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.
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.