Profiling Internet Use of Portuguese Higher Education Students

Profiling Internet Use of Portuguese Higher Education Students

Rita Santos, José Azevedo
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0039-1.ch003
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This chapter aims at providing as close a picture as possible of the engagement of HE students with the Internet, especially as regards Web 2.0, and of the knowledge, attitudes, skills and opportunities associated with this use. For this purpose, the following chapter presents the results of a review of empirical studies conducted on a set of analysis dimensions of Internet use, including access, intensity, scope, and participation in the creation and sharing of content, digital literacy revealed by the students using the Internet and opportunities for the development of activities associated with the effective / competent learners.
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HE students constitute a group that is among the most connected and which presents a more intense use of ICT. Regarding this group, it is common to assume that all HE students are “online experts” or “new millennium learners,” that is, that all students are using multiple digital media intensively, effectively and efficiently for various purposes such as learning (Pedró, 2009).

The HE students’ age, education and access to technologies put them in a privileged position in the digital world (Correa, 2010). In the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR) “Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology 2011”, the authors claim that most students come to campus with multiple technology devices - a majority of students own about a dozen - and they use these devices for a broad assortment of activities, both personal and academic (Dahlstrom et al., 2011, p. 4). Although there is evidence supporting that almost every student is used to accessing a computer connected to the Internet, there are still students, that don´t have their own device, or the confidence to use it on their own (Beetham, 2014). Current research has increasingly come to highlight that access to technologies by itself does not mean that they are being used efficiently, suggesting the existence of a “digital usage divide ” or “second level digital divide”. Beyond the capabilities related to the use of different services and applications, it is necessary for people to have the motivation and skills to apply these services in a strategic and innovative way in different contexts of their lives, for their own benefit and for society’s as well (Ala-Mutka, 2011).

Research on HE students has also tackled the “digital usage divide”: the digital divide, the division between the digital ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, has not been entirely overcome and persists in several dimensions: in access to, and engagement with, technology; the capability of the technology; and in individual competence (Committee of Inquiry into the Changing Learner Experience, 2009, p. 6). In the “New millennium learners in higher education: evidence and policy implications” report, Pedró (2009, p. 7) also states that on the whole, the available evidence depicts a complex and nuanced picture. On the one hand, the assumption that higher education students constitute the social category that shows the most intense and varied use of digital media can be sustained with data coming from different surveys. (…) But on the other hand, it would be dangerous to assume that this applies universally to all students in higher education. There are clear indications of the emergence of different student profiles, which go beyond levels of access to include issues of intensity and variety of uses.

Key Terms in this Chapter

New Millennium Learners: The terms digital natives, new millennials or new millennium learners, were coined and popularized to designate the first generations to grow up surrounded by digital media and have reached the age of enrolment in higher education in many OECD countries.

User-Created Content: Content that is made public and that reflects a certain amount of effort in its creation, for example, creating a web page or posting a message on a social networking website.

Effective/Competent Learners: Someone that has capabilities to develop an effective learning in a digital age.

Participation: Action developed by users when they use technologies to content creation or sharing.

Engagement: When, in addition to have access to, people carry out some kind of activity with technologies.

Capital-Enhancing: Used to refer to more groundbreaking or advanced activities, that may enhance people’s life chances.

Digital Divide: Used to designate ICT- related social inequalities, may refer to inequalities between individuals, households or geographic areas with regard to access to, use of, or impact of ICT.

Digital Literacy: Set of skills, knowledge and attitudes for acting in a digital environment, enabling individuals to benefit from digital media in all life aspects; sometimes referred as digital competence.

Breadth of Use: Diversity of Internet use, in terms of activities carried out online and web-based services used.

Skills: Key component of digital literacy; ability to apply knowledge to complete tasks and solve problems relating to information society.

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