Wireless Explosion

For the past two years, Washington and Lee’s Information Technology Services, in collaboration with the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, has surveyed incoming first-year students to find out what kinds of technology they are bringing to campus. Those of us in the manual-typewriter and clock-radio generation of college students can only look in awe at what we’re seeing on campus today, especially the explosion in wireless devices.

For instance, about 60 percent of the entering students this fall brought smart phones with them. Smart phones are defined as those cell phones that offer data service, including Web browsing and e-mail. That represents a significant increase of 21 percent over just one year ago. As Jeff Overholtzer, director of strategic planning and communications for ITS, indicates, this is only the beginning. “We expect the increase in ownership of smart phones to continue. Virtually all students use cell phones, and use them in many ways, including texting (99 percent); the Web (61 percent); Facebook (59 percent); e-mail (55 percent); personal calendar (45 percent); and music (34 percent).”

When it comes to computers, only two out of 466 entering students did not bring one. On the other hand, 36 students brought two more more computers. And laptops now represent almost 99 percent of the total computers. While Macs had been in a steady climb in recent years, that trend leveled out this year, with about 61 percent of students bringing Macs.

The number and variety of wireless devices continue to grow, and as Overholtzer notes,  students overwhelmingly prefer to use their laptops in wireless mode rather than plugging into the W&L network. In addition to the smart-phone surge, other wireless devices include the iPod Touch (36 percent of first-years) and the Xbox 360 gaming device (20 percent of first-years). First-years also brought Rokus (for streaming movies over the Internet) and wireless printers.

One device that appeared on the survey for the first time is the iPad, but only 10 students brought them. The same is true with the e-readers like Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook, with just 5 percent of the entering students using them.

2 Responses to “Wireless Explosion”

  1. 1 Purrel November 15, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    Good topic! This is really interesting, thank’s for your Information………

  2. 2 Karen Cohen November 12, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    Good topic! This is really interesting. Are there numbers to compare this Class from those just a few years back? Obviously emerging technologies will bear heavily on those numbers.

    There is no mention of the use of Twitter here. As a local business person and direct service provider, I am interested to know if it is worth my investment of time (on Twitter) to try and reach the W&L community on that Social media platform.

    I work privately with individuals and small groups. While I do use technology (phone, web and text) with my Wellness Coaching clients, Twitter would be a great real-time/near-time tool to keep in touch with my yoga students or broadcast the location of tomorrows hike (or yoga hike)

    Local restaurants and retailer could target very specific messages to an pre-qualified market(established as interested audience). “what’s the soup, special, or sale item today? – only if you mention this tweet” The bit of interesting and useful information, and the conversation. A few Lexington business have experimented a bit with Twitter. In comparison to what others are doing successfully there, its pretty dismal. Recent local workshops have totally missed the actual mechanics of how to make Social Media Marketing work. C-School listening?..seems like a topic for discussion.


    Karen Cohen


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