An empty college quad?

95% of the 18-19 year-olds surveyed in a sweeping EDUCAUSE study said they used Social Networks (SNs). The study looked at about 23,000 college students at more than 90 institutions. They spend anywhere from 5 hours to 9-10 hours in these spaces, blogging, updating their profiles, and on average, 19 hours online on all kinds of activities – schoolwork included. With so many hunched over their laptops (80.5% have laptops) or internet capable cellphones, creating content, blogs, videos whatever (30%), and “connecting” with friends, who is left on the college quad?

You’d think this group would ask for more IT in their classroom, but only 59% felt a “moderate” amount was acceptable. Well, with what is currently available under the name of e-learning, this lukewarm reception is hardly surprising. The study digs deeper. When asked about online courses, negative responses were clustered into four categories, no face to face, potential for cheating, technical problems, and the need to “teach themselves.”

This puzzles me. For a generation that is comfortable hanging out online in SNs – clearly, face to face is still important. And the negative response to the need to “teach themselves”, the increased cognitive demands of self study, tells me that the online learning still has not figured out how to deliver effective scaffolding and adaptive learning environments. They are not complaining about the need to teach themselves when they spend time on World of Warcraft – they teach themselves pretty fast in that environment. So how do we fix this?

CItation: Salaway, Gail and Caruso, Judith B., with Mark R. Nelson. The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2008 (Research Study, Vol. 8). Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, 2008, available from

About Preetha Ram

I am an educator (Dean for PreHealth and Science Education at Emory), social entrepreneur (Cofounder of OpenStudy, a global study group to connect learners) and visionary (let's build a classroom for the world to study together). A chemist by training (Yale), I like to solve problems by building bridges at the edges and interstices of disciplinary boundaries.

Posted on January 29, 2009, in E-learning and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Maybe because this generation was raised learning face to face (in school) versus socializing and informal learning online, so they were just asking for what they are already familiar with?
    They’ve had 12+ years of being told that the teacher teaches them in face to face contexts.
    Could be a bias of self-reporting–that they wouldn’t know what they want before they’ve tried it?

  1. Pingback: Massively Multiplayer Online—Learning? « Cognitive Computing

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