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UW students tech-connected, security conscious

September 4, 2007 By Brian Rust

University of Wisconsin–Madison students are adopting new technology tools in a big way, and they’re being more careful about privacy and security.

Those findings are part of the annual Student Computing Survey conducted in February and March of 2007 by UW–Madison’s Division of Information Technology (DoIT). The survey measures trends in student use of UW computing services and tracks awareness levels and assesses demand for new and existing services.

The survey shows that technology is popular with students on campus. Ninety-seven percent use email, 92 percent search the Web with Google, 88 percent use a cell phone, 78 percent use the Wikipedia online encyclopedia, and 76 percent use a digital camera.

Almost 80 percent of the UW students surveyed reported owning a laptop computer, up from 64 percent in 2006 and 56 percent in 2005. Ownership of desktop computers remained steady at 48 percent, compared to 46 percent in 2006, but down from 61 percent in 2005.

As the use of laptops among students grows, so does students’ reliance on the campus wireless network for Internet connections. Wireless access almost doubled to 50 percent, up from 30 percent reported last year and 26 percent in 2005.

Computer security is increasingly important to students. Eighty-four percent report that they never intentionally share a password, up from 76 percent in 2006. More students see backups as important; only 9 percent say they never back up their data, a marked improvement over 2006, when 40 percent said they never backed up their data.

Other findings from the 2007 Student Computing Survey:

  • Ownership of cell phones (including those with and without Web access) rose to 85 percent, up from 79 percent in 2006.
  • Use of MP3 players, such as iPods, increased to 64 percent from 53 percent in 2006 and 35 percent in 2005. Portable storage devices, such as flash drives and USB, thumb, or jump drives, grew in popularity, with 67 percent of students owning one.
  • Students are satisfied with UW–Madison’s computer resources. Ninety-one percent indicated overall satisfaction (either satisfied or very satisfied) with campus technology, up from 89 percent in 2006. The mean satisfaction rating provided by students was 4.28 on a 1-5 scale.

What other technologies are students asking for on campus? New or additional technologies ranked in order of importance were more wireless locations on campus, a faster campus network, and more discounted software offerings.

And what technology do students want their instructors to use in class? Most responding to this question mentioned PowerPoint presentation software.

The annual Student Computing Survey was delivered on the Web using a random sample of 1,246 UW–Madison undergraduate, graduate, and special students, of whom 356 responded. The response rate was 29 percent, at a 95 percent level of confidence with a margin of error of plus or minus 5.17 percent.