Student attitudes towards technology and their preferences for learning tools/devices at two universities in the UAE

Matthew Andrew, Jennifer Taylorson, Donald J. Langille, Aimee Grange, Norman Williams

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    22 Scopus citations


    Aim/Purpose The purpose of this study was to survey student opinions about technology in order to best implement and utilize technology in the classroom. In this paper, technology refers to 'digital technology'. The aims of this study were to: (1) examine student attitudes towards technology in regards to enjoyment and per-ceived usefulness; (2) investigate what tools and devices students enjoyed and preferred to use for learning; (3) examine whether students preferred learning with books and paper instead of technological devices (e.g. laptops, tablets, smartphones); and (4) investigate whether student opinions about digital tech-nology and preferred learning tools differ between two universities (based on their level of technology implementation) and between two programs (Founda-tion Studies and General Studies). Background Previous studies have investigated student device choice, however, fewer studies have looked specifically at which tools and devices students choose for certain academic tasks, and how these preferences may vary according to the level of digital technology integration between two different universities. Methodology In this study, a mix of quantitative and qualitative data was gathered from 1102 participants across two universities in the United Arab Emirates from an Eng-lish-language Foundation Studies program and a first-year General Studies pro-gram. A questionnaire (containing closed-ended and open-ended questions) was followed by three focus-group interviews (n=4,3,2). ANOVA and t-Tests were used to test for statistically significant differences in the survey data, and qualita-tive survey and interview data were analyzed for recurring themes. Contribution This study aims to provide a more comprehensive account of the learning tools (including books/paper, laptops, tablets, and phones) students prefer to use to complete specific academic tasks within a university context. This study also seeks to evaluate student attitudes towards using digital technology for learning, in order to best implement and utilize technology in the context of higher edu-cation institutions in the Middle East and around the world. Findings Findings suggest that participants enjoy learning how to use new technology, believe it improves learning, and prepares them for future jobs. Books/paper were the most preferred resources for learning, followed closely by laptops, while tablets and smartphones were much less preferred for specific educational tasks. The data also revealed that respondents preferred learning through a combination of traditional resources (e.g. books, paper) and digital technologi-cal tools (e.g. laptops, tablets). Recommendations for Practitioners These findings can be used to recommend to educators and higher education administrators the importance of adopting learning outcomes related to digital literacy in the classroom, to not only help students become more effective learners, but also more skilled professionals in their working lives. Additionally, classroom practices that incorporate both traditional tools and newer techno-logical tools for learning might be most effective because they provide flexibility to find the best learning tool(s) for the task. Recommendations for Researchers Participants preferred books and paper for learning. One reason was that paper helped them remember information better. More research needs to be done on the learning benefits of using more tactile mediums, such as paper for reading and writing. Impact on Society The findings from this study suggest that some learners may benefit more from the use of digital technology than others. Institutions and organizations need to provide flexibility when it comes to technology implementation for both stu-dents and faculty. This flexibility can accommodate different learning styles and preferences and not isolate individuals in the classroom or workplace who may be slower to adapt to new technologies. Future Research Future research is needed to investigate student attitudes towards digital tech-nology at higher education institutions in other parts of the world. In addition, this study focused mostly on student perceptions of learning tools and devices in the classroom. More research needs to be done on the impact technology has on learning per se - specifically how certain tools may help learners more effec-tively complete different educational tasks.

    Original languageBritish English
    Pages (from-to)309-344
    Number of pages36
    JournalJournal of Information Technology Education: Research
    StatePublished - 2018


    • Device choices
    • Digital technology
    • Higher educa-tion
    • Learning tools
    • Student attitudes


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