“The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2010 is a longitudinal extension of the annual 2004 through 2009 studies. It is based on quantitative data from a spring 2010 survey of 36,950 freshmen and seniors at 100 four-year institutions and students at 27 two-year institutions; student focus groups that included input from 84 students at 4 institutions; and review of qualitative data from written responses to open-ended questions.”
In preparation for two upcoming presentations related to mobile technologies in libraries, I've been following statistics on cell phones, feature phones, smartphones, and other handheld devices (i.e., iPod Touch, etc.) in the US and abroad. Page five of the ECAR Study Key Findings contains "Figure 2. Internet-Capable Handheld Device Users, 2009 and 2010," and the statistics clearly indicate exponential growth.
In viewing the charts in Figure 2 of the Key Findings, I found it significant that the percentage of those in the study who own Internet-capable devices jumped from 51.2% in 2009 to 62.7% in 2010. However, what really grabbed my attention were the stats that show the change in how students are using these devices, with 33.1% who own and use the Internet on their device in 2009 to 48.8% in 2010. That 15.7% increase in Internet use, with almost half the students using their handheld devices to access the Internet (likely over 50% by now), is what is bringing us in higher education and libraries to a tipping point. And the momentum is clearly growing outside of higher education as well (see yesterday’s report from Financial Times on smartphone growth).
Every student I’ve asked recently has said they will probably purchase a mobile device with Internet access soon (or have the data plan on their existing phone turned on) because it is finally becoming affordable (along with the allure of apps-see video below). With the fierce competition amongst carriers, data plans are dropping (T-Mobile is aggressively marketing fast 4G and “entry-level data plans that start at $10”). If costs remains low, my guess is that the number of students accessing the Internet on their handheld devices in next year’s ECAR report will show an even greater percentage of increase.
What does this men? What kind of impact will mobile devices have in higher education? I’m still not sure, but I’m paying close attention. As an academic librarian I’m interested in learning how we can leverage the technology available to us to better serve our students with computers in their pockets. As the proliferation of Internet accessible mobile devices continues (remember most US college campuses are completely wireless, and those who can’t afford data plans are often able to purchase the iPod Touch, which on wireless almost equates to an iPhone), I want to be ready.
Forward looking librarians are already on it. Take a look at the upcoming Handheld Librarian Online Conference IV. View the topics and issues being covered, and the ways in which innovative librarians are working to serve their mobile constituents. The program includes trends in mobile technology and features many ways librarians are utilizing mobile, everything from SMS and mobile instruction, to QR codes, augmented reality and more.
I hope to learn a great deal while attending the Handheld Librarian IV conference. Librarian roles are changing, and whether in public or academic libraries, I believe mobile technology and librarians who understand mobile user needs, will become increasingly more important.
Lastly, below is an amazing entertaining video that drives home the fact that indeed “The Times They Are A-Changin”