Survey: Students Increasingly Support Online Environments, Tech Use


In an annual survey, 74% of college students report that they would do better if educators used more technology. The results of other survey questions show that digital learning is becoming increasingly effective and convenient for students and that their approval rate of online learning environments is rising.

The survey of 519 college students was performed online by Wakefield Research and sponsored by the e-learning platform company VitalSource.

Dian Schaffhauser of Campus Technology quoted Cindy Clarke, Vice President of Marketing at VitalSource, who showed that the survey results paint a clear picture that technology use is tied to school and work in the minds of students:

Technology continues to be of critical importance to students, especially in the classroom. The research validates the degree to which students depend on technology to provide them with a competitive edge while they are in school, and after graduation as they prepare to enter a workforce which is increasingly digitally literate and globally connected.

Many students are finding that digital class materials are less expensive, more convenient, and more engaging than traditional textbooks. Between 2011 and 2015, the number of students who use digital technology to read course materials rose from 63% to 87%. 90% of students owned laptops in both 2014 and 2015, while smartphone use rose from 83% to 90% in the past year and tablet use grew from 43% to 50%.

Mika LaVaque-Manty is an associate professor of political science at the University of Michigan, and an instructor who understands how digital technology can be used in the classroom, writes Michael Schramm of USA Today. After a decade of integrating PDF readings into his curriculum and allowing students to use their devices in class, he believes that referencing material is much easier when you can search for a phrase instead of being forced to flip through textbook pages hoping to find what you’re looking for. He believes that digital text is the research method of the future, and encourages students to learn how to highlight, bookmark and take notes digitally.

Clarke noted the interplay between curricular development and actual classroom use:

We’ve been watching very carefully because it impacts how we evolve our own products. While educational technology is getting faster and better and cheaper, it feels like education maybe is not keeping up with the pace that students expect.

Students showed a preference not only for digital class materials, but also digital classroom environments. 56% said that they would be more comfortable in a digital class rather than an in-person setting. This year, 51% said that they received better grades in online courses compared to last year’s 42%.

Digital classrooms have multiple advantages over traditional brick and mortar environments. 61% of respondents said that they would learn better if they could get instant feedback from professors. 55% said it would be useful if instructors could track their progress in real time. 48% said that digital collaboration would help them learn more effectively, while 61% said that homework would be more effective if it had interactive elements such as video.