Survey of undergrads and graduate students reveals new information on mobile device use

mobile-device-pearson Conducting yearly surveys on how current college students use mobile devices is a smart idea, given the rapid evolution of technology. But it’s also a good idea because maybe usage isn’t moving as fast as admin may think; and could the laptop still be the best device for students?

According to a recent survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Pearson—between February and March this year (2014)—over 1,200 college students enrolled in either a 2-year college, 4-year college or university, or graduate school were polled on their ownership and usage of mobile devices; how they use the devices for schoolwork, and how they expect to use them for school work in the future; their attitudes towards the devices for learning; and their preferences for different types of digital devices when reading, studying, taking notes, and other school-related activities.

The survey results, which were weighted to be representative of the U.S. college student population, reveal that though students believe tablets are the future, the laptop is still the most used device for school work, and that while the use of multiple devices for Millennials is often the picture painted by media, a majority still use only one main device during the school day.

“After four years of conducting this study, we have learned valuable lessons from students on how they use, and want to use, technology for learning,” said Seth Reichlin, senior vice president of Market Research for Pearson Higher Education. “College students have high expectations for tablets to transform learning, but our findings show that laptops are still the most commonly used device for school work.”

(Next page: The break-down of some interesting results; infographic)

According to the survey:

College students have high interest in tablets for school work, but mixed feelings when it comes to the future use of mobile devices in the classroom—which could be attributed to mobile devices being used more frequently in class than in previous years:

  • The vast majority of college students agree that tablets will transform the way college students learn in the future (81 percent); yet, they are somewhat less positive when asked whether tablets help students learn more efficiently (66 percent) and whether tablets help students perform better in class (62 percent).
  • 1 in 3 (36 percent) students would like to use mobile technologies more often than they do now, one half (48 percent) say their usage is just right, while 1 in 5 (17 percent) would like to use mobile devices less often than they do now. The percentage of students saying they would like to use mobile devices “more often” declined significantly, from 43 percent in 2013 to 36 percent in 2014.

Usage of smartphones is still outpacing the usage of tablets.

  • 8 in 10 (83 percent) college students regularly use a smartphone, up significantly from 72 percent in 2013. Smartphones are now close to laptops (89 percent) as the mobile device students are most likely to use on a regular basis.
  • 45 percent of college students report that they regularly use a tablet, up from the 40 percent who reported using a tablet last year. 29 percent of students who own a tablet have a separate keyboard they can use with that tablet.
  • 8 percent own a hybrid or 2-in-1 computer.

Laptops are still the most commonly used mobile device for school work.

  • 9 in 10 (89 percent) college students use a laptop, notebook or Chromebook computer every week in order to do their school work. By comparison, 56 percent use a smartphone and 33 percent use a tablet. 12 percent use a hybrid.

College students typically (54 percent) use a single mobile device during an average school day. Nearly four in ten (37 percent) use two or more devices.

Next year, students say they want to use more tablets.

  • 36 percent of students say they want to use a tablet a lot/a great deal for school work next year (2015); 24 percent say they would like to use hybrids; and 34 percent would like to use a smartphone.

College students tend to prefer not to switch to a smartphone or tablet that is larger or smaller than the one they now use.

  • Most college students (86 percent) continue to prefer the standard size tablet. However, there is a small–but noticeable–shift towards using the phablet next year (14 percent vs. 5 percent currently).
  • The large 10” tablet remains the preferred tablet for school work (46 percent in 2015 vs. 45 percent currently).

Students are more interested in using a tablet with separate keyboard.

  • Despite their current lack of experience in using tablets with separate keyboards, 2 in 5 college students (44 percent) would like to use a tablet with a separate keyboard during the next school year.

More details on the surveys methodology, as well as breaking down mobile device ownership and usage by demographics, can be found in Pearson’s full report here.

Pearson’s infographic:


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