
SL#UNIVERSITIES.2C_COLLEGES_.26_SCHOOLS.
7. AJ Kelton, “Second Life: Reaching into the Virtual
World for Real-World Learning” (Research Bulletin,
Issue 17) (Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE Center for
Applied Research, 2007), available from http://www
.educause.edu/ecar.
8. The distribution of the 98 participating institutions
is as follows: 84 institutions had fewer than 5%
of respondents taking entirely online courses, 10
institutions had between 5% and 10%, 2 institutions
had between 12% and 15%, and 2 institutions had
between 40% and 45%.
9. I. Elaine Allen and Jeff Seaman, “Online Nation:
Five Years of Growth in Online Learning,” The
Sloan Consortium, October 2007, http://www
.sloanconsortium.org /publications /survey /pdf/
online_nation.pdf.
10. These results are just an approximation because some
of the students who are not taking an entirely online
course the quarter/semester of the survey may have
taken one in the past, and it is likely this would affect
their opinion of whether or not the requirement of
an online course would benefit students.
11. Richard Van Eck, “Digital Game-Based Learning: It’s Not
Just the Digital Natives Who Are Restless,” EDUCAUSE
Review 41, no. 2 (March/April 2006): 20, http://
connect.educause.edu/Library/EDUCAUSE+Review/
DigitalGameBasedLearningI/40614.
12. Some students do not recognize the term course
management systems, especially because institutions
often give their CMS a local name. Therefore, this year
the wording of the question was changed slightly to
explain what is meant by a CMS. The question for
Students and Information Technology, 2008
2005 through 2007 was of the format “Have you ever
taken a course that used a course management system
(e.g., ANGEL, WebCT, Blackboard, Desire2Learn,
Moodle, Sakai, OnCourse, FirstClass)?” The question
for 2008 was “Have you ever taken a course that used
a course management system (CMS)? A CMS provides
tools such as online syllabi, sample exams, and grade
book (e.g., WebCT, Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Sakai,
or a campus-specific system).”
13. John Camp, Peter DeBlois, and others, “Current
Issues Survey Report, 2007,” EDUCAUSE Quarterly
30, no. 2 (2007), http://educause.edu/apps/eq/
eqm07/ eqm0723.asp; EDUCAUSE Core Data
Service, 2005 and 2006, http://www.educause
.edu/coredata/ (finding was generated directly from
the data available through the service); and Casey
Green, Campus Computing 2006: The 17th National
Survey of Computing and Information Technology
in American Higher Education (Encino, CA: Campus
Computing, 2006), 12.
14. Brian L. Hawkins and Julia A. Rudy, EDUCAUSE
Core Data Service, Fiscal Year 2006 Summary
Report (Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE, 2007), http://net
.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/pub8004.pdf.
15. Salaway and Caruso, ECAR Study of Undergraduate
Students and Information Technology, 2007, 70–1.
16. Ibid., 72–74.
17. Ibid., 85–88.
18. Peter Ewell and Jane Wellman, “Enhancing Student
Success in Education: Summary Report of the NPEC
Initiative and National Symposium on Postsecondary
Student Succes s,” ( National Pos t secondar y
Education Cooperative, 2007), http://www.cpec
.ca.gov / CompleteReports / ExternalDocuments /
NPEC_Ewell_Report.pdf.
19. ECAR explicitly acknowledges important limitations
to our data and process, including real limits to the
application of survey research and self-reported
outcomes about learning and engagement; an
unmeasured nonrespondent bias to the ECAR
web-based survey coupled with a near certainty that
web-based surveys are likely to result in somewhat
inflated responses; and unresolved questions about
the interplay between institutional action and
student impact.
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
20. The National Sur vey of Student Engagement
defines student engagement to mean student
participation in course activities that are provided
for their learning and personal development. See
The National Survey of Student Engagement,
“Engaged Learning: Fostering Success for All
Students” ( NSSE, 2006), http://nsse.iub.edu /
NSSE_2006_ Annual_Report /docs / NSSE_2006_
Annual_Report.pdf; and George D. Kuh, Jillian
Kinzie, Jennifer A. Buckley, Brian K. Bridges, and
John C. Hayek, What Matters to Student Success:
A Review of the Literature, Commissioned Report
for the National Symposium of Postsecondary
Student Success: Spearheading a Dialog on
St u d e nt S u c c e s s ( N a t i o n a l P o s t s e c o n d a r y
Education Commis sion, 20 0 6 ) , ht tp : / / nces
.ed.gov / IPEDS/research /pdf/ Kuh_Team_Report
.pdf. These themes are discussed and references
provided throughout this paper.
21. Kuh, Kinzie, Buckley, Bridges, and Hayek, What
Matters to Student Success.
22. The 2005 through 2007 sur veys had several
questions about different aspects of convenience,
such as IT providing support for communication
and collaboration, allowing prompt feedback from
instructors, and helping students control course
activities. These questions received similar responses,
so in 2008 they were combined into one statement
about convenience, “IT makes doing my course
activities more convenient.”
23. In previous years’ studies, the GPA categories in the
survey were numerical (for example, under 2.00 to
4.00, in increments of 0.25). Beginning in 2008,
ECAR is using the more standard letters, A to C–, as
shown in Table 3-2 of this study.
24. Project Tomorrow, “Speak Up 2007 for Students,
Teachers, Parents & School Leaders: Selected
National Findings—April 8, 2008,” http://www
.tomorrow.org /docs / National%20Findings%20
Speak%20Up%202007.pdf.
25. Arthur Chickering, Applying the Seven Principles
of Good Practice for Undergraduate Education, ed.
Zelda Gamson (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1991);
and Kuh, Kinzie, Buckley, Bridges, and Hayek, What
Matters to Student Success.
79
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
6
Social Networking Sites
Just in the span of my four college years, I am amazed at the difference between
how my friends and I used social networking sites when I was a freshman and how
everyone uses them now. We have a much higher level of maturity, and I believe our use
will continue to evolve quickly.
—An undergraduate student
Key Findings
◆
◆
◆
◆
◆
◆
◆
◆
◆
Fully 85.2% of respondents use one or more social networking sites (SNSs). The extent of SNS use has
increased dramatically in the past two years.
SNS usage differs considerably by age. Almost all respondents 18 and 19 years old use SNSs (95.1%), and
only 37.0% of those 30 years and older do so. The majority of 18- and 19-year-olds have more than 200
SNS friends; the majority of those aged 30 and older have 25 or fewer SNS friends.
Facebook is the most commonly used SNS (89.3% of SNS users), with MySpace as second choice (48.3%
of SNS users). Traditional college-age respondents (18 to 24 years old) use Facebook more than MySpace;
older respondents use MySpace more than Facebook.
About half of SNS users use just one SNS, have only one SNS profile, and participate in one to five groups
within SNSs. SNS profiles are fairly stable, with most respondents changing them monthly or less often.
The majority of SNS users (55.8%) spend 5 hours or less per week on SNSs, and 26.9% spend 6 to 10 hours
per week. Younger respondents report spending more time than older respondents.
Half of SNS users use these sites to communicate with classmates about course-related topics; only 5.5%
use them to communicate with instructors about course-related topics.
Fewer than one-third of SNS users report that they are very concerned or extremely concerned about misuse
of their information, security problems, cyberbullying or cyberstalking, or leaving a history that could cause
them problems. Females and older respondents are generally more concerned.
Most students (87.4%) put access restrictions on their profiles. Younger respondents and females are most
likely to do so. Respondents who are more concerned about privacy and security problems are also more
likely to restrict SNS access.
Most Net Generation SNS users (18 to 24 years old) reveal the following information on their profiles: e-mail
address or instant messaging (IM) screen name, last name, and full date of birth. Younger respondents are
more likely to reveal personal information.
N icole Ellison’s Introduction (Chapter
2) describes the fast-paced evolution and
adoption of SNSs and how they are already
ingrained into the daily communication
practices of students. She argues that the
next few years promise to be a time of
much innovation, with much greater use
and more varied uses for SNSs on campus.
©2008 EDUCAUSE. Reproduction by permission only.
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
81
Students and Information Technology, 2008
SNS companies continue developing their
products, SNS applications are growing,
campus administrators are exploring ways to
use SNSs, and faculty are experimenting with
SNS tools to support learning. At the same
time, students continue to seamlessly adopt
and adapt these services to their lives. It is
essential that higher education understand
undergraduate SNS practices because these
sites are fundamentally changing the social
fabric of the university.
What do the ECAR data tell us about
student SNS use? Immediately obvious is the
widespread Facebook and (to a lesser extent)
MySpace culture among undergraduates. Net
Generation students are the most avid SNS
users, but older students are joining the SNS
user ranks as well. And despite speculation that
SNSs have become all-consuming for students,
it appears that most students have reasonably and moderately integrated SNSs into
their already technology-rich lives. Students
typically use just one or two SNSs and don’t
change their profiles often. They are not very
concerned about privacy and security issues,
perhaps because their common practice is to
place access restrictions on their SNS profiles.
They participate in a limited number of SNS
groups (one to five) and average about an hour
a day using SNSs. And within this framework,
they keep in touch with literally hundreds of
widely dispersed friends—most of whom they
have already met in person. At this point in
the evolution of SNSs, communicating with
classmates via an SNS is common; communicating with instructors via an SNS is not. In fact,
students expressed mixed, and often adamant,
opinions about whether SNSs should be used
as part of their formal learning.
Chapter 6 presents the full ECAR findings
about students and SNSs, including
◆ who uses SNSs,
◆ which SNSs students use and for what
purposes,
◆ how much time students spend online
at SNSs,
82
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
◆
◆
◆
students’ concerns about security and
privacy,
personal information that students
reveal on SNSs, and
restrictions students place on SNS
profiles.
Who Uses SNSs?
Fully 85.2% of respondents report using
one or more SNSs. More than half (56.8%)
report using SNSs daily, and another 22.7%
report using them weekly or several times per
week. As expected, student age is the most
powerful predictor as to whether a respondent uses SNSs (see Figure 6-1). Other demographic information ECAR collects—gender,
on-campus versus off-campus residence, parttime versus full-time status, class standing,
and student major—do not show meaningful
differences once age is considered, and the
same holds true for the institutional characteristics of Carnegie classification, institution
size, and public versus private status.
