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Student Adoption and Use of Technology


Photo by Diane Cordell

Traditional age students entering higher education institutions today are the last group of college bound students that are part of the Digital Native and/or Millennial generation. They view technology as an important part of their everyday lives for communication, social relationships, and doing business within their communities. They expect higher education institutions they attend to be a welcoming, warm, inclusive campus with reliable and robust Wifi to support their constant online presence. But how do they adopt and use technology for academic pursuits?

More students than ever have already completed at least one online course before they step foot on campus and a majority, 75% between the ages of 18-24, say they learn best with a blend of online and face-to-face components (Dahlstrom and Bichsel, 2014). Fifty-four percent of students have at least two devices connected to their campus network at any point in time, including 84% of students who own a Smartphone, yet more often than not, their mobile devices are banned or discouraged in the classroom. The demand for just-in-time services and information for students will only continue to grow as students expect to be able to check their grades, the menu at the cafeteria, available parking, and the line at the coffee shop via an app or mobile site.

While there is this great demand for more technology options and services by students, their adoption and use of technology for coursework depends on the ease of use and learnability of the technology, previous knowledge of the technology resource, and whether they think using the technology is important for their success (Gustafson, 2015). In addition, although most students have a Smartphone and can comfortably navigate social media sites or the mobile version of an institutional course management system (i.e. Moodle), they still require scaffolding for learning to use new technology in a course and they use a narrower range of technology tools than reported in the popular press (Thompson, 2013). The inherit assumption that all students of this generation just know how to use technology because they have been surrounded by it their entire lives is a false assumption, and requires institutions to provide strong support resources for students whether they are on-campus or online.

By the year 2020, over 60% of jobs will requires some level of post-secondary education (U.S. Department of Education, 2011) and a degree, as opposed to a certificate or digital badge, is still the gold standard for contemporary college students (Dahlstrom and Bichel, 2014). How NMC, as an institution, leverages academic technology and online resources to get students to the finish line (degree completion), will take forward thinking, adventurous attitudes, and a realization that students are ready for and want a shift to new flexible learning options, but a segment of this generation will need flexible technology support systems to help them take advantage of new paths to success and completion.


Dalhstrom, E., & Bichel, J. (2014). ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology (Research Report). Louisville, CO: ECAR

Gustafson, T., (2015). Teacher education as distance education: Pre-service experience and the uses of technology (Dissertation).

Thompson, P. (2013). The digital natives as learners: Technology use patterns and approaches to learning. Computers & Education.

U.S. Department of Education (2011). Meeting the Nation’s 2020 Goal: State Targets for Increasing the Number and Percentage of College Graduates with Degrees.


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