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Which Media Services do Students Use in Fact? Results of an International Empirical Survey

Elsevier Ltd
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.05.139
  • Media Usage
  • Higher Education
  • Web 2.0
  • E-Learning
  • Mobile Learning
  • Education
  • Literature


Abstract The dissemination of online information services into higher education has led to constant changes in students’ learning behaviour. Nowadays they use services like Google and Wikipedia most often not only during free time but also for studying. At the same time, traditional information media such as the textbook or the printed hand-out from the teacher still form basic pillars in their learning environment. To measure the whole variety of media, that are used for learning, an international long term Media Survey in Higher Education (“MESHED”) was set up by the authors. It aims to get detailed knowledge about how students use media for study from an international and a long term perspective. This knowledge shall be used to develop recommendations for university media strategy, make prognoses for future media trends in higher education and to figure out influences of external dimensions on the media usage. Beginning with a first survey carried out at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany in 2009, currently (October 2013) a total of 30 surveys in ten countries were, or currently are carried out. The survey uses a fully standardized questionnaire that measures the acceptance of 48 media services, such as Google search, library catalogues, printed books, e-books, printed journals, e-journals, e-learning-services, virtual class, Wikipedia, open educational resources, bibliographic software and more. It also measures adjacent areas, such as the learning behaviour, study success, media usage during free time, usage of IT hardware, education biography and sociodemographic factors. This paper focusses on the results of a survey that was conducted at the University of Barcelona (UB) between March and June 2012. There, about 1,000 samples were collected. The data showed an intense use of a broad variety of media among UB students. Though, not all media services were accepted equally: while especially some university external services, such as Google web search or Wikipedia were used by almost every student, other media, e.g. virtual learning services were used on a very low level. An exploration of hidden structures of media usage behaviour, using factor and cluster analysis revealed that especially text and text related media (books, eBooks, library catalogues) seem to have a positive effect on the learning success. A comparison of the Barcelona sample with the data of other countries showed some communalities, e.g. a high usage of Google and other external services. But there were also hints to cultural differences, such as an explicit maverick or non-social learning behaviour of Spanish students. This general tendency also appears in the media sector where they tend to use information media and, compared to students from other countries, use less social media. An additional survey in Canada/Ontario has been conducted in January-February 2013, and at the moment the third survey at the KIT is running. Especially some of the results from Canada show specific aspects, that might be interesting to be compared to the Spanish and German findings.

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