For the past three years, ECAR has also
kept longitudinal data about some SNS usage.
Figure 6-2 shows that from the 2006 survey
to the 2008 survey, an elapsed time of just
two years, the 44 institutions that participated
in all three years’ surveys had a decrease in
respondents who never use SNSs, from 25.2%
to 11.2%. But the biggest change is in how
many respondents now use an SNS on a
daily basis, increasing from about one-third
in 2006 to almost two-thirds in 2008. The
bottom line is, SNS usage has increased, and
dramatically so.
To what extent will growth of SNS usage
continue? In 2007, e-Marketer reported that
37% of all Internet users aged 18 and older
(or 72 million people) used SNSs at least once
a month and that 70% of all U.S. teens (12 to
17 years old) did so. They further estimate that
SNS usage will continue to increase in 2008,
with nearly 44% of adult Internet users and
77% of teen Internet users predicted to visit
an SNS at least once a month.1
Students and Information Technology, 2008
95.1
100%
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
92.8
85.2
90%
Percentage of Students
80%
72.7
70%
Figure 6-1. Use of
60%
Social Networking
50%
37.0
40%
Sites, by Age
30%
20%
10%
0%
18–19 years
(N = 9,152)
20–24 years
(N = 11,719)
25–29 years
(N = 1,899)
30 years and older
(N = 3,225)
All students
(N = 26,055)
11.2
Never
16.9
25.2
1.0
0.8
1.0
Once a year
1.9
1.1
1.7
Once a quarter/
semester
Figure 6-2. 2006
to 2008 Change
4.7
4.8
Monthly
in How Often
Social Networking
6.9
Sites Are Used (44
8.6
Institutions)*
11.1
Weekly
15.1
14.0
15.6
17.3
Several times
per week
58.8
Daily
49.6
32.8
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
Percentage of Students
2008 (N = 13,031)
2007 (N = 13,368)
2006 (N = 14,959)
*Data are based on student responses from the 44 institutions that participated in each of
the 2006, 2007, and 2008 studies. Although the institutions remain the same, the actual
students responding are different each year.
The remaining sections in this chapter present analytical findings for just
the 85.2% of the full respondent popu-
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
lation who do use SNSs (N = 22,207).
Percentages and means are based on this
subpopulation.
83
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Which SNSs Are Used?
SNSs are extremely popular among undergraduates, and Facebook, with its origin in
higher education, is clearly the SNS of choice.
Of the 85.2% of respondents who use SNSs,
9 out of 10 use Facebook (see Table 6-1).
The ECAR data suggest that there are no
significant gender differences in the use of
the SNSs listed in the survey, with one exception: Females are slightly more likely to use
MySpace (51.9%) than males (42.2%). Eszter
Hargittai, in a recent study of college students
at the University of Illinois, also found that
female college students were more likely to
use MySpace but that there were not significant differences between men and women for
use of Facebook, Xanga, or Friendster.2
ECAR’s data show that slightly fewer than
half of respondents use MySpace (48.3%).
This is well below the figure reported by
other sources for SNS use across all age
groups, suggesting that college students
have distinctive SNS usage patterns. Hitwise,
an online usage research firm, reports that
MySpace is still by far the most popular SNS
among U.S. users, accounting for 72.7% of
all U.S. SNS visits for May 2008. Facebook
ranks second with just 16.2% of visits.3
Josh Weil, cofounder and partner at Youth
Trends, says that “MySpace never really
stuck with the college crowd—it was (and
still is) popular with teens and popular with
twenty-somethings, but not among the 18- to
24-year-olds.”4 Indeed, traditional-age undergraduates participating in the focus groups
indicated they associate MySpace with high
school. One student noted, “I use MySpace
for communicating with old high school
friends and Facebook for my current college
friends.” Another admitted, “I didn’t know
about MySpace until my old friends from high
school harassed me into joining.” And at the
other end of the Net Generation age range,
among our respondents who were aged 25
and older, 72.7% reported using MySpace,
greater than the rate of Facebook use and
close to the Hitwise finding.
Even controlling for age, use of Facebook
and MySpace differs significantly on the basis
of Carnegie classification. At doctoral, bachelor’s, and master’s institutions, respondents
use Facebook (92.5%) more than MySpace
(45.2%); the reverse is true at associate’s
institutions, where only 58.6% use Facebook
and 81.5% use MySpace. This may reflect
institutional culture, or possibly varying
student demographics at these institutions.
For example, Hargittai also found that
Hispanic undergraduates are more likely than
white/Caucasian students to use MySpace,
and that Asian or Asian American students
are less likely to use MySpace and more
Table 6-1. Social Networking Site Users’ Choices of Sites
Social Networking 18–19 Years 20–24 Years
Site
(N = 8,705) (N = 10,929)
84
25–29 Years
(N = 1,381)
30 Years
and Older
(N = 1,192)
All Users
(N = 22,207)
Facebook
95.5%
92.9%
60.6%
44.9%
89.3%
MySpace
44.0%
45.1%
79.5%
73.2%
48.3%
Other
8.2%
7.8%
13.7%
17.6%
8.9%
Yahoo! 360
2.3%
1.9%
6.6%
12.2%
2.9%
Windows Live Space
3.0%
2.0%
3.5%
5.1%
2.6%
Linkedln
0.4%
3.1%
5.0%
9.7%
2.5%
Friendster
0.9%
1.5%
4.3%
3.7%
1.5%
Bebo
1.2%
0.9%
0.7%
1.6%
1.0%
Sconex
0.2%
0.1%
0.1%
0.0%
0.1%
Students and Information Technology, 2008
likely to use Xanga and Friendster. Further,
students whose parents have lower levels
of schooling are more likely to be MySpace
users, whereas students whose parents have
higher levels of education are more likely to
be Facebook users.5
The less popular SNSs in Table 6-1 are more
often used by older students. Seniors (4.1%),
closer to entering the workforce, make more
use of LinkedIn than do freshmen (0.5%). In
fact, a survey by the Institute for Corporate
Productivity found that professionals most
often used LinkedIn, followed by Yahoo!
360 and MySpace.6 Also, given the growing
number of SNSs available, it makes sense that
8.9% of respondents say they use an SNS
“other” than those specifically identified in
the ECAR list.
Profiles, Friends, and
Groups
Table 6-2 suggests that students generally
focus their SNS activities on a limited number
of sites. In fact, almost all SNS users frequent
just one or two sites (91.3%). And of those
who say they use exactly two SNSs, 88.1%
report that these sites are Facebook and
MySpace. Age does not seem to be a major
factor in how many SNSs a respondent uses,
although those who use three or more SNSs
are somewhat more likely to be older respondents. Perhaps younger respondents have
little reason to extend use beyond Facebook
and MySpace, whereas older students benefit
by adding a more specialized SNS such as
LinkedIn for professional reasons.
To what extent do students use the most
basic features of SNSs—profiles, friends, and
groups? With respect to SNS profiles, the data
suggest that the most common practice is to
maintain one profile per SNS; for 4 out of 5
SNS users (80.6%), the number of profiles
they report having is the same as the number
of sites they report using.7 Only 11.2% of
respondents say they have more profiles than
the number of SNSs they use. Interestingly,
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
respondents 25 years and older have stronger
representation at the extremes, either having
no profiles or having three or more profiles.
This aligns with the earlier finding that older
students are somewhat more likely to use
more sites.
SNS friends are an entirely different
matter. Almost 3 in 10 respondents (28.4%)
say they have more than 300 SNS friends,
and another 43.1% have 101 to 300 friends.
Social networking researchers Nicole Ellison,
Charles Steinfield, and Cliff Lampe report
that having SNS friends facilitates creating
and maintaining a large number of “weak
ties”—people we are not particularly close
to, such as friends of friends. They further
suggest that keeping these “weak ties” (on
Facebook) may be associated with higher
levels of bridging social capital, which encompasses practical benefits such as receiving
new information, ideas, and opportunities.8
Younger students appear much more facile
in this regard. Among our respondents, half
of Net Generation SNS users (18 to 24 years
old) report having more than 200 friends; half
of SNS users 30 years old and older report
having 25 or fewer friends on SNSs.
Active participation in SNS groups that help
people with shared interests keep in touch is
associated with age among our respondents,
though not as dramatically as SNS use itself.
Overall, about 45% of respondents in every age
group actively participate in one to five groups.
Younger students are more likely to participate
in more than five groups, and older students
are more likely to participate in no groups at all.
Not surprisingly, respondents with more friends
participate in more groups. Of respondents with
25 or fewer SNS friends, only 5.8% participate
in more than five groups; of respondents with
more than 300 SNS friends, 38.0% participate
in more than five groups. Student comments
mentioned using SNSs for a diverse set of group
activities. One student said, “SNSs have become
measurably more important for my activist
groups during my college career.”
