May 2021 CIO Update
Graduating Student Survey
For over a decade, VCU Technology Services (VCU TS) has surveyed new students each fall to understand what technologies our students rely on to begin their academic careers. We ask about what equipment they use, what they carry with them every day, and what services they use or want to see us offer. Trends have changed over time, such as Windows losing its significant dominance on new student computers and iOS building a substantial lead on smartphones. New students have become increasingly mobile dependent and want more services in the VCU Mobile application. Students want to register for classes via VCU Mobile and vote in SGA elections and receive Financial Aid notifications. However, they have not abandoned the desktop with thousands of daily log-ins on myVCU to access VCU online services through this portal. VCU TS is committed to serving both platforms.
This year, our Student Technology Advisory Committee (STAC) recommended we survey the students who were graduating this spring. This would give us an opportunity to compare their technology and service usage habits to the fall new student survey responses from four years ago. We also asked the graduating students if there was any advice they would give themselves if they were starting out as a new student knowing what they know now. The survey launched in March received over 1,200 responses. We are still working on compiling and publishing the results but we have learned a few items of note. Students are carrying their computers roughly the same amount now as they did four years ago. Their time spent online was higher than they expected it to be four years ago. Four years ago myVCU, Blackboard, and alerts were seen as the top uses for VCU Mobile while our graduating seniors report Blackboard and myVCU have switched spots with Canvas taking the third. For Google Workspace, formerly known as G Suite, graduating student’s top four applications were Gmail, Docs, Drive, and Slides.
Our graduating students reported using VCU Mobile less now than four years ago while LinkedIn Learning use increased 15% over four years ago. These results make sense. New students are always going to be less familiar with the campus. Students who have just arrived on campus are unsure where their classes are located, dining menus, feel the need to stay on top of classes, and search out events. Luckily, it appears even after four years of classes, graduating students still want to be on top of their studies with Blackboard showing strong support and the newly released Canvas charging up the chart. LinkedIn Learning use growing over a student’s college career is no surprise. Within a month or so on campus, new students are less likely to have looked for help with Adobe or other software products, not yet thinking about giving a top-notch presentation, or writing a research paper. By the time they are getting ready to graduate, students have had all these experiences plus they are likely looking for interview skills training and resume writing courses on LinkedIn Learning.
As for advice, our graduating students shared some of that as well. One student shared, “I would have told myself about all of the services that IT at VCU has to offer because I was not aware.” Another student wrote, “Use the resources VCU gives you like student discounts on Adobe software, etc.” Along that same line, a student encouraged their earlier self, “I would definitely let my younger self know about the software programs that are available for free for current students. I was made aware of the Microsoft Office software, but I had no clue about other programs such as ChemDraw. That would have been useful for classes like Chemistry.” On the subject of LinkedIn Learning, one student wanted their younger self to know, “Use LinkedIn learning for extra skills you want to learn.” Another student understood that going it alone is not always the best option, “Use the IT support center help desk more often instead of trying to figure things out on your own and wasting a lot of time.” Another agreed, “Make use of the VCU Technology resources, I waited too long to start using those services which might have cost me my grades.”
Finally, two students shared compelling advice for their younger selves. The first student’s advice, “Always back up your files. Have other methods of accessing technology. Let professors know if you’re having any technology difficulties. Look into VCU services.” The second, possibly reflecting our challenges of the last year, had some great advice, “Work hard but also give time for your mental health and make you happy and don’t worry about what others think of you.”
Thank you to STAC for encouraging us to reach out to our graduating students this year. We gained valuable insights and the students were willing to share some valuable lessons. We will continue with this survey each spring as a way to learn from our students who are moving on towards their life’s work. Stay safe and enjoy the Memorial Day holiday!