College Students Study on Mobile Devices More Than Ever

By guest blogger Audrey Armitage. Cross-posted from the Digital Education blog. 

From 2013 to 2014, the portion of students on college campuses using mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets to study climbed to an unprecedented 81 percent, according to new research from McGraw-Hill Education and Hanover Research.

This level of technology use is higher than expected, according to Johan Mohd Sani of Hanover Research, the project lead for the study. The driving force behind the increase in mobile devices is the growth of smartphone usage for studying, surpassing both tablets and laptops, explained Sani. Thirty-six percent of students reported using smartphones to study in 2013; in 2014, that number climbed to 51 percent.

One reason for such pervasive smartphone use is the flexibility these devices allow for students in terms of when and where they study. Students no longer have to “hunker down at the library,” said Sani, but can access their online education portals anywhere via mobile devices.

According to the report, these evolving study habits are yielding beneficial results. Seventy-seven percent of students surveyed said using technology has improved their grades, and 48 percent said using mobile devices while studying saves them time. However, despite their claims that mobile devices are making them more efficient in their work, students are spending more time studying than they have in previous surveys, noted Sani.

Digital devices are not only influencing study habits, but are also shaping teaching practices. Eighty percent of respondents felt that their instructors demonstrated proficient or excellent integration of technology into their courses, said Sid Phillips, chief development officer of Hanover Research. Sani noted that this year’s survey results showed more ebooks being used for classes and more students using their devices for online quizzes and assignments.

The researchers discussed how the significant increase in mobile device use may also guide ed-tech product development. Personalization in digital learning tools has become a “must-have” for students, said Sani.

Phillips described how companies are trying to cater to students’ different learning styles by developing ways for students to access their educational materials just as easily as they access their social media accounts.

Although this survey focused on higher education, Phillips predicts that the surge in digital resources will also affect high schools, by allowing students greater access to online courses and more opportunities for exposure to information and materials emanating from colleges into high schools. “Districts need to develop policies to help students take advantage of the availability of information,” said Phillips.

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