Implications of the 2006 ECAR Survey

Feb 11, 2008 by

In a previous post, I referred to the 2006 ECAR survey, which can be found here. The full name for the survey is “The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2006.”

Here are ECAR’s summarized findings at the end of the survey report, each one followed by my opinion on the implications for the math education profession:

  • Overall, undergraduates like IT and use it in their social, recreational, working, and academic lives. Mobility is perhaps an enabler of this integration of social, recreational, and instrumental integration of IT. For instructors to ignore IT means that they are not even on the radar screen of social networking for these students. Wonder why many of your students don’t come to office hours? Maybe you need a web presence instead!
  • The Net Gen characterization of technophile students born in the Internet era applies to a substantial minority of undergraduates but not to the whole. In fact, an important minority of undergraduates do not appear enamored of IT, and some appear even to avoid it. Understanding the needs of leading-edge and trailing-edge undergraduate IT users is important for higher education administrators. Colleges should provide opportunities for these technophile students to increase their skills and encourage students and instructors to do so.
  • College or university is a place where people mature as IT users as well as in other ways. While younger students can boast an arsenal of IT skills to underpin their social lives (such as e-mail, instant messaging, and social networking) and their recreational lives (such as computer gaming), they are less skilled or confident users of instrumentally useful technologies. The undergraduate’s choice of and progress toward an academic major are closely associated with his or her preferences for, use and ownership of, and outcomes with IT. Math departments cannot continue to ignore the use of online math platforms like MyMathLab and WebAssign by using the excuse that “some” students (really, some instructors) can’t be expected to use IT. One mission of the college should be to ensure that all of our students are IT-savvy when they leave us.
  • Respondents — across the spectrum of demographic or user profile — agree with a series of positive outcome statements about IT. These responses suggest that IT is helping students communicate, collaborate, learn, engage, conduct research, gain academic feedback, and control their course activities. Students who find a subject matter enjoyable, will make more of an effort to learn. If our math classes have no IT, then our 55 minutes with those students are basically the most boring 55 minutes of their day.

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  1. Franklin

    As a new community college faculty member, I want to say first that I love your blog! It has been incredibly helpful and informative. I’m wondering if math instructors tend to make MyMathLab or WebAssign an absolute requirement for the course, or whether students are given the option of doing homework out of the textbook (which is what every other instructor does at my school).

    I’d like to make online homework a requirement this fall, but are there pitfalls to doing that?

  2. Maria H. Andersen

    There are three ways I’ve seen it go down (successfully):

    1) Every section in the department uses the software as a requirement. Then the students can’t try to “escape” to a section without strict homework requirements.

    2) Sections that use online homework are designated in the course schedule or on the website for the department so that students can choose.

    3) Sections with online homework are designated as hybrid to make it clear that there is an online homework requirement.

    Each has pros and cons. Perhaps that’s the topice for another blog post! :)m

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