85
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Table 6-2. Social Networking Site Users’ Profiles, Friends, and Groups
18–19 Years
(N = 8,619)
20–24 Years
(N = 10,828)
25–29 Years
(N = 1,372)
30 Years
and Older
(N = 1,182)
All Users
(N = 22,021)
Number of Social Networking Sites Used (from list in Table 6-1)
One
53.7%
53.6%
43.9%
52.2%
52.9%
Two
38.4%
38.7%
41.5%
32.0%
38.4%
Three or more
7.9%
7.7%
14.9%
15.8%
8.6%
None
0.5%
0.4%
1.2%
2.2%
0.6%
One
54.1%
53.9%
42.8%
48.2%
53.0%
Two
35.4%
35.2%
35.4%
27.0%
34.9%
Three
5.3%
5.9%
8.6%
9.6%
6.0%
Four or more
4.7%
4.6%
12.0%
12.9%
5.6%
25 or fewer
2.6%
4.1%
22.2%
51.9%
7.2%
26–100
17.5%
20.4%
42.0%
33.8%
21.4%
101–200
26.7%
24.9%
19.1%
7.0%
24.3%
201–300
21.7%
19.5%
8.2%
3.1%
18.8%
More than 300
31.5%
31.1%
8.4%
4.1%
28.4%
Number of Profiles
Number of Friends
Number of Groups Where Respondents Actively Participate
None
21.2%
30.3%
44.0%
43.2%
28.3%
1–5
46.7%
44.8%
44.2%
45.6%
45.5%
6–10
14.5%
12.0%
7.5%
6.8%
12.4%
11–20
7.0%
5.6%
2.0%
2.3%
5.8%
21–30
5.2%
3.6%
1.4%
0.6%
4.0%
More than 30
5.3%
3.6%
0.9%
1.5%
4.1%
Once created, SNS profiles appear to be
fairly stable. Most respondents (80.7%) indicate that they change an SNS profile monthly
or less often (see Figure 6-3). About one in five
respondents change an SNS profile weekly or
more often (19.4%). Here again, age matters,
even within the Net Generation: 27.4% of 18and 19-year-olds change their profiles weekly
or more often, compared with 15.3% of those
just a bit older (20 to 24 years old).
How SNSs Are Used
For ECAR survey respondents, a primary
use of SNSs is communicating and sharing
with friends. Of the 13 uses ECAR asked about
86
(see Figure 6-4), virtually all respondents
report using SNSs to stay in touch with friends;
two-thirds report using SNSs to share photos,
music, and other works (females more so than
males); and about half report using SNSs to
invite friends to events and as a way to find
out more about people. This distribution of
responses is consistent with both focus group
and written comments from students. About
15% of written comments mentioned SNSs,
and three common themes emerged about
the benefits of SNSs: enabling people to stay
in touch, facilitating meeting new people, and
providing a vehicle for getting noticed. (The
sidebar “SNSs: Students’ Choice for Getting
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
1.4
Daily
3.4
Several times
per week
Figure 6-3.
14.6
Weekly
How Often Do
You Change Your
35.4
Monthly
Social Networking
Site Profiles?
Once a quarter/
semester
26.4
(N = 22,087)
10.6
Once a year
Never
8.3
0%
5%
10%
15%
20%
25%
30%
35%
40%
Percentage of Students
Stay in touch with friends
96.8
Share photos, music,
videos, or other work
67.7
Find out more about people
(I may or may not have met)
51.6
Communicate with classmates
about course-related topics
49.7
Plan or invite people to events
48.0
Participate in
special-interest groups
Figure 6-4.
27.3
How Social
Make new friends
I have never met in person
16.8
As a forum to express
my opinions and views
16.4
Networking Sites
Are Used
For professional activities
(job networking, etc.)
11.6
Other
11.4
Communicate with instructors
about course-related topics
(N = 22,207)
5.5
Find someone to date
4.9
Respond to site advertisements
2.1
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
Percentage of Students
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
87
Students and Information Technology, 2008
and Staying in Touch” provides example
comments.) Precollege students, as well, show
similar usage. In a 2007 Pew study, 91% of
SNSs: Students’ Choice for
Getting and Staying in Touch
◆
◆
◆
◆
◆
◆
◆
◆
◆
88
“It’s free! It’s so easy to send something to
someone far away. My friends are on it. I talk
to people abroad. It’s an easy way to keep in
contact with friends.”
“I used to be in the military. I use MySpace
for keeping track of friends from all over the
country. Their phone numbers and addresses
change, but with MySpace they are always
there. Also, others can find me.”
“Facebook has been a great way to connect with
old and new friends across the world in ways I
had never imagined possible.”
“Reuniting with old friends, maintaining
long-distance friendships, and sharing
photos are greatly facilitated by social
networking sites.”
“I love Facebook. It’s ver y useful. I am
copresident of a club, and I use it daily to
send messages, notifications, or event pages
to members.”
“I can hardly remember when Facebook didn’t
exist. It would be very hard to adjust if it were
to disappear. It is useful to keep in touch with
my family back home, communicate about
course work, and share photos.”
“My aunt sent me birthday greetings on
e-mail and on Facebook. I got the Facebook
greeting first.”
“I use Facebook primarily as a directory to look
up useful information about people I’m trying
to contact, or quite often just to remember
someone’s name.”
“I use social networking websites to gain popularity in the cyberworld. It’s a great way to meet
new people and have them become your fans
and to get comments, tips, ideas, etc., about
what you are doing.”
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
teens reported using SNSs for staying in touch
with people they already know as friends
and see a lot, and 82% reported staying in
touch with friends they know but rarely see
in person.9
SNSs do not seem to be so much about
making friends of people students have never
met in person (16.8%) or about finding
someone to date (4.9%). Males are more
likely to use SNSs to find someone to date
(8.2%) than females (3.0%). Other research
supports this finding. Ellison, Steinfield, and
Lampe report that users are significantly more
likely to report using Facebook to connect
with others with whom they share an existing
offline connection—either an existing friend,
a classmate, someone living near them, or
someone they met socially—than to use the
site to meet new people.10
Table 6-3 illustrates that, as with SNS
use itself and participation in groups, age is
the driving factor in the way SNSs are used.
Younger respondents are significantly more
engaged in the six most common SNS uses
(from the ECAR list in Figure 6-4). The less
common SNS uses show similar use patterns
across age groups. The one exception is using
SNSs for professional activities, which occurs
more often for older respondents. Older
respondents (aged 25 and older) are also
much more likely to use the SNS LinkedIn
(14.7%) than younger respondents (3.5%).
Perhaps most interesting to colleges and
universities is the finding that half of SNS
respondents (49.7%) have integrated SNSs
into their academic life as a mechanism to
communicate with classmates about courserelated topics, a finding consistent with the
research reported in the study Introduction.
As one student sums up, “I find Facebook to
be helpful in talking about difficult homework assignments with classmates. It’s fast,
convenient, and offers privacy.” Females are
more likely to communicate with classmates
about course-related topics (54.8%) than
males (41.1%).
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Table 6-3. How Social Networking Sites Are Used, by Age (N = 22,207)
25–29 Years
(N = 1,381)
30 Years
and Older
(N = 1,192)
All Users
(N = 22,207)
12.8%
16.5%
25.3%
11.6%
18–19 Years 20–24 Years
(N = 8,705) (N = 10,929)
Older Students Do More Than Younger Students
For professional activities (job networking, etc.)
7.4%
Older and Younger Students Do about the Same
Make new friends I have never met in person
20.8%
12.8%
19.6%
20.5%
16.8%
As a forum to express my opinions and views
17.5%
15.1%
18.2%
19.0%
16.4%
Communicate with instructors about courserelated topics
5.9%
4.5%
5.9%
11.5%
5.5%
Find someone to date
4.9%
4.5%
6.3%
6.2%
4.9%
Respond to site advertisements
2.1%
2.1%
2.2%
3.4%
2.1%
Younger Students Do More Than Older Students
Stay in touch with friends
98.3%
97.2%
95.6%
83.1%
96.8%
Share photos, music, videos, or other work
72.1%
67.9%
56.6%
46.0%
67.7%
Communicate with classmates about courserelated topics
60.4%
47.1%
25.2%
22.9%
49.7%
Find out more about people (I may or may not
have met)
56.2%
52.6%
35.8%
27.9%
51.6%
Plan or invite people to events
51.6%
51.2%
28.0%
16.6%
48.0%
Participate in special-interest groups
31.9%
25.6%
18.4%
19.5%
27.3%
Only 5.5%, however, extend their use of
SNSs to communication with instructors about
course-related matters. This corroborates
both survey and focus group comments from
students, which often carry a message that
SNSs should remain in the realm of students’
personal lives. One student stated emphatically, “Social networking websites are exactly
that: social networking websites. If a professor
ever tried to use Facebook or MySpace as a
means to give class materials or for anything
other than social networking with students,
I’d file an official complaint. Please do not
even attempt to use Facebook or MySpace as
teaching tools. This would end in disaster.”
On the other hand, a number of students
were positive about instructor involvement in
SNSs. One example was, “I think it would be
a great idea for professors to create groups
their students could join on sites such as
Facebook. It would be great for discussions.”
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
Another student’s comment hints that participation by teaching assistants might feel like
less of an intrusion than that by professors:
“Facebook keeps me in touch with my TAs
and people from my classes. This makes it
easier to get things cleared up and questions
answered, as far as class work goes. Plus it
is just really fun.”
The data show two other interesting characteristics about those who do engage SNSs
to communicate with instructors:
◆ They are more likely to use SNSs for
professional activities (37.9%) than
others (10.1%).
◆ They are more likely to already communicate with classmates about courserelated topics (89.6%) than others
(47.4%).
This suggests that as increasing numbers
of SNS users become comfortable with and
practiced in using SNSs to communicate with
89
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
classmates about course-related topics or in
a professional context, communicating with
instructors about course-related topics via
SNSs may increase.
Hours on SNSs
When ECAR interviewed students in focus
groups in 2007, students often said that they
spent a lot of time on SNSs when they should
be studying or doing other things. So, when
students were asked in this year’s study how
many hours they spent on SNSs, ECAR expected
more hours of use than were reported. More
than half (55.8%) report spending only 5 hours
or less per week on all SNSs used (see Table
6-4). Another quarter of respondents (26.9%)
spend 6 to 10 hours per week. The average is 7.3
hours per week, roughly an hour a day, and the
median is 5 hours per week.11 A 2007 Michigan
State University study reported comparable findings, with students spending an average of 7.4
hours per week using Facebook, an increase of
about an hour per week from the time spent
a year earlier.12
At the extreme, there is a group of SNS
users (2.0%) who indicate spending more than
30 hours per week on SNSs, with females as
likely to do so as males. Some of this extreme
use may be due to respondents’ having SNSs
open in the background and considering that
to be active use of the site. Again, younger
students are the most avid users of SNSs, even
within the Net Generation. Although 26.1%
of 18- and 19-year-olds spend more than 10
hours per week on SNSs, only 12.1% of those
just a bit older (20 to 24 years old) do so.
