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Learning with Technology: What do Students Want?

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Marie Devlin, Terry Charlton



This paper presents the results of a study into which technologies are preferred by students to support their studies. The study has taken place across four universities in the North of England. Much has been written and discussed about the differences between generations regarding their acceptance and ease of use of technology. Terms such as ‘Digital Natives’ (Prensky, 2001) or ‘Net Generation’ (Tapscott, 1999) are frequently used to portray the younger generations born after 1980, who regard digital technology as routine, essential and unexciting. However, many authors have also argued against this rather simplistic classification. Independent of whether Digital Natives exist or not, it cannot be denied that mobile and internet-based technologies have proved valuable tools that enable students to access learning at a time that suits them, at their own pace, and wherever they prefer. As part of a HEFCE funded project, the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning - Active Learning in Computing (CETL ALiC) - has conducted ten surveys over four years and across four institutions to identify the needs and preferences of our undergraduate students. CETL ALiC is a collaborative project between four universities in the North of England: Durham, Newcastle, Leeds and Leeds Metropolitan, allowing the opportunity to conduct a comparative study across all four institutions and share findings of studies conducted at individual institutions. The comparative study in the form of a survey about preferences in information and communication technologies was distributed to all first year students soon after their arrival at the four institutions. Findings indicate that the majority of these students arrive with technologies that allow them constant access to internet technologies while at their university accommodation and to internet-ready mobile devices capable of playing audio or video files that they carry with them on an daily basis, providing them with a range of options in how they might access learning materials. The spread of personal technologies brought by students on entering university has grown year on year. We also specifically investigated student attitudes towards podcasting, i.e. the use of audio and video files to support flexible teaching and learning, which can be automatically downloaded to mobile players via subscription; and to attitudes towards universities communicating with them through social networking sites. Our findings indicate that while students value the choice available to them, the majority still prefer to access and conduct their learning in traditional ways using computers, pen and paper, as well as personal contact time with their tutor and many are sceptical about what is viewed as university intrusion into their social spaces.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Gorra A, Finaly J, Devlin M, Lavery J, Neagle R, Ross JS, Charlton T, Boyle R

Editor(s): Ismail, I.

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: 5th International Conference on e-Learning

Year of Conference: 2010

Pages: 126-136

Date deposited: 23/09/2010

Publisher: Academic Conferences Ltd.