Students Talking About Technology: ECAR 2013


The Educause Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR) has released the latest version of its annual report, ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2013. I first started paying attention to ECAR about 5 or 6 years ago when I was at a school that participated in the survey. It’s a good study to participate in, because you get some more data points about how students use technology at your school–but even if your school doesn’t participate in the study, there are data points that will probably interest ProfHacker readers. I’ll just highlight four:

First, students have lots of devices, but relatively little incentive or freedom to use them in class:


Students did seem to indicate an interest in having their phones and/or tablets be more directly incorporated into academics.

Second, two-thirds of students report that their faculty “use technology effectively”:


It’s a little unclear what the students’ judgment is based on here: stuff not crashing? Faculty finding their comfort zone and sticking with it? Regardless, it is useful to know that students respect the faculty’s technology use.

Third, the report asserts that “60% of students prefer to keep their academic and social lives separate,” although there wasn’t a lot of followup about student interest in social networking and academic work in general. (For example, since a lot of Twitter clients support multiple accounts, it’s not terribly difficult to keep one’s academic and social life separate.)

And finally, the report also says that students prefer that faculty themselves provide instruction in how to use technology, rather than rely on the help desk or online-only documentation, which suggests that for the foreseeable future, faculty who incorporate technology in interesting or significant ways will need to continue to budget class time to cover how to use the tech.

There are also interesting results about how students want to use LMSes, and more. As always, Educause interprets the data in light of its understanding of of the institional/corporate world of information technology, rather than a faculty-centered one. (As I’ve already joked on Twitter, no one but Educause would characterize the fact that “Students expressed only moderate interest in learner analytics” as a “surprising” finding, unless what was surprising was that their interest was as high as “moderate.”) Nevertheless, it is certainly helpful to understand how students talk about their use of information technology, especially as one considers incorporating social media, or thinking about an electronic device policy.

At the ECAR site, you can download the full report, an infographic drawn from it, and the survey instrument.

Photo “Cat accountants” by Flickr user Jon Ross / Creative Commons licensed BY-ND-2.0

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