Transforming students into digital academics: a challenge at both the individual and the institutional level

BMC Med Educ. 2015 Mar 14:15:48. doi: 10.1186/s12909-015-0330-5.


Background: Little is known of students' Information and Communication Technology (ICT) readiness in a learning context. Information about students' capabilities and resources is an important prerequisite for designing meaningful teaching and learning activities that engage and motivate students. To learn about health science students' usage of digital equipment, familiarity with software, online behavior and communication with the university, we have conducted a survey focusing on these areas.

Methods: A digital questionnaire was sent to 9134 health science students, of whom 1165 responded (12.8%).

Results: Almost all students owned a laptop (98.3%) and a smartphone (86.5%) and used these for internet access. The students were most familiar with typical office programs like word processing and spread sheets. Students used social media in their private lives but to a lesser extent in relation to their studies; they also experienced that their teachers made limited use of these media. The most commonly used tool for working with fellow students was email (80%) and for communication, SMS (47.6%). An age difference was found in relation to the way students communicated with each other. The mean age of chat users was 23.8 (Standard deviation 3.7) years, SMS users, 25 (Standard deviation 4.2) years and email users, 27.9 (Standard deviation 6.5) years. Over half of the students (53.4%) found that the degree of ICT incorporated in the teaching and learning activities was insufficient to provide them with the skills necessary in their future profession.

Conclusions: Although a large percentage of the students had access to the internet, reported familiarity with basic software and used online services in their private lives, they were unfamiliar with the software and services they were expected to use in their studies. The students experienced that teachers did not use internet resources, which apparently influenced their perception of the importance of, and thereby their usage of, these services. The way the younger students communicate differs from the way communication takes place at the university, and it is recommended that the institutions should look into how they can meet the students in ways they are familiar with.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Academies and Institutes
  • Attitude to Computers*
  • Computer Literacy / statistics & numerical data
  • Computer Literacy / trends*
  • Education, Professional / standards
  • Education, Professional / trends*
  • Educational Technology / standards
  • Educational Technology / trends
  • Electronic Mail / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Needs Assessment
  • Professional Competence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Students, Health Occupations / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult