Wednesday, November 30, 2016
The Device Question
- Accessibility (to students with disabilities)
- Ability to annotate
I probably said this last time. You appear to be the data driven type, but here you are just guessing what they have. Particularly as this is a moving target, you need to survey your students regularly and find out what they have. I survey mine, so I can tell you that they all have a computer at home. (I do not try to separate that into laptop versus desktop, but I do know that a few have a computer without network access at home.) On the narrower focus of what portable device(s) they might use to do on-line homework, the answer runs that they ALL use a portable device! About half use a laptop computer, while most of the rest use more than one type. Only a few limit themselves to just a phone or tablet.
I will know more about this next semester. I am looking at transitioning to an OER textbook next fall, and my first step will be to suggest that they try it as a supplement or alternative to our regular textbook in the spring. (No big deal "buying" an extra book when it is free!) That will give me some student reviews of the book and an opportunity to see what they think of the main ways of using it and how it works on their devices.
One colleague who has been using an OER for a few years told me he hasn't had any complaints about e access, and only a handful of students want it printed. He was less clear about whether they read it every day or used it in class.
I give my students free coupons, but others can get the (electronic) book for only $4. So it isn't quite OER, but it is close enough for practical purposes.
Students mostly use laptops to read the book and collect data in the lab, though a few try to read it on their phones, and a few print out sections for highlighting (which gets expensive with the per-page printing charges at our institution).
We don't get to dictate what students buy for computers, and I see a mix of Mac OS, Windows, and Linux boxes. The Windows machines are usually pretty low end, except for a few gaming machines. I see very few tablets—they are too big to put in your pocket and not powerful enough for college students. The old 11" MacBook Air is a good compromise—too bad they don't make them any more.
but I did not find the results. It might be worth emailing the contact person on that survey.
An earlier 2014 survey,
Most used device
Mobile device: 1%
eBook reader: 3%
One thing I'd suggest if you're going to use student laptops with tiny screens is to have some "docking stations" in the library and/or in a computer lab type setup where they can plug their machine in to a dock with a mouse, keyboard, and a bigger monitor for use as a second screen while they work on assignments outside of class time. That lets them have their "textbook" up on the external monitor while they use the laptop screen to work on their assignment so they don't have to tab back and forth as much. (My teacher setup has my second monitor in portrait orientation, and that works really, really well for reading articles or other long texts.) If you're thinking of requiring purchase/rental of standardized computers, the manufacturer probably makes docking stations of some kind for them to make this a single plug-in rather than attaching all of the pieces separately (we use Dells at my school, and right now we have docking stations for the teacher computers but not the student computers).
Just for comparison, I teach at a quasi-residential four-year urban university with a history as a commuter college but aspirations to R1 status. We have a very diverse student population many of whom struggle to survive on multiple tiny paychecks, so affording decent hardware and home Internet is not easy for them. So we can talk up convenience etc. all we like, but that won't cover their bills.