Again this year, students in focus groups and
in survey comments spoke to the time-consuming
nature of SNSs. A junior music education major
explained, “I used to check these sites a million
times a day. Now I try and limit myself to four
hours/week on MySpace and seven hours/
week on Facebook.” A female sophomore
complained, “I should be majoring in procrastination. Facebook is a great procrastination tool.
It’s always up.” And jokingly, another student
quipped, “Facebook is taking over people’s lives
and should be taken off the Internet, ha ha.”
Those who spend more time online
using SNSs show greater use of SNSs in
specific areas:
◆ They have more friends and participate
in more groups on SNSs.
◆ They change their SNS profiles more
often.
◆ They report more SNS uses.
◆ They are more likely to reveal their
e-mail address or IM screen name.
Table 6-4. Hours per Week Using Social Networking Sites
18–19 Years
(N = 7,814)
90
20–24 Years 25–29 Years
(N = 9,902) (N = 1,241)
30 Years
and Older
(N = 1,076)
All Users
(N = 20,033)
5 hours or less
42.5%
62.3%
70.2%
74.7%
55.8%
6–10 hours
31.4%
25.6%
18.4%
16.7%
26.9%
11–15 hours
10.6%
6.1%
5.3%
4.3%
7.7%
16–20 hours
6.7%
3.0%
2.4%
1.9%
4.4%
21–25 hours
3.0%
1.3%
1.2%
1.1%
1.9%
26–30 hours
2.4%
0.6%
1.2%
0.7%
1.3%
31–35 hours
0.5%
0.2%
0.2%
0.1%
0.3%
36–40 hours
1.0%
0.5%
0.5%
0.2%
0.7%
More than 40 hours
1.9%
0.4%
0.6%
0.4%
1.0%
Students and Information Technology, 2008
Disclosing and
Protecting Personal
Information
Much attention, from both the popular
press and researchers, has focused on
concerns about teen and undergraduate
safety on the Internet in general and on SNSs
in particular. SNS privacy problems can stem
from the interplay between three factors:
what personally identifiable data SNS users
reveal, what SNS protection capabilities are
provided (and used), and what specific enduser information on the SNS third parties
are seeking out and using. Specifically,
are students consciously or unconsciously
allowing people they do not know and
normally would not trust to have access to
the personal information they have made
available, and if so, is this information being
used in a harmful or unexpected way?13 In
fact, there are many documented cases of
SNS access by employers, law enforcement,
the media, university officials, marketing
organizations, and others, resulting in difficulties for students who revealed information
without considering the consequences.14
The ECAR survey addresses these key
issues, asking student SNS users what personal
information they reveal on SNSs, what access
limitations they place on SNS profiles, and to
what extent they are concerned about privacy
and security.
Personal Information Revealed
Figure 6-5 shows types of personal
information revealed on SNSs.15 It is
common for all age groups to include their
first name and personal photos. However,
there is a striking difference in choices
made by Net Generation respondents
versus older respondents when it comes to
posting other personal information. Among
SNS users 18 to 24 years old, about 80%
reveal their last name or how they can
be reached (e-mail address or IM screen
name). Among SNS users more than 24
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
years old, only half or fewer do so. More
than half of Net Generation respondents
reveal full date of birth, and again, very
few older students do so. And 21.1% of
Net Generation respondents (aged 18 to
24) reveal their mobile cell phone number.
Evidently the line is somewhat drawn, even
for the Net Generation, at revealing address
or home phone number. Still, about 1 in
11 respondents in this younger age group
does so.
Are there gender differences in what
personal information students choose to
put on SNSs? Figure 6-6 indicates that, for
the most part, male and female patterns of
behavior are similar. Females do, however,
indicate more caution about revealing information that identifies them directly—last
name, cell phone number, and address or
home phone number. One finding from the
Pew study on teens, privacy, and online social
networks provides a clue about attitudes
that may be found among incoming college
students. Pew focus group data found that
teens consistently say that the decisions they
make about disclosing personal information
on SNSs depend heavily on the context of
the exchange. For example, whether or not
the city where they live would be disclosed
depends on the size of the city (for example,
small town versus a large metropolitan
area).16 An undergraduate respondent to our
survey claimed, “It is up to each person to
decide what information is appropriate to
display to viewers around the world. I think
there is no need to include age, full name,
or address.”
Privacy and Security Concerns
Overall, SNS users do not appear overly
concerned about privacy and security issues.
Figure 6-7 shows the actual distribution of
responses to the ECAR questions on these
issues, and Table 6-5 shows the means
and related age and gender factors. The
mean values for these four concerns are
91
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
97.0
96.2
First name
87.4
76.1
91.1
87.7
Photos
81.4
65.4
81.8
78.4
E-mail address or
IM screen name
50.8
51.3
81.3
80.2
Last name
45.6
35.2
Figure 6-5.
What Students
Reveal about
Themselves
on Social
Networking
Sites, by Age
57.2
Full date
of birth
61.8
30.6
15.2
33.0
42.1
Work place
29.3
16.8
19.6
22.2
Cell phone
number
8.0
3.0
16.7
17.9
Class information/
schedule
11.5
8.6
12.1
14.0
12.2
Spring break/
holiday plans
6.3
7.0
Address or home
phone number
10.8
4.9
2.8
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
Percentage of Students
18–19 years (N = 8,705)
20–24 years (N = 10,929)
25–29 years (N = 1,381)
30 years and older (N = 1,192)
between “a little concerned” and “moderately
concerned.” The most concern is for misuse of
personal information and security problems,
where about half of respondents are at least
moderately concerned.
Why this general lack of concern? One
possibility is that many students may not
be aware of the actual audience viewing
92
their information. One student pointed this
out, saying, “Students who say they are not
concerned are just unaware of the privacy
risks inherent in social networking sites.”
Alternatively, since SNSs have capabilities
for protecting personal information, it is
likely that respondents who do actively
place restrictions and /or who take care
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
95.0
95.2
First name
89.6
Photos
84.2
E-mail address or
IM screen name
74.9
79.8
72.1
Last name
Figure 6-6. What
83.6
Students Reveal
55.5
56.3
Full date of birth
about Themselves
on Social
36.1
37.2
Work place
Networking Sites,
15.0
Class information/
schedule
by Gender
19.3
Cell phone
number
13.6
Spring break/
holiday plans
12.4
13.4
29.5
Address or home
phone number
5.5
14.0
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
Percentage of Students
70%
80%
90%
100%
Females (N = 14,054)
Males (N = 7,891)
45%
38.4
Percentage of Students
40%
35%
30.6
29.7 29.7
30%
25.6 25.7
15%
19.4
15.9
15.7
13.7
Networking Site
23.3
25%
20%
Figure 6-7. Social
20.9 20.3
18.0
14.1 14.2
13.6
11.0
Users’ Concerns
about Privacy and
Security
10.2 10.1
10%
5%
0%
Misuse of my
information
(N = 21,936)
Security problems
(N = 21,944)
Cyberbullying or
cyberstalking
(N = 21,754)
Leaving a history that
could cause me problems
(N = 21,917)
Not at all concerned
A little concerned
Moderately concerned
Very concerned
Extremely concerned
in what they put on SNSs factor that into
their answers and express less concern. One
student explained, “There can be negative
consequences to social networking—but this
is fixed quickly through privacy settings.”
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
Overall, the issues that arouse the most
concern—although still less than moderate
concern on average—are the potential
misuse of personal information and security
problems on SNSs, such as exposure to files
93
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Table 6-5. Social Networking Site Users’ Concerns about Privacy and Security (Mean Values)
N
Mean*
Std.
Deviation
More Concerned
(Age and Gender)
Security problems (exposure to
files with viruses, etc.)
21,944
2.78
1.299
Older students/females
Misuse of my information
21,936
2.74
1.201
Older students
Leaving a history that could
cause me problems (such as
when applying for a job)
21,917
2.60
1.408
–
Cyberbullying or cyberstalking
21,754
2.30
1.338
Females
Concern
*Scale: 1 = not at all concerned, 2 = a little concerned, 3 = moderately concerned, 4 = very concerned,
5 = extremely concerned
carrying viruses. Older respondents report
more concern: Although only one-fifth
(20.7%) of SNS users 18 and 19 years old are
very or extremely concerned about misuse of
personal information, more than twice that
number (44.9%) of those 30 years old and
older are very or extremely concerned. It’s
possible that older students are more knowledgeable about potential privacy risks and,
having more job and family responsibilities, are
more reluctant to reveal personal information
that might cause conflicts.
It might be expected that seniors, closer
to beginning their careers than are freshmen,
would be more concerned about leaving
a history that could compromise their job
search. However, this does not appear to
be the case; all age groups show concern
about midway between “a little concerned”
and “moderately concerned.” Nor did we
find differences by gender. A wide range
of comments indicated how students are
thinking about and dealing with this issue.
Some suggest that the apparent unconcern
reflects a sense that dangers exist but that
SNS participants have enough control to
minimize them. “I am not at all worried
about misuse of information or how it might
impact my future,” one respondent wrote.
“I don’t befriend strangers, I can tell when
profiles might be malevolent, and I don’t post
anything on any of my profiles that might
be harmful in getting a job in the future.”
94
Taking a less restrained but still somewhat
risk-aware approach, one senior commented,
“I worry about future employers seeing my
Facebook stuff. I will remove my stuff before I
graduate.” Other comments noted opportunities as well as risks at the interface between
social networking and professional life. “A
few years ago I applied for a job to work as
a digital editor,” one student wrote, “and
the social networking site I was using at the
time helped me gain notice of the work I am
capable of doing. In the end, it really helped
influence the employer to hire me.”
Respondents are least concerned with
cyberbullying or cyberstalking. However, more
females (44.3%) than males (27.7%) say they
are at least moderately concerned. One female
student reflected, “Facebook has become a
way to stalk people. People I do not know
are viewing my information.” Another noted,
“I don’t use social networking because I am
afraid my pictures or images can be altered
in a bad way, especially sexually. You don’t
know who is out there.” But other comments
emphasized the same theme that appeared in
some comments about job searches: Students
understand and are comfortable with the
risks. One student said, “I use a lot of the
social networking sites. I have had many,
many, many lectures on cyberstalking and
what not to post about myself on the Internet.
