ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2018

ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2018 by an author (EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR))
15th annual ECAR study of undergraduate students and information technology

The full report is available at the link above. I pulled quotes and graphics of interest to me in the materials below. As an example, I did not include results about quality of WIFI and LMS Use & Satisfaction in my overview.

Key Findings

  • Practically all college and university students have access to the most important technologies for their academic success. US students reported near-universal access to a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone, with no systematic differences in access based on ethnicity, gender, age, and socioeconomic status. However, students reported low levels of access to newer, more expensive technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headsets and 3D printers.
  • While laptops, hybrids, desktops, and smartphones continue to be rated as very to extremely important to student success, the importance of these devices differs considerably by student demographics. Generally, women, students of color, students with disabilities, first-generation students, students who are independent (with or without dependents of their own), and students who come from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds see their devices as significantly more important to their success than do their counterparts. White students are significantly less likely than non-white students to think desktops, tablets, and smartphones are important to their success.
  • Students’ overall technology experiences continue to be correlated with their evaluation of campus Wi-Fi reliability and ease of login.Students’ evaluation of campus Wi-Fi in various locations has remained largely flat in recent years, but significant gaps remain in terms of the quality of connectivity in dormitories/student housing and outdoor spaces, as well as ease of network login.
  • LMS use remains prevalent across higher education institutions, with continued high rates of use and student satisfaction. Three-quarters of all students reported being either satisfied or very satisfied with their institution’s LMS, and more than three-quarters of students reported their LMS was used for most or all of their courses. This likely reflects satisfaction primarily with the functional aspects of their institution’s LMS.
  • A majority of students continue to express preferences for learning environments that fall somewhere on the “blended” continuum (from mostly face-to-face to mostly online). While a plurality (38%) of students prefer fully face-to-face classroom environments, students who have taken some fully online courses are significantly more likely to prefer blended environments and less likely to prefer purely face-to-face courses.
  • Although a majority of students said their instructors use technology to enhance their pedagogy, improve communication, and carry out course tasks, there are limitations when it comes to personal device use. Instructors encourage students to use their laptops more than smartphones, but nearly a third of students are not encouraged to use their own devices as learning tools in class, suggesting that many students take courses in which faculty discourage or ban the in-class use of students’ technology.
  • Nearly three-quarters of students (72%) who live off campus reported their internet connections at their home/off-campus residence are either good or excellent, and only 2% reported having no internet access at home. Students who live off campus have a stronger preference for online and blended courses than do their on-campus counterparts. This preference may reflect how online learning can benefit those who need to juggle work schedules and family responsibilities.
  • The typical student is fairly serious about doing the work of being a student, spending 1 to 4 hours per day online doing homework and conducting research. Contrary to popular belief, students do not appear to spend most of their time using social media, watching TV, or playing video games. Indeed, the typical student spends 1 to 2 hours on social media and another 1 to 2 hours streaming video; more than half of students reported that they do not play video games.
  • A plurality of students who self-identify as having a physical and/or learning disability requiring accessible or adaptive technologies for their coursework rated their institution’s awareness of their needs as poor. According to students, larger and DR public institutions tend to have poorer awareness of disabled students’ needs than do smaller and AA institutions. In addition to institutional limitations, students’ fears of being stigmatized or penalized for disclosing their disabilities and engaging disability services to receive the aid they need may be contributing to low rates of awareness.
  • Students continue to view student success tools as at least moderately useful. Students view success tools that help with transactional tasks related to the work of being students (e.g., conducting business, tracking credits, planning degrees, conducting degree audits) as slightly more useful than those that help them academically (e.g., early-alert systems, academic resources, course recommendations, improvement of academic performance).

Device Access & Ownership Results

Types of devices, and access to devices is particularly interesting.

Device Use and Importance

Devices rated as Very/Extremely Important for Academic Success by students.

Learning Environment Preferences

So what is driving students’ inclinations? It seems that it’s similar to what influences human preferences in other contexts as well: exposure and experience. Long-standing research has shown us that “mere exposure” builds familiarity, which can lead to our preferences for everything from foods to sounds to faces.

Experiences with Instructors and Technology

How the typical student spends time online

Institutional awareness of students’ needs for accessible or adaptive technologies

Student evaluations of student success tools

Student success tools are categorized into two camps: tools that aid in academic success, such as early-alert systems, and tools that aid in the work of being a students, such as self-service systems for tracking credits or registration.

Report Recommendations

  • Continue providing students with access to the basic technologies that are most important to their academic success.
  • Eliminate classroom bans of student devices important to their success.
  • Increase the reach and quality of campus Wi-Fi networks.
  • Expand student awareness of the benefits, expectations, and demands of blended learning environments.
  • Ensure that commuter students have the tools and information they need to take advantage of blended and online learning and leverage their institution’s technology to meet their academic needs.
  • Build collaborative partnerships across campus to increase awareness and better meet the needs of students with disabilities who require assistive/adaptive technologies.
  • Increase the use of student success tools.


  • Too Long; Didn’t Read #172

Write a Comment


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  • This Article was mentioned on

    Also on:

  • D Christopher Brooks liked this read on