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How Technology Issues Can Impact Mental Health

In a recent survey, more than half of students said that technology problems have caused them stress in the past year. For its 2022 Students and Technology Report, higher education IT association Educause polled 820 undergraduate students across the United States about their experiences with technology, institutional support services, and more. The majority of students (77%) reported having one or more technology issues during the 2021-2022 academic year; 51% experienced stress as a result of their tech challenges.

Among the technology mishaps students encountered:

  • Unstable internet connections (reported by 64% of respondents);
  • Device malfunctions (46%);
  • Not being able to run required applications or software (39%);
  • Not having the appropriate applications or software to perform a task (39%);
  • Not having my device properly configured to perform a task (34%);
  • Not being able to access my primary device when I needed it (29%); and
  • Having my device break when I needed it (19%).

The top stressors on that list: unstable internet connections (35% of respondents reported this causing stress), device malfunctions (29%), and not being able to run required applications or software (21%).

Educause also asked students how they solved their technology problems. Here, responses skewed toward self-service solutions. The largest share of students (27%) said they overcame IT issues with their own knowledge or personal troubleshooting abilities, followed by 24% who bought a new digital device. Seventeen percent received help from friends or family for IT issues, while just 11% utilized their institution's IT support.

Technology and mental health also factored into survey findings about student success, which a plurality of respondents (30%) defined as completing a degree. (Other top success measures for students included securing a job [15%] and achieving personal growth [11%].) When asked how their institutions have helped them succeed, students cited a wide range of resources, including academic and financial supports, flexible policies, and notably, device loaner programs. On the flip side, when students were asked about specific barriers to success, respondents pointed to "inadequate access to technology such as internet, devices, and software" and "mental and physical health," among a variety of other factors.

Educause concluded by advising institutions to "Investigate how educational technology at your institution is both supporting students and creating stress or other barriers for them, and expand your institution's efforts to support device access beyond meeting minimum requirements." In addition, the report suggested, "Ask your students how they define a successful experience at your institution so that you can support more than just degree completion, and evaluate institutional policies and practices to determine which ones are helping students succeed and which ones are acting as barriers to success."

The full report is available on the Educause 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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