I think that students are smarter than older
people give us credit for.”
Students and Information Technology, 2008
Females are also more concerned about
security problems such as exposure to files
with viruses. This makes sense, given our
earlier findings that females are much less
comfortable with their computer maintenance
skills than are males.
Restricting Access to SNS
Profiles
Students may be willing to post personal
information on SNSs in part because they are
confident about and use SNS access-limiting
capabilities to ensure their privacy and protection. Figure 6-8 indicates that most respondents using SNSs do put restrictions on who
can access their profiles (87.4%), and nearly
half (45.4%) say they put a lot of restrictions
on their profiles. Females are more likely to
place restrictions, and to place more restrictions, than males.
The data again suggest a difference
between younger and older students (see
Figure 6-9) in the way they handle SNS risk:
Younger respondents reveal more but are more
restrictive about access, whereas older respondents reveal less but are not as restrictive. It
may be that younger SNS users have more
trust in restrictions, or they may simply know
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
more about them than older students. In fact,
many undergraduates now come to college
already versed in using SNS profile restrictions.
A freshman said, “I don’t talk to anyone I don’t
know on these sites. I have a name but no
picture. If I don’t know you, I treat it as spam.
I limit who gets to know what about me.”
The 2007 Pew study found that among
SNS teen users, 66% limit access in some way.
However, the study also found that although
most teens take steps to limit what others can
know about them from SNS profiles, many
also acknowledge the power of the Internet
to track down individuals. Some 23% of teen
profile creators say it would be “pretty easy”
for someone to find out who they are from
their profile information, and 40% think it
would be hard to find out who they are but
that they could eventually be identified.17
Older respondents, as shown previously
in Figure 6-5, put less personal information
on the SNS in the first place, perhaps to limit
exposure, and so may perceive less need for
SNS profile restrictions. (It’s also worth noting
again that older students are less likely to
use SNSs at all.) Many students use a mix—
restricting access and consciously choosing
what to put on their profiles.
70%
60%
52.6
47.6
Percentage of Students
50%
45.4
42.0
38.9
40%
32.5
30%
19.8
20%
12.6
Figure 6-8.
Restricting
Access to Social
Networking Site
Profiles,
by Gender
8.6
10%
0%
Male (N = 7,656)
Female (N = 13,727)
All users (N = 21,383)
I don’t restrict access.
I put some restrictions on access.
I put a lot of restrictions on access.
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
95
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
60%
50%
47.0
45.8
Figure 6-9.
Restricting
Access to Social
Networking Site
Profiles, by Age
Percentage of Students
43.4
41.3
39.0
40%
41.3
39.2
35.4
30%
21.7
23.3
20%
11.7
10.8
10%
0%
18–19 years (N = 8,705)
20–24 years (N = 10,929)
25–29 years (N = 1,381)
30 years and older (N = 1,192)
I don’t restrict access.
I put some restrictions on access.
I put a lot of restrictions on access.
How are these three aspects of SNSs—
personal information revealed, concerns about
privacy and security, and profile restrictions—
related? The strongest finding is that respondents who are more concerned about privacy
and security are much more likely to place
restrictions on their SNS profiles (see Figure
6-10). These SNS users are also somewhat
more likely to reveal less personal information
on SNSs. This suggests that understanding
risks and consequences of security and privacy
exposure, along with understanding methods
for protecting personal information, can help
students decide what information they reveal
and/or protect.
Reasons for
Nonparticipation in
SNSs
ECAR asked the 14.8% of respondents
who do not use SNSs why they don’t participate. Are respondents staying away from SNSs
because they simply don’t wish to participate, or are perceived security and privacy
exposures driving them away? ECAR found
more evidence for the former than the latter:
Two-thirds of these respondents say that
96
one of their top three reasons for not using
SNSs is that they are just not interested, and
two-fifths say they don’t like SNSs, whereas
security and privacy concerns were less
frequently chosen (see Figure 6-11). Typical
comments include
◆ “Substituting e-friends for real friends
is not only sad, it’s counterproductive
to living a healthy normal life.”
◆ “Social networking websites are abhorrent. While I like the idea of ‘a world
community,’ humanity has a lot of
maturing to do before any of these
sites can ever work as positively as
intended.”
◆ “Social networking sites are a bore,
and I feel my time is better spent off
these sites.”
However, a significant number of respondents do point to security concerns (19.0%)
and privacy concerns (34.6%), and some of
these respondents might choose to use SNSs
if they perceived privacy and security problems
as remedied or if they were more knowledgeable about how to use privacy settings. One
student commented, “I have chosen not to
participate in social networking websites. I am
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
3.01
Misuse of my
information
2.62
2.19
2.98
Security problems
(exposure to files
with viruses, etc.)
Figure 6-10. Social
2.67
Networking Site
2.43
Users’ Concerns,
Leaving a history that
could cause me problems
(such as when applying
for a job)
by Restricting
2.84
2.50
Access to Profiles
2.10
2.53
Cyberbullying
or cyberstalking
2.19
1.87
0.0
0.5
1.0
1.5
2.0
2.5
3.0
3.5
Mean*
I put a lot of restrictions on access. (N = 9,648)
I put some restrictions on access. (N = 8,919)
I don’t restrict access. (N = 2,684)
*Scale: 1 = not at all concerned, 2 = a little concerned, 3 = moderately concerned,
4 = very concerned, 5 = extremely concerned
Not interested
65.5
Don’t like them
41.8
Privacy concerns (misuse
of my personal information)
34.6
Amount of time
and effort required
Figure 6-11.
28.0
Security concerns (exposure
to files with viruses, etc.)
Reasons for Not
Participating in
19.0
Social Networking
Don’t know how
to use them
Sites (N = 3,851)
13.5
Other
9.6
Little or slow
network access
2.3
Access is blocked by
my institution or
Internet provider
1.0
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
Percentage of Students
aware that employers search such websites
when reviewing prospective employees. And
I do not want to spend my time policing links
to my profile that others may have added that
might affect me negatively.”
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
Endnotes
1. eMarketer, “The Promise of Social Networking
Advertising,” December 14, 2007, http://www
.emarketer.com/.
2. Eszter Hargittai, “Whose Space? Differences among
Users and Non-Users of Social Network Sites,”
97
Students and Information Technology, 2008
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
98
Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 13,
no. 1 (2007): article 14, 8–9, http://jcmc.indiana
.edu/vol13/issue1/hargittai.html.
Hitwise, “MySpace Received 72 Percent of U.S. Social
Networking Visits for May 2008,” press release, June
18, 2008, http://www.hitwise.com/press-center/
hitwiseHS2004/myspace-received-percent-us-visits
.php.
Diego Vasquez, “Media’s So Very Social for College
Kids,” Media Life Research, March 6, 2008, http://
www.medialifemagazine.com /artman2/publish /
Research_25/Media_s_so_very_social_for_college_
kids.asp.
Hargittai, “Whose Space?”
eMarketer, “Social Networking for Business,” June
5, 2007, http://www.emarketer.com/.
This finding may be somewhat overstated because
we cannot be certain that if a respondent uses two
SNSs and has two profiles, each SNS has only one
profile. It is possible that both profiles are on only
one SNS.
Nicole B. Ellison, Charles Steinfield, and Cliff
Lampe, “The Benefits of Facebook ‘Friends’: Social
Capital and College Students’ Use of Online Social
Network Sites,” Journal of Computer-Mediated
Communication 12 (2007): 1143–68. Note that
bridging social capital is also discussed in Ellison’s
Introduction to this study (Chapter 2).
Amanda Lenhart and Mary Madden, “Teens, Privacy
& Online Social Networks: How Teens Manage Their
Online Identities and Personal Information in the Age
of MySpace,” Pew Internet & American Life Project,
2007, ii, http://www.pewinternet.org/ppf/r/211/
report_display.asp.
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
10. Ellison et al., “The Benefits of Facebook ‘Friends.’”
11. This number will be slightly understated, since the scale
for the question “Approximately how many hours each
week do you use social networking websites?” was
“Less than 1,” 1 to 50 (in increments of 1), or “More
than 50.” The last category is only 0.7% of respondents,
and these respondents were all considered to use SNSs
51 hours per week for this calculation, which will be
less than their actual usage.
12. Charles Steinfield, Nicole B. Ellison, and Cliff Lampe,
“Social Capital, Self-Esteem, and Use of Online
Social Network Sites: A Longitudinal Analysis,”
Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 29,
no. 6 (in press).
13. Allesandro Acquisti and Ralph Gross, “Information
Revelation and Privacy in Online Social Networks”
(Workshop on Privacy in the Electronic Society
Conference, Alexandria, VA, November 7, 2005),
http: / /w w w.heinz.cmu.edu /~acquisti /papers /
privacy-facebook-gross-acquisti.pdf.
14. New Media and Community Life, course blog.
Moderated by Keith Hampton, “Facebook—Who
Is Watching You?” University of Pennsylvania,
Philadelphia, http://www.mysocialnetwork.net/
blog/410/g42/2006/11/facebookwho_is_watching_
you_1.html.
15. The number of responses may be slightly understated
because some respondents may have thought
that if they included personal information on their
profile and then placed restrictions, they were not
“revealing” the personal information.
16. Lenhart and Madden, “Teens, Privacy & Online Social
Networks.”
17. Ibid.
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Appendix A
Acknowledgments
We express our sincere appreciation to the
following individuals who helped us make
this study possible. Their contributions include
securing institutional approval to do the study
at their institution, selecting a sample of
students to invite to participate and inviting
them to do so, recruiting students to participate in focus groups, and performing a variety
of other tasks.
