Student Device Preferences for Online Course Access and Multimedia Learning

What technology devices do you have close to you right now? I have a desktop computer, two laptops, a Smartwatch, and a Smartphone. Students also have a numerous devices which they use for a variety of different purposes. But do you know what devices your students prefer? Do these preferences change depending on the reasons they are using the device?

Luckily, Oregon State University Ecampus recently released a study on student device ownership and device preferences. Here to tell us all about the report are Mary Ellen Dello Stritto and Kathryn Linder, from the Ecampus Research Unit at OSU.

Thank you both for telling us about this great study!

Enjoy the read and enjoy your day,

~Lindsey Downs, WCET


Do you know what devices your students are using to access online course materials? Do you know why they are choosing to use those devices?

Multimedia developers at Oregon State University Ecampus were curious about the range of devices that students were using to access their online courses and to view video and other multimedia content. They were also interested in exploring why students preferred a particular device to engage in online learning.

To help answer these questions, Oregon State University Ecampus Research Unit staff helped them develop a 20-item online survey to gather data to address these questions.

Oregon State University Ecampus comprises online students from all 50 states and more than 50 countries. In spring of 2017, our survey on device preferences was completed by 2,035 Ecampus students who had taken one or more online courses in the current or previous term.

The following is a summary of the key findings from this study. The full report can be downloaded from the OSU Ecampus Research Unit website.

Device Ownership

 The survey results on device ownership showed that smartphones and laptops were pervasive among our responding students. Out of the 2,035 respondents, all but two reported owning a smartphone, and more than 99% owned laptops. More than half owned tablets, but just over one-third of the respondents owned a desktop computer (see Figure 1).

Graphic showing device ownership: 99.9% respondents own a smartphone, 99.9% a laptop, 56.3% a tablet, and 34.9% a desktop computer

Figure 1: Percentage of students who owned each device type

Device Preferences for Different Purposes

Students were asked what devices they preferred to use when accessing the learning management system (LMS) homepage, when viewing video content, and when learning with simulations and games. Laptops were preferred across all purposes. Nearly three-quarters (73%) preferred laptops for accessing the LMS, 68% preferred laptops for viewing video content, and 59% preferred laptops for learning with simulations and games (see Figure 2). Less than 10% of students preferred smartphones and tablets for viewing video and for learning with simulations and games.

Chart showing Percentage of students who preferred laptops for different purposes - 73% preferred using a laptop for accessing a LMS, 68% for viewing video content, and 59% for learning w/ simulations and games.

Figure 2: Percentage of students who preferred laptops for different purposes

In addition to being asked what devices they preferred, students were also asked what devices they thought were ideal, regardless of whether or not they used the device. When asked about what devices were ideal for viewing video content, more than 60% indicated laptops were ideal (see Figure 3). In contrast, 24% indicated that desktops were ideal for viewing video content. Only 9% indicated that tablets were ideal for viewing video content.

Chart showing the percentage of students indicating devices that are preferred and devices that are ideal for viewing video content. 67.6 indicated they prefer desktop, 19% prefer laptops, 6.5% prefer tablets, and 5.5% prefer smartphones. Students were also asked which devices were ideal for viewing video content. 60.1 felt desktop computesr were ideal, 24% laptops, 9% tablets, and 5.5% smartphones.

Figure 3. Percentage of students indicating devices that are preferred and devices that are ideal for viewing video content

 Reasons for Choosing Preferred Devices

We also asked respondents about their reasons for choosing their preferred devices for accessing the LMS, viewing video content, and learning with simulations and games. Overall, regardless of what devices were preferred, effectiveness, convenience, and ease of use were all important reasons for students’ choices of preferred devices.

Effectiveness

Of those students who preferred desktops, effectiveness was the most frequent reason chosen for preferring that device across the three purposes: accessing the LMS (82%), viewing video content (82%), and learning with simulations and games (80%). This pattern of responses was similar for those who preferred laptops, with effectiveness as the most frequent reason chosen for preferring the laptop across the three uses: accessing the LMS (73%), viewing video content (73%), and learning with simulations and games (69%).

Of the four devices, smartphones were least likely to be chosen as effective for accessing the LMS (14%), viewing video content (17%) and learning with simulations and games (17%).

Convenience

Of those who chose desktops as their preferred device, between 40% and 41% indicated that convenience was the reason for preferring that device for accessing the LMS, viewing video content, and learning with simulations and games. For those who chose laptops, between 52% and 56% indicated that convenience was the reason for preferring that device across the three purposes.

While smaller numbers of students preferred tablets (range of 59 to 132 respondents) and smartphones (range of 89 to 130 respondents) across the three purposes, convenience was the most frequent reason for preferring those devices.

Convenience was a significant reason for the preference for smartphone. For accessing the LMS, convenience was chosen by 98% of those preferring smartphones, and for viewing video content, convenience was chosen by 87%. A smaller percentage of those preferring smartphones for learning with simulations and games chose convenience (70%).

Ease of Use

Across all four device types, between 42% and 52% of students indicated that their preferred devices were easy to use for accessing the LMS and for viewing video content. However, for learning with simulations and games, ease of use was chosen by 71% of those preferring tablets.

New Device Purchasing for Education

Students were also asked about purchasing a new device for different uses. The largest percentage indicated they would be most likely to purchase a new device for their education (39.3%), followed by work/job (35.5%), games/entertainment (14.6%), communication (4.9%), and other (3.6%) (see Figure 4).

Chart showing the Purpose for which students would most likely purchase a new device. Education = 39.3%, work/job 35.5%, games/entertainment 14.6%, communication 4.9%, and other 3.6%

Figure 4: Purpose for which students would most likely purchase a new device

Three-quarters (74.8%) of the student respondents indicated that they would consider buying a new device if they thought it would benefit their education.

Finally, more than one-quarter of students (26.9%) indicated they would purchase a new device to benefit their education, if they could afford it.

Results Inform Course Development

 Understanding why students use different devices can make a significant contribution to our course design and multimedia efforts.

 These data are useful for our instructional design and multimedia teams at Ecampus because they inform their work on providing high quality learning materials for our students who take online courses. Given that this study showed lower preference for mobile devices and lower ownership of tablets, these results can inform broader organizational discussions regarding the development of online course materials for the mobile environment.

For more information, see the full report.

 About the Oregon State University Ecampus Research Unit: The OSU Ecampus Research Unit makes research actionable through the creation of evidence-based resources related to effective online teaching, learning and program administration. The OSU Ecampus Research Unit is part of OSU’s Division of Extended Campus, which houses Oregon State Ecampus, the university’s top-ranked online education provider. ecampus.oregonstate.edu/research.

 

Mary Ellen Dello Stritto

 

Mary Ellen Dello Stritto
Assistant Director
Ecampus Research Unit, Oregon State University
maryellen.dellostritto@oregonstate.edu

Linder headshot

 

Kathryn Linder
Director
Ecampus Research Unit, Oregon State University
kathryn.linder@oregonstate.edu

 

 


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