ECAR Study of Community College Students and Information Technology, 2019

Conclusion and Recommendations


The findings in this report reflect the unique situations of community college students and the responsibilities they shoulder in the management of their academic, family, and work lives. While ownership of a personal device is now ubiquitous, emerging technologies are having an impact on the few who have access to them on their campuses. This report provides insights into why newer technologies are valued by students pursuing particular fields and programs; 3D technologies are potential game-changers in addressing industry shifts and their associated skill gaps by helping prepare people for positions needing to be filled across the United States that will impact human health outcomes. Student demographics play an important role in understanding the lives of two-year and AA students and how technology can be leveraged further to encourage success and credential completion. These findings also reveal that the learning environment preferences of this population are influenced by the obligations they have outside the college classroom.

We hope this study encourages important conversations among community college stakeholders about the ways technology can be used to address the needs of students in underrepresented groups, thereby fostering more equitable and inclusive campuses. These results are also useful for the many IT professionals, faculty, and administrators at other institution types who work with students who transfer from two-year and AA schools. While this report offers insights and possible explanations about why these patterns exist among this population of community college students, more research is needed to gain a greater understanding of the experiences of minority students and those from regions not represented in this study. With additional and more representative data, we would have the opportunity to capture a more focused picture of their technology needs, preferences, and social contexts.


  • Deploy the ECAR student surveys on more community college campuses. Several US regions were underrepresented; the New England and Rocky Mountain states, as well as the outlying areas/US territories, were not represented at all in the 2018 survey results. Given the large number of students—many from underrepresented populations—who attend two-year and AA institutions, the role these institutions play is vital in providing access to an affordable education. Broader participation in ECAR surveys would allow for greater understanding of these students' technology experiences and enable EDUCAUSE to better serve the unique needs of these two-year and AA institutions, and their students.
  • Increase investment in and access to newer technologies such as AR/VR headsets and 3D printers. Compared with their four-year peers, fewer community college students have access to these technologies on their campuses, and increasing access can help avoid the creation of a new digital divide. Due to the large number of women and minority students they serve, community colleges can position themselves as leaders in access to and implementation of next-gen technologies to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. Allocate a budget to these devices and offer faculty support in their implementation. Locate 3D technologies in common spaces on campus (e.g., libraries, makerspaces, media studios) to increase access and encourage student engagement.
  • Increase the awareness and use of student success tools when available, especially those related to degree planning and mapping. Online success tools can contribute to a student's academic performance, and these are especially valued by minority students who have access to them. Train students, faculty, and advisors to effectively use these tools, and increase their visibility through online campus marketing, student orientations, and advisement sessions.
  • Couple more opportunities to take blended and online courses with student support initiatives. IT can partner with other campus units to educate students about the demands and possibilities of online environments so that they can make informed decisions about the learning environments that work best for them. Train faculty who teach blended and online courses to effectively use early-alert and other online student success tools and encourage their use.
  • Partner across campus units to continue increasing awareness to meet the needs of students with disabilities who require assistive/adaptive technologies. Foster an inclusive mind-set and use language that communicates accessibility in student resources to maintain an open and productive dialogue with students so that they are comfortable disclosing their needs. Work proactively with disability services and support the adoption of universal design for learning principles for tech across campus.