Google, Mobile, and What Else? Insights from the 2017 Freshman Technology Survey

As we do every year, we surveyed incoming freshmen about their technology habits during summer orientation. This year we received nearly 800 responses.  What did we learn?

Google

Freshmen Technology Survey 2017 Google Use
Freshmen Technology Survey 2017 Google Use
Incoming Freshmen Google Use 2013 - 2017
Incoming Freshmen Google Use 2013 – 2017

Some things we already knew–students like Google and their Google use is only going up. This year we saw 94% using Gmail, 81% using Google Drive, 75% using the Google Chrome browser, and 74% using Google Docs.  Given our recent switch to Gmail & Google calendar, we in OIT were happy to see that.  We’ll also take their use of Drive and Docs into account as we consider whether and when to turn on those other apps in GSuite.

Mobile

And, of course, yes, our students are as mobile as ever.

Freshmen Technology Survey 2017 Mobile Technology Use
Freshmen Technology Survey 2017 Mobile Technology Use

 

Digital Identity? Not so much . . .

What are they doing with their constant connection?  88% report that they use the web for Social Media.  This year, we decided to unpack what that means by asking them if they maintain a digital identity.

Freshman Technology Survey 2017 Digital Identity and Web Use. 71% don't maintain a digital identity and 88% use the web for social media.
Freshman Technology Survey 2017 Digital Identity and Web Use
Students and Social Media Freshman Technology Survey 2017
Incoming Freshman 2017 Social Media Use by Platform

71% of them don’t.  If you look more closely at their social media apps, Facebook and Twitter use continues to decline while Instagram and Snapchat use is growing.  These two apps, in particular, function off the idea of instantaneous and ephemeral communication.  In her study of teen social media use, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Network Teens, danah boyd, argues that teens replicate analog communications and see digital spaces as a continuum not an alternative to face-to-face interactions.  Instagram and Snapchat have replaced my generation’s practice of passing notes in class.  These apps are not necessarily about establishing a brand identity, unlike social media apps, Facebook and Twitter, where we see use declining.

Online or web-enhanced learning?

Past Learning Management Systems Used, 2017 Freshman Technology Survey ResultsWhile they may not be branding themselves on the open web, students are used to using the web for learning.  This year, we saw a dramatic drop in the response for students who have “never used an LMS (learning management system)” from 43% last year to 17% this year.

While most students have experience using an online LMS, they have not been fully online students. Nevertheless, even here we saw an increase:  35% have taken a class online which is up from 31% last year. In other words, over a third of incoming freshmen are familiar with online classes.

 

Working Digitally

Beyond online learning, students increasingly work digitally whether that is composing assignments and notes using online Docs (like Google) or accessing course materials, information, and grades online. What does this mean for instruction?  These students are ready for faculty to level up in Canvas by moving more course workflow online, but they may also be open for more innovative uses of online technology like collaborative projects, writing, peer editing, or group brainstorming.  Instructors could even leverage those ubiquitous mobile devices to expand the face-to-face classroom or encourage virtual group work outside of class.

What’s Next?

Finally, we always ask what new technologies students are interested in.  This year, wearable tech, 3D printing, and virtual reality headsets all passed 50% . Is it time to get a makerspace on campus?

Freshman Technology Survey results 2017, what new technology are students interested in?
What new technology are students interested in? 2017 Freshmen Technology Survey Results

Acknowledgements

Thanks to  Brenda Adrian, Jenny Cha, Ling Chen, Laura Lucas, Chris Mosier, Joana Trimble, Mike Weston for contributing insights to this post and to Eric Trimble and the team of student workers in Instructional Technology for the graphics.

About Rebecca Davis

Rebecca Frost Davis Director of Instructional and Emerging Technology Rebecca Frost Davis joined St. Edward’s in July 2013 as Director of Instructional and Emerging Technology, where she provides leadership in the development of institutional vision with respect to the use of technology in pursuit of the university’s educational mission and collaborates with offices across campus to create and execute strategies to realize that vision. Instructional Technology helps faculty transform and adapt new digital methods in teaching and research to advance the essential learning outcomes of liberal education. Previously, Dr. Davis served as program officer for the humanities at the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE), where she also served as associate director of programs. Prior to her tenure at NITLE, she was the assistant director for instructional technology at the Associated Colleges of the South Technology Center and an assistant professor of classical studies at Rhodes College, Denison University, and Sewanee: The University of the South. She holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in classical studies from the University of Pennsylvania, and a B.A. (summa cum laude) in classical studies and Russian from Vanderbilt University. Dr. Davis is also a fellow with the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE). As a NITLE Fellow, Dr. Davis will develop a literature review relevant to intercampus teaching, which will cover contextual issues such as team-teaching, teaching through videoconferencing, and collaboration; a survey of intercampus teaching at NITLE member institutions; and several case studies of intercampus teaching at liberal arts colleges, including interviews with faculty, students, support staff, and administrators. This work will be summarized in a final report or white paper to be published by NITLE. At Rebecca Frost Davis: Liberal Education in a Networked World, (http://rebeccafrostdavis.wordpress.com/) Dr. Davis blogs about the changes wrought by new digital methods on scholarship, networking, and communication and how they are impacting the classroom. In her research, she explores the motivations and mechanisms for creating, integrating, and sustaining digital humanities within and across the undergraduate curriculum.
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