Press Center > Fifth Annual VitalSource/Wakefield Survey Finds College Students Want More - and Better - Classroom Technology

October 7, 2016

Fifth Annual VitalSource/Wakefield Survey Finds College Students Want More - and Better - Classroom Technology


July 30, 2015

Nearly Three in Four Students Think More Technology Would Improve Their Educational Experience

NASHVILLE, Tenn., July 30, 2015 -- VitalSource Technologies Inc., an Ingram Content Group Company and a leading educational technology company that provides digital products and services to the education market, today announced the results of its fifth annual survey on the impact of technology in higher education. Fielded by Wakefield Research, an independent research consultancy, the survey of more than 500 currently enrolled college students revealed the growing importance students place on technology in the classroom to boost grades, improve the learning experience and alleviate costs.

"Technology continues to be of critical importance to students, especially in the classroom," said Cindy Clarke, Vice President of Marketing for Vital Source Technologies, Inc. "The research validates the degree to which students depend on technology to provide them with a competitive edge while they are in school, and after graduation as they prepare to enter a workforce which is increasingly digitally literate and globally connected."

Classroom Technology Reduces Costs, Boosts Achievement
Considering the heavy financial burden of tuition, students are eager to save wherever they can, including on required course materials. According to the survey, college students feel the greatest benefit of using digital textbooks is that they are more affordable (34%) than their physical counterparts. In addition, though, students cited greater convenience (31%) and the fact that the digital versions are more engaging/interactive (20%) as key benefits.

Overall, this year's survey results point to technology as a way to increase students' participation in class and to more efficiently complete assigned work or digest course materials. Students identified other ways to improve their learning experience, including:

  • 61% of students said that homework that is more interactive, containing elements such as video, would improve learning
  • 48% of students said their learning would be enhanced by technology that helps them collaborate digitally with students from their class, or from other schools
  • 61% cited the ability to exchange instant feedback with professors as something that would improve learning
  • 55% said digital learning that personalizes their learning experience (i.e. gives teachers the ability to track student progress in real-time) would be useful

Year-over-year survey results reveal students are not only more open to online courses, but increasingly prefer digital courses to the traditional classroom. In fact, more than half (56%) of college students would feel more comfortable participating in a class digitally than in-person. This growing acceptance of online education seems to positively impact performance, as the percentage of students who say they got better grades in their online courses vs. in-person classes increased from 42% in 2014 to 51% in 2015. Another 74% of students feel they could get even better grades if their professors used even more tech in the classroom.

From Books to Bytes
Growing device adoption among students may accelerate the call for more technology in the classroom. For example, students that have used a device to read digital course materials increased from 63% in 2011 to 87% in 2015, and those who said they used devices to read digital course materials frequently increased from 48% in 2011 to 78% in 2015.

As for the actual devices students use for their studies, laptop ownership remains steady at 90% of survey respondents for 2014 and 91% for 2015, while students owning smartphones and those owning iPads or tablets both increased by 7 percentage points in 2015 vs. the previous year. The number of surveyed students owning smartphones increased from 83% in 2014 to 90% in 2015 and tablet ownership increased from 43% in 2014 to 50% in 2015.

With so many devices at hand, students are seldom without a screen – in fact, 44% of students said they could go only 10 minutes or less without using some form of digital technology on a typical school day. The survey results reveal greater access to technology and digital course materials at students' fingertips means greater interaction with content, peers and professors – vastly improving the overall learning experience.

Debt Doubts Threaten Enrollment
Students' expectation for access to technology in higher education continues to increase, as does the overall cost of receiving a college degree. Accordingly, the financial burden of tuition continues to be a major concern among college students, with 81% of those surveyed agreeing that over the next 10 years, fewer students will go to college because it is too expensive.

For those who do pursue a degree, the cost of doing so is a long-term commitment: 54% of students surveyed this year are worried they won't be able to pay off their college loans before they are 50, in contrast to 44% of students who responded similarly to this statement in 2014.

Concerns over the cost of tuition and student loan debt make budget a deciding factor in students' choice of which school to attend – and factor into considerations about whether to go to college at all. More than half of students (57%) decided not to attend at least one college because the cost was too high. This is up from 49% of student respondents who were asked the same question just two years ago.

Those who do attend college are looking to receive more than just book smarts for their money, and expect to learn other life skills as well. Students feel the following skills should be formally taught in college:

  • How to interview for a job (68%)
  • How to do your taxes and balance a checkbook (67%)
  • How to take out and pay off student loans (62%)

About VitalSource
VitalSource Technologies Inc. is a leading educational technology company and the preferred choice among education institutions, faculty, publishers and companies who want to provide students with learning experiences that are technologically unrivaled and brilliantly simple. VitalSource has delivered compelling digital content to more than 8 million students in 200 countries and territories worldwide, and we have more than 500,000 titles available in distribution from more than 750 education publishers. For more information about VitalSource Technologies, visit

About Ingram Content Group
Ingram Content Group Inc. is a subsidiary of Nashville-based Ingram Industries Inc. The company got its start in 1964 as a textbook depository and has since grown and transformed into a comprehensive publishing industry services company that offers numerous solutions, including physical book distribution, print-on-demand and digital services. Committed to the success of its partners, Ingram works closely with publishers, retailers, libraries and schools around the world to provide them with the right products and services to help them succeed in the dynamic and increasingly complex world of content publishing. Ingram's operating units are Ingram Book Company, Lightning Source Inc., VitalSource Technologies Inc., Ingram Periodicals Inc., Ingram International Inc., Ingram Library Services Inc., Spring Arbor Distributors Inc., Ingram Publisher Services Inc., Tennessee Book Company LLC, and ICG Ventures Inc. Learn more about Ingram Content Group at

Methodological Notes:
The VitalSource Survey was conducted by Wakefield Research ( among 519 currently enrolled college students, with an oversample of up to a statistically significant number of community college students, between April 30th and May 8th, 2015, using an email invitation and an online survey. Quotas have been set to ensure reliable and accurate representation of Americans currently enrolled in college.

Results of any sample are subject to sampling variation. The magnitude of the variation is measurable and is affected by the number of interviews and the level of the percentages expressing the results. For the interviews conducted in this particular study, the chances are 95 in 100 that a survey result does not vary, plus or minus, by more than 4.3 percentage points from the result that would be obtained if interviews had been conducted with all persons in the universe represented by the sample.

Media Contact

Erin McCarthy, VitalSource