The use of devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones is pervasive. According to the 2012 ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, a full 86 percent of college students own a laptop, with smartphone ownership topping 60 percent. Clearly, there is need for these devices, and colleges increasingly are providing the infrastructure to make them as useful as possible.
This study also lays out the tasks that college students are completing on their devices, which include checking grades, using course-management software and purchasing textbooks. Another primary function is communication: Phones, tablets and computers offer multiple modalities, making it much easier for students to communicate not only with each other but also with professors.
Technology in the classroom, according to this study, is fully embraced by about half of those surveyed. This raises an interesting question: If students already own the devices, whose responsibility is it to make sure its utility is being optimized?
There is one metric that this study did not measure: How does technology empower students? Nearly every college student has at least some access to computers and the Internet. How does that change their goals, their ambition and their outlook on the importance of their education? That remains to be seen but could ultimately prove to be the most groundbreaking function of technology for college students.