Debunking the Digital Native Myth: Higher Education Students Ask for More Support in Using Classroom Technology

Cengage Learning/Eduventures study reveals educational technology use impacts student engagement and learning outcomes; more guidance, support and training needed

Today’s tech savvy college students seek more support when it comes to using digital tools in the classroom, according to a recent survey conducted by Cengage Learning, a leading global provider of innovative teaching, learning and research solutions, in conjunction with Eduventures. The survey, which was administered to both students and instructors, also reveals there is a direct correlation between classroom technology use, student engagement and overall learning outcomes.

The Cengage Learning/Eduventures survey, entitled “Instructors and Students: Technology Use, Engagement and Learning Outcomes,” found that 65 percent of instructors think students are tech savvy when it comes to using digital tools in the classroom. Conversely, only 42 percent of students believe there is enough support for educational technology, evidence of a perception gap in how adept students are versus how savvy they are presumed to be (Figure 1). According to the survey, students prefer courses that use a great deal of technology, provided there is adequate support in using the tools. Where adequate support and training is provided, 70 percent of students prefer to take a course with a great deal of technology (Figure 2).

The survey also shows a meaningful relationship between the use of digital tools in the classroom, student engagement and overall learning outcomes. For example:

  • Three fourths of instructors think that student engagement has improved as the use of digital tools increased.
  • Of the instructors who believe engagement levels have improved, 87% believe that learning outcomes have improved as well (Figure 3).
  • 58% of students believe that technology helps to engage them with coursework and learn; among the tools that students prefer are Web sites, communication tools, office suite, digital homework tools and static digital content.

“While today’s college students are immersed and fluent in social media, consumer electronics and video games, they’re not nearly as proficient when it comes to using digital tools in a classroom setting; this turns the myth that we’re dealing with a whole generation of digital natives on its head,” said William Rieders, Executive Vice President, Global New Media for Cengage Learning. “Clearly, students are asking for better guidance, support and training in using digital tools in the classroom and we, as an industry, need to pay attention and effectively respond to those needs in order to improve engagement and learning outcomes.”

To support the use of educational technology, Cengage Learning recently launched CourseCare, a service and support program for customers using CengageCourse, a suite of digital products and services that improves student engagement and learning outcomes, and helps academic institutions navigate the changing education landscape. CourseCare’s training and service consultants help instructors find the right digital solution and provide flexible training options to prepare them to use technology in their courses—from the first day through the final exam. CourseCare enables schools, instructors and students to maximize their investment and customize their learning solutions to meet their individual needs.

About Cengage Learning

Cengage Learning is a leading provider of innovative teaching, learning and research solutions for the academic, professional and library markets worldwide. The company’s products and services are designed to foster academic excellence and professional development, increase student engagement and improve learning outcomes. Cengage Learning’s brands include Heinle, Gale, Wadsworth, Delmar, Brooks/Cole and South-Western, among others. For more information on Cengage Learning please visit

About Eduventures, Inc.

Eduventures has been committed to improving higher education since its founding in 1993. Today, we partner with more than 300 colleges and universities across the United States. Our research membership programs and consulting services help higher education leaders achieve organizational goals and solve pressing challenges with evidence-based insights and guidance. Visit for more information.