Conclusion and Recommendations
Our findings this year reflect students who are serious about the work of being students and who continue to leverage personal and campus technology for their academic success. Personal technologies remain reliably prevalent; other technologies with potential impact to enhance student learning are emerging among our students. Meanwhile, campus technology infrastructure continues to influence students' overall tech experiences. This year we also determined that student demographics play an important role in the types of technology that are viewed as critical to their success as well as to their experiences of technology. We are also optimistic that this year's report can foster important dialogues among campus stakeholders regarding technology, diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as accessibility. Although reporting that "change is occurring" while some things "remain the same" doesn't constitute a game-changing proclamation, we are confident this report provides strong insights into why these trends are occurring, as well as actionable recommendations for institutional stakeholders.
The more evidence that can be collected to understand students' technological preferences for and relations to technology, the better equipped faculty and IT organizations will be to address current needs and anticipate future student needs. In 2018, students continue to see technology as essential to their academic success. What is crucial now is identifying how best to leverage it for student success, based on institutional goals, costs, pedagogical approaches, and evidence of impact. This report supports these conversations by providing empirical evidence for addressing these goals rather than relying on anecdotal-based assumptions about students and technology or single studies that confirm our preconceived biases. We hope that this report will serve as the starting point of those conversations.
- Continue providing students with access to the basic technologies that are most important to their academic success. The maintenance of desktop computer labs, laptop and tablet rental programs, and negotiated discounts for personal academic devices enable nearly all students to have access to the technologies they need to succeed. Avoid the creation of a new digital divide by making bleeding-edge technologies such as AR and VR headsets and 3D printers and scanners equally and publicly available to all students in venues such as makerspaces and libraries.
- Eliminate classroom bans of student devices important to their success. Although devices that can connect to the internet have the potential to distract students during class, many students—especially women, students of color, students with disabilities, first-generation students, students who are independent (with or without dependents of their own), and students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds—find these devices significantly more important to their academic success than do their counterparts. Classroom device bans have the potential to indiscriminately undermine students who may disproportionately rely on them, creating unnecessary (and possibly illegal) obstacles for those who may need them the most.
- Increase the reach and quality of campus Wi-Fi networks. Students should have experiences with their institutional Wi-Fi similar to what they have in public places and with their home networks. Wi-Fi connectivity across all areas of campus should be considered the industry standard for higher education institutions. Without these improvements, campus IT departments will continue to hear students' complaints and concerns about connectivity while reporting poorer technology experiences at their institution. Campus IT should improve IoT connections to campus networks and proactively communicate to students, faculty, and staff how increased network security can affect their login experiences.
- Expand student awareness of the benefits, expectations, and demands of blended learning environments. Students should receive consistent and clear information from multiple campus sources so that they can make well-informed decisions about the learning environments that are best suited to their own learning and lives. Expose students to blended learning early in their college careers and provide faculty who lack blended learning experience with professional development and opportunities to teach in these environments.
- Ensure that commuter students have the tools and information they need to take advantage of blended and online learning and leverage their institution's technology to meet their academic needs. Off-campus students should be similarly informed of the benefits, expectations, and demands of blended or online learning environments. Ensuring quality networks across all areas of campus will also benefit commuter students who have poor, fair, or no internet connectivity at home. Institutions can also look to partner with community resources, such as public libraries in student communities, to facilitate commuter students' access to reliable Wi-Fi networks.
- Build collaborative partnerships across campus to increase awareness and better meet the needs of students with disabilities who require assistive/adaptive technologies. Many students with disabilities choose not to disclose their disabilities for fear of being stigmatized. Fostering an inclusive mind-set and using language that communicates "accessibility" instead of "disability" in resources and course materials is key to opening a productive dialogue with students so that they feel comfortable requesting the services they need to be successful. Work proactively with disability services and support the adoption of universal design for learning principles for tech across campus.
- Increase the use of student success tools. Student success tools can contribute to students' academic performance. However, fewer students used student success tools that aided in academic performance than online tools that aided them in conducting the business of being students. The benefits of these tools should be communicated early to students in orientation, during advising meetings, or by advertising these tools via social media or on institutional websites. In particular, instructors and institutions should be aware of, have buy-in, use, and consistently communicate the benefits of these tools to their students to increase their use.