Research

Three-Quarters of Students Say More Tech Would Improve Their Learning

Nearly six in 10 students (56 percent) would feel more comfortable being in a digital class than an in-person class and almost three-quarters (74 percent) report that they'd do better in their courses if only their instructors would use more technology.

For example, 61 percent of students said learning would improve for them if their homework were more interactive, containing elements such as video. The same number said learning would be more effective if they could exchange instant feedback with their professors. Enabling instructors to track their progress in real-time would be useful to 55 percent of students. And 48 percent said the addition of digital collaboration would enhance learning.

Those results surfaced in an annual survey on the impact of technology in higher education, sponsored by e-learning platform company VitalSource and run by Wakefield Research. The online survey questioned 519 students currently enrolled in college. The research company said the results had a margin of error of ±4.3 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.

The growing enthusiasm for online classes is resulting in better grades, according to the students. Whereas last year's survey reported that 42 percent of respondents received better grades in online courses, this year the count has grown to 51 percent.

Another growth area is the use of technology to read course materials. That increased from 63 percent in 2011 to 87 percent in 2015. The number of respondents who said they used devices to read digital materials "frequently" also increased over that same period, from 48 percent to 78 percent.

While laptop ownership stayed the same between 2014 and 2015 (90 percent), smartphone and tablet ownership has risen. Students owning smartphones rose from 83 percent last year to 90 percent this year; that count was only 47 percent in 2011. Tablet ownership grew from 43 percent to 50 percent from 2014 to 2015.

"Technology continues to be of critical importance to students, especially in the classroom," said Cindy Clarke, vice president of marketing for VitalSource, in a prepared statement, "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."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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