THE BLOG

Technology's Role in Today's University Experience

06/10/2014 16:11 BST | Updated 03/12/2014 10:59 GMT

Freshers' Week is over for another year, and real student life can begin for 2014's crop of new undergraduates. The tradition of heading off to university has however changed dramatically over the last few decades, largely due to innovations in technology that are transforming all aspects of the student experience. While in previous eras, freshers might have set off for university with a typewriter or bulky word processor, many students today can't imagine life without the latest portable, internet-enabled devices to help them with academic projects. And it's not just study, a whole range of other gadgets - from toastie makers to capsule coffee machines - are now almost as essential to student life as laptops and smartphones.

The gadgets and technology that previous generations might have taken with them to university are really quite different to today. To any readers who went to university in the 50s or 80s, do you recognise the items in these photos?

If you were to give any of those devices to one of today's students, they might not be too impressed. Products such as tablets, laptops and smartphones have revolutionised the way students work - whether in the lecture theatre, in the library or in halls. During our Off to University period sales of laptops were up 33% compared to the same period last year. In addition sales of Windows laptops increased by 75% and interestingly sales of convertible laptops increased over 700% on last year, revealing the growing appetite for more versatile technology. In addition there is more demand for larger tablets with this year's students, as sales of 8" and 10" tablets are overtaking those of their smaller-screen counterparts, with sales of 8" tablets up 200% year on year.

All of these devices bring many productivity benefits to students' working life. Students can record lectures and watch them back rather than relying on handwritten notes or photocopied text books. They can collaborate on assignments in real-time using Google Docs or Skype, and then submit them via email rather than rushing into campus to deliver in a hand-written copy. And when they need to research something new, they can instantly access a bank of rich information online, for example viewing videos and presentations via university intranets, rather than wait for the books they need to be returned to the library.

In addition, the flexibility of these devices means that they don't just replace the humble typewriter, but also the TV, hi-fi system, games console and DVD player - allowing today's students to be better equipped than ever when it comes to entertainment. Communications are transformed too - if they are missing their old friends and family after leaving home for the first time, they can also use free apps like Skype or WhatsApp to keep in touch for free on their smartphones and tablets and reduce the amount of money they spend on their phone bills.

Aside from computing devices, there is a bigger list of gadgets on students' shopping lists to help make their accommodation a home away from home. While in the 50s students may have made most of their meals with a rudimentary kitchen set, today's students are heading off to uni fully equipped with kitchen gadgets like kettles, toasters, blenders, irons and the must-have toastie-maker.

There's no doubt that there's much more technology on students' shopping lists than in previous generations. But with the right products it can truly enhance the learning experience, as well as allowing students to create a home away from home with must-have gadgets to make the transition to university life more comfortable.

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Images supplied by John Lewis

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