Adelaine, Michael—South Dakota State
University
Allison, Debra—Miami University
Ambur, Roberta—The University of South
Dakota
Anderson, Tamara—Community College of
Rhode Island
Andrews, Ken—University of Texas HSC at
San Antonio
Backscheider, Nickolas—Auburn University
Bauer, Kati—University of Michigan–Ann
Arbor
Benson, Marisa—Emory University
Bielec, John A.—Drexel University
Biros, Jan—Drexel University
Bixler, Cindy—Embry-Riddle Aeronautical
University
Black, Kim—University of Northern
Colorado
Braddlee, Dr.—Simmons College
Brewer, Laura—Arizona State University
Brookes, Kim—Simmons College
Brorby, Michael—Purdue University
Calumet
Brown, Wayne A.—Johnson County
Community College
Brown, Yvette—Barry University
Brum, Debra A.—California State
Polytechnic University, Pomona
Brynes, Abby—Coppin State University
Bushey, Stephanie—Hofstra University
Cahill, Rosann—University of
St. Thomas
Campbell, John P.—Purdue University
Carr, Daryl—Monmouth College
Caruso, Judy Borreson—University of
Wisconsin–Madison
Cernock, Robert—Central Connecticut
State University
Chancellor, Beth—University of
Missouri–Columbia
Charles, John—California State
University, East Bay
Chichester, Susan E.—SUNY College at
Geneseo
Contos, Chris—Vanderbilt University
Cromwell, Dennis—Indiana University
Crowe, Mary—University College Dublin
Dalton, Genevieve—University College
Dublin
Davis, Bill—Bridgewater State College
Denman, Chip—University of Maryland
©2008 EDUCAUSE. Reproduction by permission only.
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
99
Students and Information Technology, 2008
Diaz, Veronica—Maricopa Community
College District
Doetkott, Curt—North Dakota State
University
Draude, Barbara—Middle Tennessee State
University
Drechsel, Carol—University of North
Dakota
Durso, Ann Marie—University of
Wisconsin–Parkside
Duszynski, Tom—Wayne State University
Eckhardt, Chip—University of
Wisconsin–Eau Claire
El-Haggan, Ahmed—Coppin State
University
Elmore, Garland C.—Indiana UniversityPurdue University Indianapolis
Fleagle, Steve—The University of Iowa
Foster, Susan J.—University of Delaware
Franke, Thomas L.—University of New
Hampshire
Fritz, John—University of Maryland,
Baltimore County
Gianforte, Danna—Pepperdine
University
Gonick, Lev S.—Case Western Reserve
University
Hale, Mark—The University of Iowa
Hanson, Perry O. III—Brandeis University
Henderson, Jane—University of
Wisconsin–Stout
Hilton, Linda—Vermont State Colleges
Houston-Brown, Clive—University of
LaVerne
Huish, Darrel—Maricopa Community
College District
Hurley, Douglas E.—The University of
Memphis
Huskamp, Jeffrey—University of
Maryland
Jasper, Joanna L.—Catawba College
Jonas, James—University of
Wisconsin–Madison
Jones, Kristine—Colorado College
Justice, Debbie—Western Carolina
University
100
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Kaczmarzyk, Lisa—University of California,
San Diego
Kelley, Sherry—Eastern Michigan University
Kerian, Dorette R.—University of
North Dakota
Kiggins, Beth—University of Indianapolis
King, Beverly—University of North Carolina
at Pembroke
King, Rebecca L.—Baylor University
Kloberdanz, Rosalinda—North Dakota
State University
Koralesky, Barron—Macalester College
Kossuth, Joanne M.—Franklin W. Olin
College of Engineering
Kovalchick, Ann—Tulane University
Kraemer, Ronald—University of
Wisconsin–Madison
Krogman, John A.—University of
Wisconsin–Platteville
Kunnen, Eric—Grand Rapids Community
College
Landry, Stephen G.—Seton Hall
University
Lea, Lucinda T.—Middle Tennessee State
University
Ledbetter, Phil—Embry-Riddle Aeronautical
University
Levy, Samuel J.—University of St. Thomas
Maas, Bruce—University of
Wisconsin–Milwaukee
McClelland, Kathy—Auburn University
Mendola, Richard A.—Emory University
Merritt, Shane—University of Alabama
Miller, Jim—Granite State College
Moroukian, Michael M.—Granite State
College
Nielsen, Brian—Northwestern University
Ormsby, Colin—California State University,
East Bay
Orr, Robert—University of North Carolina
at Pembroke
Pletcher, Kathy—University of Wisconsin–
Green Bay
Pokot, Elena—University of
Wisconsin–Whitewater
Rehm, Roger—Central Michigan University
Students and Information Technology, 2008
Relyea, Steven W.—University of California,
San Diego
Robb, Terry—University of Missouri–
Columbia
Rodriguez, Lisa—University of La Verne
Rosenberg, Eric—Stevens Institute of
Technology
Rowe, Theresa—Oakland University
Russell, Jeffrey L.—University of Indianapolis
Sacher, Dick—University of Delaware
Sakai, Eric—Vermont State Colleges
Samuel, John—Indiana University
Sanders, Jerry—Macalester College
Sanner, Adrian—Arizona State University
Sawasky Joseph—Wayne State University
Schaeffer, Sandy III—The University of
Memphis
Schaffer, Connie J.—Eastern Michigan
University
Schmidt, Jeffrey Robert—Towson University
Schoeler, Mary—University of
Wisconsin–Superior
Seraichick, Laura—Keene State College
Shaw, Seamus—University College Dublin
Siesing, Gina—Tufts University
Sipher, Justin—Skidmore College
Smallen, David L.—Hamilton College
Sorensen, Roger L.—College of Saint
Benedict/Saint John’s University
Speck, Francis—Saint Mary’s University
of Minnesota
Splittgerber, Ken—University of
Wisconsin–Oshkosh
Stack, David—University of
Wisconsin–Milwaukee
Stahl, Wilson M.—Western Carolina
University
Streeter, John W.—Kansas State University
Strohmetz, David—Monmouth University
Suess, Jack—University of Maryland,
Baltimore County
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Sundaram, Shanmuga—Vanderbilt
University
Taylor, Bob—Northwestern University
Taylor, Carmen—University of Alabama
Thomas, Mary—Lawrence Technological
University
Ticknor, Don—The University of South
Dakota
Tillman, John—University of
Wisconsin–LaCrosse
Tucker, Marta—Monmouth College
Tynan, Amelia A.—Tufts University
Van Galder, Jeanette—University of
Northern Colorado
Veselsky, Lora—Case Western Reserve
University
Vogel, Kim—Central Michigan University
Wachob, William—Lawrence
Technological University
Wahl, Douglas—University of
Wisconsin–Stout
Waite-Franzen, Ellen J.—Dartmouth
College
Walsh, Theresa—Indiana UniversityPurdue University Indianapolis
Wheeler, Lisa—University of Wisconsin–
River Falls
White, Marshall—University of New
Hampshire
Wilson, Josh—Brandeis University
Winters, Terri—University of New
Hampshire
Wong, Lorna—University of Wisconsin–
Whitewater
Wong, Victor K.—University of
Michigan–Ann Arbor
Yarborough, Bill—Presbyterian College
York, A. Jerome—University of Texas
HSC at San Antonio
Zeberio, Miren Berasategi—Universad
de Deusto
101
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Appendix B
Students and Information
Technology in
Higher Education:
2008 Survey Questionnaire
1. How old are you? We may only survey students 18 years or older. Required.
(Drop down menu including under 18 and 18 through 99. Respondents under 18 must
exit the survey.)
2. To enter the drawing for gift certificates, please enter your e-mail address.
Optional._____________________________________________
3. How old is your personal desktop computer?
[ ] Don’t own a desktop computer
[ ] Less than 1 year old
[ ] 1 year old
[ ] 2 years old
[ ] 3 years old
[ ] 4 years old
[ ] More than 4 years old
4. How old is your personal laptop computer?
[ ] Don’t own a laptop computer
[ ] Less than 1 year old
[ ] 1 year old
[ ] 2 years old
[ ] 3 years old
[ ] 4 years old
[ ] More than 4 years old
©2008 EDUCAUSE. Reproduction by permission only.
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ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
5. Approximately how many hours each week do you spend actively doing
Internet activities for school, work, or recreation?
(Drop down menu including Less than 1, 1 to 168 (1 hour increments).)
6. How often do you do the following (for school, work, or recreation)?
Several
Once Once per
times
per quarter or
per
Never year semester Monthly Weekly week
a. Instant message
b. Text message
c. Use the Internet from a cell
phone or PDA
d. Download web-based music
or videos
e. Use the college/university
library website
f. Spreadsheets (Excel, etc.)
g. Presentation software
(PowerPoint, etc.)
h. Graphics software (Photoshop,
Flash, etc.)
i. Audio-creation software
(Audible, GarageBand, etc.)
j. Video-creation software
(Director, iMovie, etc.)
k. Social networking websites
(Facebook, MySpace, Bebo,
LinkedIn, etc.)
l. Online multiuser computer
games (World of Warcraft,
Everquest, Poker, etc.)
m. Online virtual worlds (Second
Life, etc.)
n. Podcasts
o. Webcasts
p. Social bookmark/tagging
(del.icio.us, etc.)
Daily
7. During the academic year, how do you most frequently access the Internet?
[ ] Dial-up service
[ ] High-speed (wired or wireless)
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Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
8. Do you own a cell phone that is capable of accessing the Internet (whether you
use that capability or not)?
[ ] No, and don’t plan to purchase one in next 12 months
[ ] No, but plan to purchase one in next 12 months
[ ] Yes
[ ] Don’t know
9. How often do you contribute content to the following (for school, work, or
recreation)?
Once Once per
Several
per quarter or
times per
Never year semester Monthly Weekly
week
Daily
a. Wikis (Wikipedia, course wiki, etc.)
b. Blogs
c. Photo or video websites (Flickr,
YouTube, etc.)
10. What is your skill level for the following?
Not at all Not very Fairly Very
skilled
skilled skilled skilled Expert
a. Using the college/university library website
b. Spreadsheets (Excel, etc.)
c. Presentation software (PowerPoint, etc.)
d. Graphics software (Photoshop, Flash, etc.)
e. Computer maintenance (software updates,
security, etc.)
f. Using the Internet to effectively and efficiently
search for information
g. Evaluating the reliability and credibility of online
sources of information
h. Understanding the ethical/legal issues
surrounding the access and use of digital
information
11. Which best describes your preference?
[ ] I prefer taking courses that use no information technology.
