Changing media usage patterns of traditional and non-traditional students in higher education

Students often use digital devices, such as a smartphone or laptop, to access educational materials and courseware. Another change that has come to higher education is that the student population has changed substantially. Traditional students (TS) used to be male, in their twenties, financially independent, studied full-time and went to university directly from school. However, there are now many more non-traditional students (NTS) than there used to be.

This longitudinal analysis of students in 2012 (N = 2339) and 2015 (N = 1327),  was carried out to investigate changes in the media usage patterns of German higher education students, with a special emphasis on differences between traditional students and non-traditional students.

Based on an online questionnaire, the students provided information about the digital devices they own or have access to, on the frequency of use as well as perceived value of digital media, e-learning tools and services for their learning in higher education. The presented results indicate implications for the instructional design of teaching and learning in higher education. In general, the findings show a shift towards using mobile devices. Unexpectedly, the frequency of media usage is slightly, but significantly, decreasing from 2012 to 2015. Furthermore, the results are discussed based on a media usage typology that distinguishes between entertainment usersperipheral usersadvanced users and instrumental users. NTS are over-represented in the group of instrumental users who tend to apply e-learning tools a lot. Moreover, NTS state a higher demand for digital teaching and learning formats than TS.

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