Undergraduates Own More Laptops than Desktops

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The Chronicle of Higher Education today reports on a study by the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research on the usage of information technology by undergraduate students. Page three of the key findings report [PDF] contains this graph. Change in Technology Ownership from 2005 to 2007, from ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2007 One of the key findings that shocked me was the predominance of laptop computers over desktop computers for undergraduate students. Students reported last year an ever-so-slight ownership of desktop computers (68.9% versus 68.3%). Laptops overtook desktops this year, with three-quarters of students reporting ownership of a laptop and just over half reporting ownership of a desktop. (These numbers would also seem to indicate that a significant number of students own both a laptop and a desktop machine.) Another interesting finding is the growth in "smartphone" devices in the past two years. These are hand-helds that combine the functions of a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) with that of a mobile phone. One wonders if this number will jump significantly with Apple's marketing push to sell 10 million iPhones by the end of next year...

This echoes data gathered from undergraduate classes at Miami University and the University of Dayton for an e-textbook study currently underway:
Computer Ownership in the Miami University study groupComputer Ownership in the University of Dayton Study Groups
University of Dayton's data (the bar graph) is notable because of its laptop initiative; those numbers don't just get that way on their own. Both studies come from core undergraduate courses with primarily freshman and sophomore students.

This undoubtedly has an impact on the way we design our library services -- both the quantity and function of computers in the physical space and the user interfaces of online systems. Are students carrying their laptops around? (Presumably the answer is yes given their willingness to pay the price premium of portability of that of desktop computers.) Are they carrying them into the library? Are they more likely to use their laptop than a library-operated desktop while in the library? If yes, are we supplying the needed power and data connections? If not, are we giving them a way to access personalization/customization options for library services on both their laptop and the library desktop?

Thanks go out to Miami University and the University of Dayton for gathering this survey data and allowing us to publish it.

The text was modified to update a link from http://chronicle.com/wiredcampus/index.php?id=2385 to http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/students-prefer-portable-machines/3336 on January 20th, 2011.