Saturday, December 7, 2013

What tech gadgets are college students using? - Fall 2013

Each year I do a survey of college students to see what technologies they are using for both school and personal activities. This is helpful in IT planning and often has implications for the instructional use of technology. In the fall of 2013 I surveyed 864 students at The College of New Jersey(TCNJ). TCNJ is a mid-sized (6500 undergraduates)state college in Ewing, New Jersey. Most students are residents of NJ and are very strong academically. TCNJ is highly ranked by US News and World Reports every year and is quite selective. That said, the students are like many others in terms of their academic and personal use of technology.

In this post I want to focus just on the gadgets or devices that students own. The survey goes into many other areas, but I want to focus on this one area. After all, this might also help some parents with their Christmas gift giving for 2013. Back to the survey. I asked students if they owned any of the following devices. The results are:


iPad 15%
Tablet other than iPad 6%
iPod 40%
iPod Touch 33%
eReader 22%
Personal printer 66%
Television 69%
Gaming console 39%


iPad 13%
Tablet other than iPad 4%
iPod 47%
iPod Touch 41%
eReader 19%
Personal printer 67%
Television 73%
Gaming console 47%

The first thing you will notice is that students own multiple devices. In most cases they own 3 or 4 of the devices listed. It should also be noted that most of these devices are potentially networked attached devices. This tremendous implications for the capacity of the campus network and the bandwidth provided. All college CIOs will tell you that you will never meet the demand. You just keep chasing the demand.

A couple of other trends to note. Tablet ownership is rising with the iPad leading the way, but adoption is fairly slow. With lower cost Android tablets hitting the market, overall ownership should rise, but slowly. Other surveys show tablet ownership by college students at just below 20%.

iPod ownership is dropping, but is still strong. Another question of the survey asked about smart phone ownership. Smart phones are now carried by about 90% of the students. This has risen by about 10-20% a year for the past four years. Of course smart phones include MP3 music storage and playback. This has to be cutting into iPod sales.

eReader ownership may be increasing slightly. We don't see very many eReaders on campus and eTextbook sales have not really taken off, so I would say this device appeals to a certain group, but is not growing rapidly. The tablet is a more versatile device and will likely be adopted faster. Students are not looking to own many devices, they want versatility and multi-use devices.

I always ask about television ownership. I have a hunch that this device will disappear over the next ten years. You can see that TV ownership is dropping slowly. Live sports and the use of the TV as a gaming display are probably keeping its ownership fairly high. On demand TV over the computer or tablet will continue to force these numbers down. Colleges are watching this trend since most are spending $100,000 or more to provide TV in residence halls.

Although this this survey shows a drop in gaming console ownership, I actually think this will be a consistent number for years. game enthusiasts will always be on campus. I don't see this number growing. It may drop as students use the laptop or tablet as a platform. Of course this will require strong wireless networks. More games will move to the cloud. Right now many games require too much local CPU power to operate from the cloud, but this will gradually change.

I did not even include laptop ownership on this list. This got its own question. At TCNJ virtually all students own a laptop. Only four students of 858 respondents said that they did not own a computer. This question showed that about 20% of students own a desktop and a laptop computer.

These are interesting results for 2013. Technology ownership is very strong at this and other mid-sized residential campuses. I think these results would be similar to surveys at public and private colleges of almost any size. Results from community colleges would most certainly vary and in most cases show lower adoption of most devices. That said, life is good for almost all undergraduates.

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