Recent Study Examines the Impact of Technology on College Life

Posted By Terri Williams on November 3, 2015 at 2:58 pm
Recent Study Examines the Impact of Technology on College Life

Millennials are the most digitally connected generation in history. Although they only make up 29% of the population, they account for 41% of the total time that Americans spend on their smartphones. So it’s only natural that college life would be shaped by technology. But are these changes an enhancement or a distraction?

Consider these tidbits from the Asurion Connect College Life survey:

The tech toll on college students

  • 33% of students have missed class or a deadline because their tech device was lost or stolen
  • 15% of students said they lied about their laptop or computer being lost, stolen or broken into to get out of a college deadline
  • 57% of students have taken a selfie in class
  • 47% of students have ordered food during class

The college toll on tech

  • 56% of laptops, mobile phones, and other devices were lost, stolen, or broken while students were engaged in usual day-to-day activities
  • 18% of laptops, mobile phones, and other devices were lost, stolen, or broken while student were socializing at parties, bars, and restaurants
  • 29% of students say they spent $400 or more replacing lost, stolen, or broken laptops, mobile phones, and other devices

It only looks like a phone

Ironically, one-third of students say they never use their mobile phone to make phone calls. Instead, their time on the phone is divided amongst these four tasks:

20% Texting

17% Social sites

12% Internet

11% Music

The view from the other side

So, is this technology helping or hurting the college learning experience? GoodCall asked three college faculty members to weigh in.

Technology increases collaboration and provides convenience, both of which are clear advantages, according to Jordan Schugar, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of English and an Educational Technologist at West Chester University of Pennsylvania.

“Digital tools allow students to engage with their peers and their professors in easier ways. Twitter is a great example for how students can find and collaborate with professionals and experts beyond their immediate peer group,” says Schugar. “Cloud-based projects, docs, and assignments also encourage accountability. And, learning is a social process, so having the ability to collaborate when it’s convenient for them is a big thing for students.”

Schugar also says that mobile technologies allow students to learn “on-the-go when they’re ready and when they have time. They no longer have to sit at a desktop, but rather can complete assignments and do class readings, etc., on busses, trains, outside and in between other tasks.”

Dr. Harriet Thompson, Product Development Manager at Western Governors University’s Teachers College also thinks technology has improved the college learning experience. “Today we have flipped classrooms, student webinars, online discussions, phone discussions, adaptive learning, real-time chats, virtual classrooms, integrated response systems, smart boards, holographic keyboards, a myriad of presentation technologies, shared virtual classroom spaces, problem-based learning, robotics, virtual science labs, and virtual labs of all kinds.”

However, Kentaro Toyama, the W. K. Kellogg Associate Professor at the University of Michigan School of Information, and author of “Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology,” says “There’s some chance that technology will improve the learning experience, but there’s also a chance that it might not.”

Toyama says he teaches discussion-based classes and tells his students to put their competing smartphones away. “Apps are ‘designed’ to steal a person’s attention; your
 time with the app is more revenue for the company. So, the last thing I want in a learning environment is unrestricted access to those apps.”

Toyama says he has colleagues who use technology in such a way that it enhances learning, but he explains, “Whenever technology is used well, though, it’s because pedagogy and support for technology are excellent – the use of technology involves more moving parts, so it requires more skill and resources to implement well.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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