Information and communications technology (ICT) has become indispensable in the twenty-first century and is integral to the undergraduate student experience. From standard productivity software to specialized multimedia applications, from online research to course management systems, undergraduates use technology throughout their academic experience. Despite the persistence of the digital native image in the media, however, not all college students own and use these technologies to the same extent, which can hamper their ability to use ICT effectively for academic purposes. At the same time, budget pressures and restructuring discussions mean that colleges increasingly adopt academic technologies to help address some of the challenges facing higher education. How does this rising use of academic ICT change students’ experiences?
Academic institutions and higher education research organizations use data to make decisions about student services and academic technologies, yet much of the data collected is quantitative. Although surveys can show how many students own a smartphone or how long each student commutes to campus, they tell us little about the lived experiences of our students. In contrast, qualitative research lets us hear student voices and can add valuable detail about the college experience; that, in turn, can inform and guide faculty and administrative decisions about instructional technologies for student use.