[ ] I prefer taking courses that use limited information technology.
[ ] I prefer taking courses that use a moderate level of information technology.
[ ] I prefer taking courses that use information technology extensively.
[ ] I prefer taking courses that use information technology exclusively.
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12. Are you using the following for any of your courses this quarter/semester?
Check all that apply.
[ ] a. Spreadsheets (Excel, etc.
[ ] b. Presentation software (PowerPoint, etc.)
[ ] c. Graphics software (Photoshop, Flash, etc.)
[ ] d. Audio-creation software (Audible, GarageBand, etc.)
[ ] e. Video-creation software (Director, iMovie, etc.)
[ ] f. Programming languages (C++, Java, etc.)
[ ] g. Webcasts
[ ] h. Podcasts
[ ] i. E-portfolios
[ ] j. Discipline-specific technologies (Mathematica, AutoCAD, STELLA, etc.)
[ ] k. Instant messaging
[ ] l. Social networking websites (Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, LinkedIn, etc.)
[ ] m. Wikis
[ ] n. Blogs
[ ] o. Online virtual worlds (Second Life, etc.)
[ ] p. College or university library website
13. How many of your courses this quarter/semester are entirely online?
[ ] None
[ ] Some
[ ] All
14. It would benefit students if my institution required students to take at least one
entirely online course.
[ ] Strongly disagree
[ ] Disagree
[ ] Neutral
[ ] Agree
[ ] Strongly agree
[ ] Don’t know
15. How many of your instructors:
Almost
none Some
a. Use information technology (IT) effectively in
courses
b. Provide students with adequate training for
the IT the instructor uses in his or her course
c. Understand the IT skill levels of their students
106
About
half
Most
Almost Don’t
all
know
Students and Information Technology, 2008
16. What is your opinion about the following statements?
Strongly
disagree Disagree Neutral
a. I get more actively involved in courses that
use IT.
b. The use of IT in my courses improves my
learning.
c. IT makes doing my course activities more
convenient.
d. By the time I graduate, the IT I have used in
my courses will have adequately prepared me
for the workplace.
e. My institution’s IT services are always
available when I need them for my coursework.
f. I skip classes when materials from course
lectures are available online.
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Agree
Strongly
agree
17. Have you ever taken a course that used a course management system (CMS)? A
CMS provides tools such as online syllabi, sample exams, and gradebook (e.g.,
WebCT, Blackboard, or a campus-specific system). Required.
[ ] No. Proceed to 21.
[ ] Yes. Proceed to 18.
[ ] Don’t know. Proceed to 21.
18. How often do you use course management systems?
[ ] Never
[ ] Once a year
[ ] Once a quarter/semester
[ ] Monthly
[ ] Weekly
[ ] Several times per week
[ ] Daily
19. What is your skill level using course management systems?
[ ] Not at all skilled
[ ] Not very skilled
[ ] Fairly skilled
[ ] Very skilled
[ ] Expert
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ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
20. Describe your overall experience using course management systems.
[ ] Very negative
[ ] Negative
[ ] Neutral
[ ] Positive
[ ] Very positive
21. Which of the following best describes you?
[ ] I am skeptical of new technologies and use them only when I have to.
[ ] I am usually one of the last people I know to use new technologies.
[ ] I usually use new technologies when most people I know do.
[ ] I like new technologies and use them before most people I know.
[ ] I love new technologies and am among the first to experiment with and use
them.
22. I like to learn through:
No
Yes
Don’t know
a. Text-based conversations over e-mail, IM, and text messaging
b. Programs I can control, such as video games, simulations, etc.
c. Contributing to websites, blogs, wikis, etc.
d. Running Internet searches
e. Creating or listening to podcasts or webcasts
23. Do you use any social networking websites (Facebook, MySpace, Bebo,
LinkedIn, etc.)? Required.
[ ] No. Proceed to 34, then to 35.
[ ] Yes. Proceed to 24–33, skip 34, go to 35.
[ ] Don’t know. Proceed to 35.
24. Approximately how many hours per week do you use social networking
websites?
(Drop down menu including Less than 1, 1 to 50 (in increments of 1), More than 50.)
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Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
25. Which of the following social networking websites do you use?
Check all that apply.
[ ] a. Bebo
[ ] b. Facebook
[ ] c. Friendster
[ ] d. LinkedIn
[ ] e. MySpace
[ ] f. Sconex
[ ] g. Windows Live Spaces
[ ] h. Yahoo! 360
[ ] i. Other
26. How do you use social networking websites? Check all that apply.
[ ] a. Stay in touch with friends
[ ] b. Make new friends I have never met in person
[ ] c. Find out more about people (I may or may not have met)
[ ] d. Find someone to date
[ ] e. As a forum to express my opinions and views
[ ] f. Share photos, music, videos, or other work
[ ] g. For professional activities (job networking, etc.)
[ ] h. Communicate with classmates about course-related topics
[ ] i. Communicate with instructors about course-related topics
[ ] j. Participate in special interest groups
[ ] k. Plan or invite people to events
[ ] l. Respond to site advertisements
[ ] m. Other
27. How many profiles do you currently have at social networking websites?
[ ] None
[]1
[]2
[]3
[]4
[]5
[ ] 6–10
[ ] 11–20
[ ] 21–30
[ ] More than 30
28. How often do you change your profiles?
[ ] Never
[ ] Once a year
[ ] Once a quarter/semester
[ ] Monthly
[ ] Weekly
[ ] Several times per week
[ ] Daily
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Students and Information Technology, 2008
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29. How many friends do you currently have at all the social networking websites
you use?
[ ] None
[ ] 1–25
[ ] 26–50
[ ] 51–75
[ ] 76–100
[ ] 101–200
[ ] 201–300
[ ] More than 300
30. How many groups do you actively participate in at all the social networking
websites you use?
[ ] None
[ ] 1–5
[ ] 6–10
[ ] 11–20
[ ] 21–30
[ ] 31–40
[ ] 41–50
[ ] More than 50
31. What information about yourself do you reveal on social networking websites?
Check all that apply.
[ ] a. First name
[ ] b. Last name
[ ] c. E-mail address or IM screen name
[ ] d. Address or home phone number
[ ] e. Full date of birth
[ ] f. Cell phone number
[ ] g. Photos
[ ] h. Class information/schedule
[ ] i. Work place
[ ] j. Spring break/holiday plans
32. Do you limit or restrict who has access to your profiles?
[ ] I don’t restrict access.
[ ] I put some restrictions on access.
[ ] I put a lot of restrictions on access.
[ ] Don’t know
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Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
33. How concerned are you about the following at social networking websites?
Not at all
A little Moderately
Very
Extremely Don’t
concerned concerned concerned concerned concerned know
a. Misuse of my
information
b. Security problems
(exposure to files with
viruses, etc.)
c. Cyberbullying or
cyberstalking
d. Leaving a history that
could cause me problems
(such as when applying for
a job)
34. Why don’t you participate in any social networking websites? Check up to 3.
[ ] a. Don’t like them
[ ] b. Don’t know how to use them
[ ] c. Amount of time and effort required
[ ] d. Not interested
[ ] e. Little or slow network access
[ ] f. Access is blocked by my institution or Internet provider
[ ] g. Privacy concerns (misuse of my personal information)
[ ] h. Security concerns (exposure to files with viruses, etc.)
[ ] i. Other
35. What is your gender?
[ ] Male
[ ] Female
36. What is your cumulative grade point average (GPA)?
[]A
[ ] A[ ] B+
[]B
[ ] B[ ] C+
[]C
[ ] C- or lower
[ ] Don’t know
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ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
37. What is your class standing?
[ ] Senior
[ ] Freshman
[ ] Other
38. Are you currently a full-time or part-time student? Part-time is fewer than 12 credit
hours per quarter/semester.
[ ] Full-time
[ ] Part-time
39. Do you reside on campus or off campus?
[ ] On campus
[ ] Off campus
40. What are you majoring in? Check all that apply.
[ ] a. Social sciences
[ ] b. Humanities
[ ] c. Fine arts
[ ] d. Life/biological sciences, including agriculture and health sciences
[ ] e. Physical sciences, including math
[ ] f. Education, including physical education
[ ] g. Engineering
[ ] h. Business
[ ] i. Other
[ ] j. Undecided
41. Which institution are you attending? Required. Before proceeding, please confirm
that the name of your institution appears. <Drop-down list of institutions.>
42. Is there anything you would like to tell us about your experience with
IT in or out of courses, or about your experience with social networking
websites?_______________________________________________
Thank you! You have reached the end of the survey. Visit the ECAR website to see our research
and learn more about the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research. If you have any questions
or concerns, please e-mail [email protected]
— END SURVEY —
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Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Appendix C
Qualitative Interview
Questions
Questions for Student Focus Groups
1. Background
1.1
1.2
1.3
Student information: age, gender, senior/freshman, full/part time, on/off campus,
major discipline.
How many computers do you own? What kinds? How long have you owned them?
Do you own a smartphone or PDA that can access the Internet? Do you use it to access
the Internet? What other electronic devices do you own?
2. Skill and use of IT
2.1
2.2
2.3
2.4
2.5
2.6
2.7
2.8
2.9
2.10
How skilled are you at using computer technology to do the work required for your
classes?
Much is being said and written about the current generation of students using information technology extensively and being tech savvy. Do you think this statement is true
of yourself? Of your friends?
What kinds of technology skills are you weak in? What are you strong in?
What kinds of technology skills do you think students in general are weak in?
Do you think you have the skills you need for entry into the workforce? Are there
particular areas that you think you’re most ready?
Do you think you are Internet savvy?
How are your skills in evaluating the reliability and credibility of online resources?
Do you have a good understanding of the ethical aspects of using online resources?
Do you use computers and the Internet for entertainment? If so, what kinds of activities do you engage in for entertainment?
What impact do you think a student’s major has on his or her use and skills with
technology?
