eLearning and the Smartphone

Social Mediators by johnwilliamsphd
Social Mediators, a photo by johnwilliamsphd on Flickr.

We recently conducted a survey of our student body to learn what kinds of technology they have access to and use for their studies. We are interested in seeing how our students compare to the research on college students and technology.

For me, one of the more interesting finds was 65% of our students surveyed report they have a smartphone. This is precisely the same percentage as reported by Pew Internet’s recent survey of college students and technology for community college students – which by the way, is the demographic showing the highest percentage of smartphone ownership.

“College students are much more likely than the overall cell owner population to use the internet on their mobile phones, although all young adults do this at a relatively high rate regardless of student status.” – Pew Research Center

Considering that community college students oftentimes have access to fewer resources, it seems at first that this would be counter-intuitive. However, when you consider that the smartphone may be the main source of Internet access, it begins to make more sense. The cost of the smartphone is usually spread out over monthly payments within a contract. This means lower costs up-front and lower costs overall when compared to the combined costs of a cell phone and monthly Internet service to the home.

It raises an important question. Can the student who relies primarily on a smartphone for Internet access get the same experience as the student who uses a computer with broadband connection at home? Probably not.

If, in fact a large percentage of our students rely on their smartphones to access their education, we need to seriously consider how we can best accommodate these students toward the goal of providing the most successful experience.

Things to consider: Access to grades, ability to participate in online discussions, library services, student services, help desk services…

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