Wikipedia beats lectures and course materials??


EDUCAUSE has carried out its annual survey of the undergraduate use of technology. ECAR Fellows Judy Borreson Caruso and Gail Salaway discussed their preliminary findings today at the ECAR Research Symposium in Boulder (the report will be published in October).


27,317 students from 98 US institutions took part in the survey plus a few from overseas institutions. There were also 75 students in focus groups at five institutions and 5,800 written comments from the survey.

Computer ownership is now almost ubiquitous – with 98.5% of those surveyed owning one. Interestingly there has been a drop in desktop computer ownership of 28% since last year. Now 80.5% of students have a laptop. 66.1% own an internet-capable phone and 10.2% of them use that facility daily. When students were asked why they didn’t use the internet more on their phones they commented that there was no point as they could just use their laptops.

So what do they do with their computers? 93.4% access the university library website. 91.9% use presentation software (eg Powerpoint). 85.9% use spreadsheets. 82.3% the LMS/VLE and 73.9% graphics packages such as Photoshop.

Students rate their ability to search for information online very highly – though faculty, and certainly librarians, would tend to disagree…

The negative and positive comments about the LMS/VLE are about equal in quantity and are mainly that:

  1. It adds convenience (eg for tracking grades)
  2. Many instructors are not very good at using it – or just don’t use it
  3. It needs to be more reliable

Social networking sites are being used by 82% of students, and the median usage is about 4 hours per week. Facebook is used by 88.9%, MySpace by 48.3% (mainly for communicating with friends from high school), and other services such as LinkedIn hardly at all. Those who don’t use social networking sites are either not interested (62.6%), don’t like them (40.5%) or have privacy concerns (34.5%).

96.5% of students use social networks to stay in touch with friends, 67.4% to share photos, music, videos and other documents, 51.4% to find out about other people, and 49.5% to communicate with classmates about course-related topics. This is significant as it is by-passing institutional systems but maybe it’s just a modern version of the student coffee bar where the conversations were never controlled or monitored by the institution anyway.

Students have 100-200 online friends on average, and 28.3% of them have more than 300.

Typical comments about social networking sites included “It’s addictive – is there some sort of drug?”, “I’m on there all day – whenever I can get there.”, and, interestingly, a less enthusiastic response from the typical engineering student: “What’s the big deal? If I want to talk to someone I will.”

The 30% of students who listen to podcasts are overwhelmingly positive about them, though only 4% had listened to course-related podcasts. Webcasted recordings of lectures were also very popular. 17% of students say they skip classes when the lectures are posted online – a perennial fear of many lecturers.

One respondent reported that he never bothered with lectures or course materials but just got everything he needed from wikipedia. He passed the course competently…