3. Your use of technology in courses
3.1
How have instructors used information technology in the courses you have taken
thus far?
©2008 EDUCAUSE. Reproduction by permission only.
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
113
Students and Information Technology, 2008
3.2
3.3
3.4
3.5
3.6
3.7
3.8
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
How effective are your instructors with these information technologies?
What are the major advantages that you see in the use of information technology in
your courses?
What is the major disadvantage that you see in the use of information technology in
your courses?
Do you think that the use of information technology in your courses has helped you
in your learning? If so, how? If not, why not?
What are the major obstacles you see to more effective use of computer and information technology in your courses?
One of the findings of last year’s study was that students indicated that technology in
their classes was about convenience. While improved learning was also mentioned, it
seemed to play a lesser role. Can you please comment on this?
If there was one thing your professors could do or not do with respect to technology
in your course, what would it be?
4. Future
4.1
What advice would you give university administrators who are keen to encourage the
effective use of technology in college courses? What sorts of things should they be
doing?
5. Social networking
5.1
5.2
5.3
5.4
5.5
5.6
5.7
5.8
5.9
Are you an active user of social networking sites (Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, etc.)?
Why or why not?
How often do you use these websites? How much time do you spend?
Why do you use the websites? How do you use them?
How many friends on social networking sites do you have that you’ve never met in
person?
These sites have been around for a few years. Do you think their popularity is increasing
or decreasing? Why?
Do you participate (add content to) in wikis? How?
Do you participate (add content to) in blogs? How?
Have you used any of these social networking tools in your courses? How? How effective were they?
Are you worried about having your identity/profile available to everyone publicly? If
so, why?
6. Other Comments?
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ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Appendix D
Participating Institutions and
Survey Response Rates
Four-Year Institutions
Arizona State University
Auburn University
Barry University
Sample
Freshman and Percentage of
Senior Sample Enrollment
5,900
24.9%
Carnegie
Classification
DR EXT
Freshman
and Senior
Enrollment
23,698
DR EXT
9,681
1,455
15.0%
180
12.4%
MA I
2,521
908
36.0%
163
18.0%
Student
Respondents
639
Response
Rate
10.8%
Baylor University
DR INT
5,795
1,600
27.6%
134
8.4%
Brandeis University
DR EXT
1,588
1,588
100.0%
645
40.6%
Bridgewater State College
MA I
3,927
3,927
100.0%
299
7.6%
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
MA I
12,648
12,648
100.0%
896
7.1%
California State University, East Bay
MA I
5,083
4,100
80.7%
555
13.5%
DR EXT
2,023
499
24.7%
61
12.2%
MA II
906
906
100.0%
92
10.2%
BA GEN
687
687
100.0%
56
8.2%
7.2%
Case Western Reserve University
Castleton State College
Catawba College
Central Connecticut State University
MA I
5,229
2,425
46.4%
174
Central Michigan University
DR INT
9,532
8,759
91.9%
854
9.7%
College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University
BA LA
2,102
2,102
100.0%
353
16.8%
Colorado College
BA LA
1,076
323
30.0%
72
22.3%
Coppin State University
MA I
1,655
1,655
100.0%
116
7.0%
Dartmouth College
DR INT
–
–
–
174
–
Drexel University
DR INT
6,861
1,716
25.0%
199
11.6%
MA I
9,001
2,250
25.0%
154
6.8%
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University–Prescott
Campus
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University–Worldwide
OTHER
845
845
100.0%
439
52.0%
MA I
2,361
2,361
100.0%
213
9.0%
5,796
2,932
50.6%
391
13.3%
Emory University
DR EXT
2,600
1,750
67.3%
189
10.8%
Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
ENGR
164
164
100.0%
64
39.0%
Granite State College
BA LA
438
438
100.0%
76
17.4%
Hamilton College
BA LA
918
400
43.6%
79
19.8%
Eastern Michigan University
Hofstra University
DR INT
4,117
1,500
36.4%
267
17.8%
Indiana University
DR EXT
13,415
700
5.2%
85
12.1%
©2008 EDUCAUSE. Reproduction by permission only.
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
115
Students and Information Technology, 2008
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
DR INT
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
9,280
700
7.5%
74
10.6%
Johnson State College
MA I
923
923
100.0%
67
7.3%
Kansas State University
DR EXT
9,348
2,327
24.9%
61
2.6%
MA II
2,627
2,627
100.0%
470
17.9%
MA I
1,149
1,149
100.0%
65
5.7%
BA GEN
831
831
100.0%
90
10.8%
Keene State College
Lawrence Technological University
Lyndon State College
Macalester College
BA LA
915
400
43.7%
120
30.0%
Miami University
DR INT
7,219
2,000
27.7%
210
10.5%
Middle Tennessee State University
DR INT
12,523
3,000
24.0%
191
6.4%
Monmouth College
BA LA
687
687
100.0%
188
27.4%
Monmouth University
MA I
2,400
700
29.2%
47
6.7%
North Dakota State University
DR INT
6,200
2,400
38.7%
180
7.5%
Northwestern University
DR EXT
4,115
1,000
24.3%
316
31.6%
Oakland University
DR INT
6,448
6,448
100.0%
1,301
20.2%
Pepperdine University
DR INT
1,633
407
24.9%
51
12.5%
Presbyterian College
BA LA
564
564
100.0%
176
31.2%
Purdue University
DR EXT
14,513
800
5.5%
89
11.1%
Purdue University Calumet
MA I
4,568
1,200
26.3%
57
4.8%
Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
MA I
707
707
100.0%
128
18.1%
DR INT
2,592
1,125
43.4%
165
14.7%
Seton Hall University
Simmons College
MA I
985
492
49.9%
106
21.5%
Skidmore College
BA LA
1,241
700
56.4%
233
33.3%
South Dakota State University
DR INT
3,927
981
25.0%
206
21.0%
Stevens Institute of Technology
DR INT
992
655
66.0%
184
28.1%
MA I
2,363
875
37.0%
103
11.8%
12.9%
SUNY College at Geneseo
Towson University
MA I
7,108
7,033
98.9%
907
Tufts University
DR EXT
2,647
2,647
100.0%
301
11.4%
Tulane University
DR EXT
3,861
3,861
100.0%
613
15.9%
University of Alabama
DR EXT
11,785
2,946
25.0%
233
7.9%
University of California, San Diego
DR EXT
1,537
1,537
100.0%
170
11.1%
University of Delaware
DR EXT
7,829
7,829
100.0%
936
12.0%
MA I
1,801
1,801
100.0%
286
15.9%
DR EXT
–
–
–
151
–
University of Indianapolis
The University of Iowa
University of La Verne
DR INT
868
262
30.2%
32
12.2%
University of Maryland
DR EXT
12,089
4,000
33.1%
294
7.4%
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
DR EXT
3,267
3,267
100.0%
269
8.2%
The University of Memphis
DR EXT
9,139
9,139
100.0%
532
5.8%
11.2%
University of Michigan–Ann Arbor
DR EXT
13,494
2,000
14.8%
223
University of Missouri–Columbia
DR EXT
12,053
2,936
24.4%
228
7.8%
University of New Hampshire
DR EXT
5,762
2,000
34.7%
342
17.1%
University of North Carolina at Pembroke
MA I
2,535
1,082
42.7%
170
15.7%
University of North Dakota
DR INT
5,253
1,475
28.1%
192
13.0%
University of Northern Colorado
DR INT
4,736
1,332
28.1%
86
6.5%
The University of South Dakota
DR INT
2,947
737
25.0%
90
12.2%
University of St. Thomas
DR INT
3,048
1,240
40.7%
242
19.5%
University of Texas HSC at San Antonio
MED
978
978
100.0%
198
20.2%
University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire
MA I
5,501
1,600
29.1%
136
8.5%
116
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
University of Wisconsin–Green Bay
MA II
3,071
3,071
100.0%
358
11.7%
University of Wisconsin–La Crosse
MA I
4,027
4,027
100.0%
990
24.6%
University of Wisconsin–Madison
DR EXT
13,819
2,000
14.5%
343
17.2%
University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
DR EXT
10,886
1,600
14.7%
116
7.3%
University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh
MA I
5,260
1,748
33.2%
248
14.2%
University of Wisconsin–Parkside
MA II
3,068
3,068
100.0%
169
5.5%
University of Wisconsin–Platteville
MA I
2,806
2,806
100.0%
474
16.9%
University of Wisconsin–River Falls
MA I
2,956
400
13.5%
59
14.8%
University of Wisconsin–Stout
MA I
3,330
1,665
50.0%
471
28.3%
University of Wisconsin–Superior
MA I
1,372
1,372
100.0%
265
19.3%
University of Wisconsin–Whitewater
Vanderbilt University
MA I
4,519
1,000
22.1%
103
10.3%
DR EXT
3,400
1,050
30.9%
113
10.8%
ENGR
610
610
100.0%
78
12.8%
DR EXT
13,015
13,015
100.0%
703
5.4%
MA I
3,538
3,538
100.0%
319
9.0%
Vermont Technical College
Wayne State University
Western Carolina University
Associate’s Institutions
AA Sample
15,658
Sample
Percentage of
Enrollment
98.0%
Student
Respondents
2,174
Response Rate
13.9%
3,049
3,049
100.0%
310
10.2%
AA
9,938
–
–
32
–
AA
30,767
–
–
416
–
Grand Rapids Community College
AA
14,935
1,000
6.7%
142
14.2%
Johnson County Community College
AA
4,691
716
15.3%
111
15.5%
Paradise Valley Community College
AA
14,006
–
–
80
–
South Mountain Community College
AA
7,212
1,254
17.4%
52
4.1%
Carnegie
Classification
AA
AA Enrollment
15,980
Community College of Vermont
AA
Estrella Mountain Community College
Glendale Community College
Community College of Rhode Island
EDUCAUSE CENTER FOR APPLIED RESEARCH
117
Students and Information Technology, 2008
ECAR Research Study 8, 2008
Appendix E
Bibliography
The bibliography contains all cited sources as well as additional material influential in preparing
the study.
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