Enhancing Student Academic Success with Technology

Introduction and Key Findings

3 images. Each has two people sitting against a wall talking and laughing, and each person has some form of technology they are referencing (laptop, smartphone, tablet, etc.)


The current generation of students came of age in a time of unprecedented access to digital technology. In 2017, 95% of students reported that they own laptops, and 76% of students reported they were prepared to use basic productivity software programs (e.g., MS Office).1 This is a student population with the skill sets and tools to leverage technology for their learning and academic success. Students want more use of technology to aid them in their work of being students and to enhance their success. But students don't all necessarily want universal access to expensive, cutting-edge technologies such as 3D printers. Students expect their institutions to provide effective and efficient technology and expect their instructors to consistently use technology to promote student success. Student expectations include ubiquitous and frictionless Wi-Fi networks, instructors' incorporating more technology in the classroom, and consistent use of their institution's LMS.

These expectations are not much different from those of most digital technology consumers. If students can have seamless network connectivity on their mobile devices and instant and consistent access to online content, then why wouldn't institutions also provide high-quality Wi-Fi networks and instructors provide access to course content? We know what students desire from their institutions and instructors, but this report aims to uncover the reasons why students want more technology and more consistent use of available technology. Our objective is to give voice to students, thereby acknowledging their role as key stakeholders in their own success, and to offer IT administrators and instructors insight into how they can best leverage technology to enhance student success.

This report presents findings from students' open-ended responses gathered in 2017 on the "one thing" that their institution and instructors could do with technology to enhance their academic success. These responses enabled students to offer insight into their most pressing IT needs. We first present student responses on what their institution could do, followed by what their instructors could do; we conclude with recommendations based on these responses. We present open-ended findings based on the categories of coded responses. Although not all students provided detailed responses, we offer illustrative quotes reflective of these categories.

It should be noted that many students in the study did not provide open-ended responses; therefore, this report reflects the views of a smaller number of students than the overall number in the study sample. Nevertheless, virtually all respondents chose to voice concerns and offer suggestions as to how technology could assist them in their academic success. To provide context to these responses, we refer to survey findings from ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2017.

Key Findings

  • Students want their institutions to increase the reliability, speed, and strength of Wi-Fi in student housing, all campus buildings, and outside areas. We do know that a majority of students reported good or excellent experiences with Wi-Fi in libraries (76%), classrooms (68%), and general indoor public spaces (61%). However, almost half of students reported subpar experiences with Wi-Fi in outdoor spaces, and a third reported fair or poor experiences in dormitories. Student open-ended responses primarily focused on challenges with connectivity in housing and outdoors as they walked from building to building.
  • Students want training and support in the use of technology to enhance their academic success. Although in 2017 a majority of students (76%) agreed or strongly agreed that they were prepared to use productivity software (e.g., MS Office), fewer students (44%) agreed or strongly agreed that their institution had prepared them to use institution-specific technology. Student open-ended responses reflect a desire for training in both productivity software and institution-specific technology, such as registration systems and the LMS.
  • Students want their institutions to enable the use of more technology, especially the use of devices in classrooms, instructor use of technology, and increased library resources. Students were not often explicit in their statements regarding this theme: they stated most often that they simply wanted "more" technology to be used. When offering specifics, students reported that they wanted to be able to use their laptops in class and disagreed with instructors' "no laptops" policies. Some students reported that their laptops were crucial to their note-taking efforts.
  • Students reported that their academic success would be enhanced if their instructors used their institution's LMS to post lectures, course content, and grades/feedback. Students want their instructors to use the LMS's functional, operational components to help them succeed academically: posting audio or video of lectures provides the opportunity to review in-class content; posting course materials creates efficiencies for quickly finding materials for class preparation and review; providing feedback and posting grades helps students assess their current standing and adjust their approaches to learning in order to succeed.

© 2019 EDUCAUSE. The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License.

Citation for this work
Joseph D. Galanek and D. Christopher Brooks. Enhancing Student Academic Success with Technology. Research report. Louisville, CO: ECAR, April 2019.


  1. D. Christopher Brooks and Jeffrey Pomerantz, ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2017, research report (Louisville, CO: ECAR, October 2017).