Call them the gadget generation. College students own a wide range of digital devices compared with the overall adult population. According to Pew Internet & American Life Project, 96% of undergraduates owned a cell phone in 2010, vs. 82% of the adult population.
The vast majority of undergrads possessed a laptop and an iPod or MP3 player, too, at 88% and 84%, respectively. Only 52% of adults in general owned a laptop and even fewer—45%—had an iPod or MP3 player.
In a March 2011 survey done with Wakefield Research, textbook provider CourseSmart reached similar findings. Ninety-three percent of the respondents to that poll said they owned a laptop, while 47% admitted possession of a smartphone and 7%, an iPad.
When it comes to digital behavior, “today’s students are truly carrying a digital backpack,” noted CourseSmart in the survey. Over one-quarter of students listed their laptop as the most important item in their bag—almost three times the number of students who chose textbooks.
While iPad adoption may be low now, college kids polled by Harris Interactive on behalf of the Pearson Foundation see tablets as key to learning going forward. Indeed, 69% of respondents said tablets will transform the way college students learn in the future. Among student tablet owners, 86% believe tablets help them study more efficiently, and 76% said tablets help students perform better in class.
CourseSmart concluded from its study that “students are completely dependent on technologies.” One way that dependence is evident is that 38% of students surveyed said they could not go more than 10 minutes without checking their digital device—about the time it takes to walk to class. Marketers know that means there is a way to reach this audience online or via mobile anytime and anywhere—but also that these always-connected students can be sensitive to such communications.
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