ECAR 2012 Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology

Educause Center for Applied Research (ECAR) has surveyed undergraduate students annually since 2004 about technology in higher education. In 2012, ECAR collaborated with 195 institutions to collect responses from more than 100,000 students about their technology experiences. The findings are distilled into the broad thematic message for institutions and educators to balance strategic innovation with solid delivery of basic institutional services and pedagogical practices and to know students well enough to understand which innovations they value the most.

Key Findings

See the 2012 report for a full list key messages, findings, and supporting data.

  • Blended-learning environments are the norm; students say that these environments best support how they learn.
  • Students want to access academic progress information and course material via their mobile devices, and institutions deliver.
  • Technology training and skill development for students is more important than new, more, or “better” technology.
  • Students use social networks for interacting with friends more than for academic communication.


The following infographic, available here as PDF, highlights some of the key findings:

ECAR 2012 Infographic

ECAR Recommends

See the 2012 report for a full list of actionable results.

  • Look to emerging or established leaders (other institutions, other countries, other industries) for strategies to deliver instruction and curricular content to tablets and smartphones. Learn from their exemplary strategies for IT support and security with student devices as well as planning, funding, deploying, and managing instructional technologies, services, and support.
  • Prioritize the development of mobile-friendly resources and activities that students say are important: access to course websites and syllabi, course and learning management systems, and academic progress reports (i.e., grades).
  • Bridge the gap between the technologies that have seen the greatest growth (e-portfolios, e-books/e-textbooks, and web-based citation/bibliographic tools) and students’ attitudes about their importance. Focus training/skill-building opportunities for students, professional development opportunities for faculty, and support service opportunities on these emerging technologies.
  • Use e-mail and the course and learning management system for formal communication with students. Experiment with text messaging and instant messaging/online chatting, and don’t focus efforts on using social networks and telephone conversations to interact with students.

Complete study findings available here.

Students and Technology in 2011

Each year, Educause completes a study of technology use in higher education. The 2011 ECAR study of undergraduate students and information technology…

…sheds lights on how information technology affects the college experience. ECAR has conducted this annual study since 2004, and though students’ ownership and utilization of technology changes from year to year, students consistently rely upon their instructors and institutions to meet their technology expectations and needs. The 2011 study differs from past studies in that the questionnaire was reengineered and responses were gathered from a nationally representative sample of 3,000 students in 1,179 colleges and universities.

While complete details about the study are available, here is a nice infographic that summarizes the key findings:


Here is a listing of the key findings displayed in the infographic above:


  • 43% of students agree their institution needs more technology
  • Only 1 in 4 (22%) of students strongly agree their institution uses the technology it has effectively
  • Only 1 in 5 (19%) strongly agree technology is integrated seamlessly into their courses
  • More than 1 in 7 (15%) of students think technology breaks or is broken more often than it is used in the classroom.
  • Students like basic online services at their institutions, with the following percentage of students saying their institution does an excellent of good job at these online services:
    • Course registration: 86%
    • Making grades available: 81%
    • Offering library resources: 75%
    • Making transcripts available: 70%
    • Making financial aid information available: 70%
    • Offering textbooks for sale: 53%
  • Students say they learn more in blended learning environments:
    • No online components: 20%
    • Some online components: 58%
    • Completely online: 9%


  • Sudents value the technologies instructors use, and use effectively! Percentage of students responding “extremely effectively” among instructors who use:
    • Projector: 65%
    • Wi-Fi: 59%
    • Laptop computer: 58%
    • Desktop computer: 57%
    • Document camera: 56%
    • Gaming device: 55%
    • Printer: 54%
    • HDTV: 53%
    • Thumb drive: 52%
    • Digital SLR camera: 50%
  • About 1 in 3 students (31%)think the instructor often requires the help of others to get technology up and running successfully
  • More than 1 in 2 students (51%) think they know more about how to use technology than their professors
  • 39% of students wish their instructors used e-mail more often
  • About 1 in 3 students (31%) wish their instructors used e-books or e-textbooks more often
  • 32% of students wish their instructors used a course or learning management system more often


  • Applications most frequently used by students:
    • Word processors: 96%
    • Institution library website: 88%
    • Presentation software: 85%
    • Spreadsheets: 83%
    • Course or learning management system: 73%
    • E-books or e-textbooks: 57%
    • Programming languages: 33%
    • E-portfolios: 21%
  • Almost all students use e-mail (99%), text messaging (93%) and Facebook (90%)
  • Communication tools most frequently used (several times a day):
    • E-mail: 75%
    • Texting: 74%
    • Facebook: 58%


  • Technology ownership: A majority of undergraduates own about a dozen devices:
    • iPad: 8%
    • Netbook: 11%
    • eReader: 12%
    • Handheld games: 38%
    • Desktop computer: 53%
    • Webcam: 55%
    • Smart phone: 55%
    • HDTV: 56%
    • iPod: 62%
    • Stationary games: 66%
    • Thumb drive: 70%
    • DVD player: 75%
    • Printer: 81%
    • Laptop computer: 87%
  • Essential technology: Percentage of students who said these technologies are “extremely valuable” for academic success:
    • Desktop computer: 57%
    • Thumb drive: 64%
    • Printer: 73%
    • Wi-Fi: 78%
    • Laptop computer: 81%
  • 37% of students have used smartphones for academics in the past year
  • How smartphone owners use their devices for academics:
    • E-mailing professors: 66%
    • Checking grades: 62%
    • Texting other students about coursework: 61%
    • Looking up information on the Internet in class: 45%
    • Texting professors: 19%