Here are just a few tech facts reported in the June 2013 College Explorer study from re:fuel, a market research company.
- The average college student owns 6.9 tech devices, with laptops being the most common.
- These students report spending over 3.5 hours a day with their cell phones and smartphones.
- Over the last five years, the number of college students taking at least one online course nearly doubled, from 23% to 45%.
These are true digital natives. By comparison, most board members, faculty and college administrators may have gotten their passports into the world of technology, but they are only immigrants. They are not nearly as dependent on or facile with technology as college students are. And yet, we are the people making decisions about institutional investments in and commitments to technology. Currently, too many in higher education are quick to say that nothing can replace the classroom learning experience, that MOOCs and other approaches to online education ignore the power of personal engagement. For some students, that is probably right. And for some topics or areas of learning, that is also probably right. But are these larger judgments about the value of digital learning fairly made, on fact? Or, are they defensive responses to what we see as threats to our business models?
Are we less concerned with the changing nature of students and their preferences for accessing learning and more concerned with continuing the educational process that is grounded in our campuses as they currently exist?
Now is the time to explore fully the new learning technologies and test their real value. Now is the time to explore the usefulness as well as the game-changing power of digital learning before the gap between the natives and what we offer becomes too great to bridge. Only by doing so can we help open doors to future students...who will undoubtedly arrive on campus with even more tech devices.
An infographic from AGB's 2013 Survey on Technology and Instruction: Taking the Board to School on Educational Technology.