Responses from 100 device-led student interviews

Between January and March 2011, one hundred students were interviewed about their use of technology and places of study at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). The interviews took place at locations across MMU and, as far as possible, students were selected in order to give a course and gender balance that reflected MMU as a whole. Students were asked to talk about the technology that they had with them. Those who took part were rewarded with a £5 print credit voucher.

Detailed analysis of the results and reflection on questions will follow, but this post presents preliminary analysis of headline results for students’ use of technology in their studies. Please note accuracy of data is yet to be validated by the research team, and use of specialist equipment, for instance Apple Mac computers available to Design students, is yet to be factored in. These results are presented as a preliminary indication only and should not be considered safe for citation.

A link to the interview schedule is available here.

Of the 100 students interviewed, 98 had brought a mobile phone with them and 45 had brought a laptop (or netbook). Questions concerned use of the devices *for* learning and study.

Frequency of Technologies Used In Learning 20110610

Used in learning Mobile Laptop Desktop
10+ times/day 15 4 0
6-9 times/day 2 4 0
3-5 times/day 13 13 2
1-2 times/day 17 6 7
5-6 times/wk 6 8 8
3-4 times/wk 14 6 10
1-2 times/wk 15 1 17
less than 1/wk 6 2 6
Total 88 44 50
Locations for Technology Use In Learning 20110610
Accessed from Mobile Laptop Desktop
uni 79 31 40
home 81 43 21
work 32 4 1
train/bus 67 13 n/a
café/pub 57 15 n/a
Technologies Used In Learning 20110610
Supporting learning with Mobile Laptop Desktop
calls 62 2 0
texts 76 0 0
e-mail 49 42 42
social networking 45 37 31
web 47 43 44
uni portal 31 43 40
uni VLE 25 42 38
e-books/journals 11 18 22
blogs 13 17 15
youTube 21 36 25
podcasts 9 17 9
music 11 14 7
films 2 20 7
TV 3 24 12
Apps 21 0 0
flickr 4 5 1
taking photos 28 2 1
taking video 10 1 0
games 5 1 0
dictionary 2 0 0

Initial Observations:

If the number of mobiles used for email and web is taken as an indicator of smartphone ownership amongst the students interviewed, then the figure of 49/98 (50%) is practically identical to the figure obtained in the online survey undertaken in October 2010 (496/982 = 50.5%).

Despite popular opinion that students use social networking rather than email for communication, more of those interviewed used email for learning-related communication:

Supporting learning with Mobile Laptop Desktop
e-mail 49 42 42
social networking 45 37 31

Interestingly, email use was more common on mobiles than on laptops or desktops.

Reflection on questions and responses in the online survey and interviews:

For future studies, it could be useful for research instruments to elicit responses for different (but sometimes overlapping) categories of technology-use for learning:

  1. Discussing and arranging course work
  2. Accessing course deadlines, timetables, briefs and feedback
  3. Discovering and accessing learning materials
  4. Producing and submitting course work
  5. Maintaining a personal study environment

An initial skim of the qualitative interview data suggests that mobile messaging, particularly texts and blackberry messenger (BBM), is used extensively for category#1.

Category#2 access to e-admin information to support learning emerged as the top priority for institutional mobile development in the larger (982 respondent) online survey

Prompts in this questionnaire could have done more to elicit responses about category#3 and category#4 use, but it is interesting to see in both the quantitative data and the qualitative responses to technology and study space questions that a number of students place an importance on playing music while studying (category#5).

As ever with W2C, we look forward to feedback and further ideas generated by this post.

8 thoughts on “Responses from 100 device-led student interviews”

  1. Oops – forgot to add “Taking notes and managing references” as a category; also spotted a few students mentioning using mobiles for USB file transfer

  2. Hi Mark – thanks for sharing. Looks like some interesting stuff surfacing already and I look forward to seeing more the detailed analysis over the coming months. Also it made me wonder about staff use of devices too.


    1. I believe university wireless systems struggling to cope with the number of wifi-enabled devices coming onto campus was a sector-wide problem this year – can others comment?
      I was impressed that MMU’s network infrastructure team managed to roll out a massively scaled wifi infrastructure in response to the problems by the end of the first term.

  3. Hi Mark,

    I am working at the University of East London and I am also a PhD student. I read this post with interest because my research is about integration and sustainability of mobile devices in learning processes.

    I was wondering if we could collaborate i.e. if I could replicate your research in UEL. Please contact me via the email address provided.

    Best regards,

    1. Hi Remy
      It’ll be good to pool efforts. I understand there are plans to repeat a cross-university device survey for the coming academic year. Must also introduce to my PhD student working in a similar area

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