Library: Internet Access Student Survey

Posted on behalf of Stephanie Noell, Librarian.

What prompted this survey and why are you interested in the results?

This survey is the result of a series of conversations I have had with my librarian colleagues as well as faculty and staff from across the college. In my experience as an instructor, I came across several students whose only access to the Internet at home was via their smartphone. Over the last year, I have spoken with other employees at Mountain View and many reported the same experience. These experiences combined with a survey by one of Dr. Patricia Lyons’s classes on phone usage at MVC left me wondering just how our students are accessing the Internet at home. The results of such a survey would be helpful in determining how important the on-campus computer labs are to our students.

How does device usage, access to the Internet, and student technology preferences impact the teaching and learning environment?

Since most of our courses have accompanying eCampus pages, access to the Internet is now right up there with food, shelter, and clothing in terms of daily essentials for our students. How students access the Internet impacts how well they are able to write and format their papers as well as research for their projects. In the instance of my students who only have access to the Internet at home via their smartphones, these students were typically also working full-time jobs and were single parents. With our labs closing around the same time that classes let out for the day, these students were left with little to no time to work on any other device but their phone. The papers that they typed up on their phone were not formatted well and were difficult to read.

As far as technology preferences go, the number one issue that comes up for me as an instructor (and as a librarian assisting students in formatting their papers) has been students who own a Mac who save their papers as Pages documents. Pages and Word are both word processing software that do not play well together on PCs. If students are typing up their papers in Pages, make sure that when they are done they go to File>Export As>Microsoft Word (.docx). This will save a Word document version which they can then submit for their eCampus assignments.

Was there anything that surprised you in the results and if so, why?

The results of our survey were as follows:

Q: What kind of Internet access do you have at home?

  • None = 2
  • Smartphone = 60
  • Laptop = 53
  • Desktop = 29
  • Tablet = 41
  • Other
    • TV = 11
    • Xbox = 6
    • Playstation = 7
    • Nintendo = 5

The surprising aspect of these results for me was how few of the responses fell under the None category. With so many of our students living at or below the poverty line and with Internet bills and computers being as expensive as they are, I was surprised to see how much of a financial priority technology and Internet access are to our students and their families. I was also surprised to learn how many students are using gaming consoles and SmartTVs to access the Internet at home. I would be interested in exploring the functionality of our webpages and our eCampus sites on the various gaming consoles. Finally, the low numbers of desktop computers when compared with mobile technology like smartphones, laptops, and tablets seems to indicate a preference for mobility with one’s hardware. Since most of our students are accessing the Internet off-campus from mobile devices, we must be mindful of how mobile-friendly our online resources are. For eCampus pages, there are many considerations to make for content to be mobile-friendly (see Blackboard PDF below).

If interested in learning more about this topic, what web resources might you point people towards?

  1. Blackboard. (2017). Best practices for mobile-friendly courses. Retrieved from http://www.blackboard.com/Images/MobileBestPractices_FINAL.pdf
  2. Feinberg, I., & Greenberg, D. (2016, August 11). How adult learners are not getting 21st-century skills. The Conversation. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/how-adult-learners-are-not-getting-21st-century-skills-63490
  3. Young, L. (2016). E-learning, the digital divide, and student success at community colleges. EDUCAUSE Review, 51(5). Retrieved from https://er.educause.edu/articles/2016/8/e-learning-the-digital-divide-and-student-success-at-community-colleges