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Survey: 94% of Students Want to Use Their Cell Phones in Class

A whopping 94 percent of students in a recent survey said they want to use their cell phones in class for academic purposes. The Student Pulse Survey from Top Hat, conducted by independent research firm Survata, polled 520 college students about digital devices, textbooks and learning. Top Hat is the maker of a classroom engagement platform that allows students to use their own devices to participate in discussions and access course content.

The survey found that a large number of students — 75 percent — believe using personal devices in the classroom has improved their ability to learn and retain information. Fifty-eight percent of respondents use their phones to take pictures of lecture slides; 41 percent use them to Google answers to in-class questions; and 39 percent use them to access a digital textbook. On the other hand, 54 percent also use cell phones to text friends and 52 percent use them to browse social media during class.

Many students said they would be willing to use their phone more often for various class activities, such as check in to the class (60 percent), answer in-class polls (59 percent) and access a professor's slides (54 percent). Just 6 percent of students said they don't want to use their phone in class for academic purposes.

Students also want more interactive, digital course materials, the survey found. About twice as many students said they learn more effectively from an interactive text than a static PDF course pack (36 percent compared to 19 percent, respectively). Sixty-eight percent think quizzes should be embedded within digital course materials, and 62 percent said the same about videos. Just 3 percent said they would prefer not to have interactive course materials.

The survey also asked students about ways they obtain their textbooks. Fifty-six percent of respondents said they have rented a textbook; 47 percent have downloaded a PDF of a textbook; 35 percent have borrowed a textbook; and 31 percent have gotten by without buying a textbook at all.

Finally, when asked what presents the biggest obstacle to college success, students' No. 1 answer was finances, followed by "Not enough time to study and absorb the course material," quality of teaching and access to textbooks.

An infographic of the survey results is available on the Top Hat site.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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