What do students use the Internet for?

I’ve just come from a very interesting talk by the guys who run the student residential network here at the University of Bristol (Paul Seward and Nick Skelton – thanks guys).

In terms of hits, the most popular site by a long way is Facebook. It accounts for 20% of web requests. 85% of undergrads are signed up to it, as well as a third of postgrads, and they seem to use it regularly. Students regard it as their “shared space”, using it to organise (and post sordid details of) their social lives. They are blissfully unaware that recruiters are searching Facebook to find out about job applicants.

In terms of bandwidth, the three most popular sites are video streaming sites: 1. DailyMotion, 2. Veoh, 3. YouTube. The former two stream in a better quality than YouTube. The next two most popular are file sharing facilities: 4. RapidShare and 5. Uploading.com .

Students regard email as a formal communication channel, for keeping in touch with “older people” such as tutors and parents. For communicating with each other, they use instant messaging. A very large proportion are signed up to MSN, and Skype is also used.

Students don’t have radios, but at least 95% have computers, so they listen to radio through the network. This is a major bandwidth hog: students leave streaming radio on all day and this can easily use up a 10Gig per week cap. Something similar is happening with TV thanks to Internet TV services and the Slingbox.

Peer-to-peer used to be almost exclusively for copyright violation. Now P2P is often for legitimate uses such as Skype or IPTV (e.g. Joost), even for World of Warcraft.

Surveyed about what they want in future from the university network, students say they want video podcasts, or failing that audio, of their lecturers. NB that this are students on campus, taking (in theory) physical rather than online classes. They don’t want less personal contact with teaching staff, but they want to be able to catch up with lectures on a video iPod on the train. They also want ubiquity: they expect high quality access, wirelessly, everywhere. Having been brought up with Google and Amazon, they have very high standards of ease of use.

When I co-wrote “Using the Web to Teach Economics” a couple of years ago, we strongly emphasised the cultural gulf between lecturers and their students with respect to the Internet. If anything, there’s probably a cultural gulf between the students we were talking about then and the current first-years.

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13 Responses to “What do students use the Internet for?”

  1. Paul Smith Says:

    Thanks for posting this Martin – very interesting! Couldn’t make the talk myself, sadly.

    It certainly suggests that a comment at last years ICS Conference along the lines of “surely students all use MySpace” was rightly scoffed at by one of the lecturers – “most students wouldn’t be seen dead on MySpace – that’s so yesterday”. They are obviously well ahead of the game, and always looking for the next new thing. I still (justifiably, it would seem according to comments we get) believe that sites such as a the Virtual Training Suite are wholly worthwhile, as many students, whilst having computers, and high expectations, still expect things on a plate, and have no idea how to actually use the Internet properly for their degree (if they are doing a ‘proper’ one!). I think there is certainly room to engage students’ personal experience of using the Internet and their expectations, with such tools as podcasts, videos, etc, which they can do away from the normal (underfunded and under-resourced) environs of University lectures/tutorials, etc. Especially as they are now paying for it, and have a right to expect more.

  2. Martin Poulter Says:

    An interesting thing about the session is that we were asked to guess beforehand which sites were most popular. For most hits, the audience were split between MySpace and YouTube. MySpace didn’t even feature in the top ten, as I recall.

    Then for most traffic generated, almost everybody chose YouTube. Not many present had heard of the two sites that scored higher than YouTube (I was aware of DailyMotion, but only heard of Veoh a few days ago).

  3. In a Technopoly, No One Can Hear You Think... « Scholars and Rogues Says:

    [...] that high school and college students use their computers mostly for downloading music, watching videos on sites like YouTube, playing [...]

  4. In a Technopoly, no one can hear you think… « Dr. Slammy in 2008 Says:

    [...] that high school and college students use their computers mostly for downloading music, watching videos on sites like YouTube, playing [...]

  5. Students’ expectations about technology « The Ancient Geeks Says:

    [...] September 20th, 2007 — Martin Poulter Following on from the earlier post about what students use the internet for, I’m grateful to Lisa Whistlecroft for drawing my attention to a survey conducted by Ipsos [...]

  6. Scholars and Rogues » Blog Archive » In a Technopoly, no one can hear you think… Says:

    [...] that high school and college students use their computers mostly for downloading music, watching videos on sites like YouTube, playing [...]

  7. Web 2.0 in student activism « The Ancient Geeks Says:

    [...] (Student use of the internet has previously drawn a lot of interest as a topic on Ancient Geeks) Posted in User experience, eLearning. [...]

  8. Where are all the YouTube educators? « The Ancient Geeks Says:

    [...] less sexy, but a more historic sea-change in how students learn. Clue: look at what students are actually using the Internet for. I’m talking about video sharing and, particularly at this point in time, [...]

  9. Using embeddable video services « The Ancient Geeks Says:

    [...] popular with students, along with French site DailyMotion (NB not necessarily for educational [...]

  10. BASIC Principles of Online Journalism: C is for Community & Conversation (pt2: Conversation) | Online Journalism Blog Says:

    [...] a long time the most popular use of the internet has been email. For the net generation, that is being replaced by social networking and instant messaging. All demonstrate that people don’t want to passively consume content [...]

  11. Links a seguir | Links to follow « O Lago | The Lake Says:

    [...] a long time the most popular use of the internet has been email. For the net generation, that is being replaced by social networking and instant messaging. All demonstrate that people don’t want to passively consume content online [...]

  12. Prinsip Dasar Jurnalisme Online | Inside Wicak Hidayat Says:

    [...] a long time the most popular use of the internet has been email. For the net generation, that is being replaced by social networking and instant messaging. All demonstrate that people don’t want to passively consume content online [...]

  13. Steven Kondic Says:

    IF you take the circumference of your jack-o-lantern and divide it by its diameter ?
    It will equal = Pumpkin Pi
    “NO Mercy Diversey “


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