ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students Use of Technology

Each year since 2004, the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR) conducts research on undergraduate students use of information technology in their academic experiences. The 2012 report, ECAR Study of Undergaduate Students and Information Technology  came out in September. The report was based on findings from 195 institutes and more than 100,000 students and the basic premise behind the study is to use the findings from today’s students to inform the technology needs of tomorrow’s students.

The key findings are summarized in the Executive Summary:

  • Blended-learning environments are the norm; students say that these environments best support how they learn.
  • Students want to access academic progress information and course material via their mobile devices.
  • Technology training and skill development for students is more important than new, more, or “better” technology.
  • Students use social networks for interacting with friends more than for academic communication.

The following are a few snapshots from the 3-page Info Graphic summary 

statistics regarding students use of technology

taken from ECAR Student & Technology Info Graphics 2012-












students preferred means of communication with instructors statistics

taken from ECAR Students & Technology Info Graphic:
















So what does this mean? Does technology inherently make teaching and learning better? I think we can all agree that the answer is “no” but it can provide opportunities to make it more engaging and accessible if done right.

Here are a few findings from the report:

  • The vast majority (70%) said that they learn best in blended course environments with part of the course taking place online and the other part in the classroom
  • There was an increase from 19% in 2011 to 57% in 2012 of the number of students who said they wished their instructors used more open educational resources.
  • Students still value face-to-face interaction with their instructors whether in person or synchronously online. 

Students Believe That Technology is Critical for Academic Success and
That It Plays an Important Role in Their Future Accomplishments

In addition to recommendations for faculty, they also included many recommendations for institutions.  The report suggest that institutions should continue to support blended-learning environments and reward innovation of scalable (successful) blended learning practices as well as work with faculty to experiment with open educational resources and game-based learning opportunities.

For more information about these and other findings, see the full report.


  1. EDUCAUSE is a membership organization that helps those who lead, manage, and use information technology to shape strategic IT decisions at every level within higher education. IT is more than technology to EDUCAUSE members. It is a system of people, processes, organizations, and challenges that are constantly evolving.
  2. ECAR has published the Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology each year since 2004. You can view the complete set of annual reports in the EDUCAUSE Library.


Dahlstrom, Eden, with a foreword by Charles Dziuban and J.D. Walker. ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2012 (Research Report). Louisville, CO: EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, September 2012, available from

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