After multiple years of disrupted learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report from EDUCAUSE found that higher education students are looking for their colleges and universities to “rebalance” when it comes to technology in the classroom and distance learning.

Based on its survey of more than 800 undergraduate students, EDUCAUSE found that while technology offers significant benefits to higher education students, it continues to present obstacles.

The report found issues of equity when it comes to education technology. EDUCAUSE explained that while students “generally have access to devices adequate to meet their educational needs,” not all students “have the privilege of using their preferred devices for their school work.” Specifically, survey respondents with disabilities and those with pandemic-related housing situations were less likely to use the devices they would prefer.

Most respondents also reported dealing with technology challenges over the past academic year, with half of respondents saying the tech issues negatively impacted their stress levels. Topping the list of technology troubles were unstable internet connections, malfunctioning devices, being unable to run required apps or software, and not having the needed app or software to perform a task.

When solving their technology troubles, survey respondents said they typically solve technology challenges on their own. However, they do still use institutional services such as computer labs and Wi-Fi access.

In terms of technology improving the lives of students, the report highlighted that assistive technology can benefit all students. Survey respondents, including those who did not report any disability, said they need to use a variety of assistive technologies, such as captions on videos. When asked about the most effective use of technology they have experienced since the beginning of the academic year, many respondents mentioned recorded lectures and specifically called out features such as reading closed captions, pausing for note-taking, and rewatching to improve understanding.

Additionally, the report found that students are beginning to reject the online versus face-to-face learning dichotomy in favor of multi-modality learning. Unsurprisingly, online learning has remained popular since the start of the pandemic. However, no matter their preferred modality, students are looking for flexibility, social interaction, and academic engagement in their college experience.

EDUCAUSE concluded its report by offering up a handful of recommendations for higher education institutional leaders, including:

  • Investigate how educational technology is both supporting students and creating stress or other barriers for them, and expand the institution’s efforts to support device access beyond meeting minimum requirements.
  • Discontinue support initiatives that are not being used by students, and develop new programs that meet new needs.
  • Engage in conversation with faculty and staff to redefine instructional modalities and disrupt the “face-to-face versus online” dichotomy. Consider ways to promote meaningful social engagements and account for students’ needs and preferences in all modalities.
  • Proactively offer assistive technology to all students.
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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs