Investigating university students' prior experiences of technology and their expectations of using technology in their studies
Who are the university students of the 21st Century and what characteristics do they have in terms of their interest in using technology for learning? They have been called, for instance, 'the iPOD generation' from the high number of sales to this age group of one of the technology icons of the early 21st century. Another nickname is 'The Net generation' from the apparent ease with which students use the internet to support their leisure, study and lifestyles and apparently move seamlessly from one medium to another. This paper presents the findings from an investigation into prior experiences of technology use in the study and leisure activities of students at the start of their university careers, at a popular new university with a strong track record for providing high quality technology for learning. The investigation also considered the students' expectations of using technology in their studies and the perceived barriers which students anticipated in using technology for studying. An initial enquiry was carried out via an online survey and a later extension to the study used a paper based questionnaire format to deliver the same questions to students in a lecture room. Students were invited to take part in a series of focus groups to determine how far the initial responses and results were confirmed by their spoken opinions. Over 600 students starting at university took part in the initial survey and the participants came from a cross section of the university's faculties and departments, including students who have traditionally embraced technology and those who are typically less keen to use technology.