Fall 2020 New Student Computing Survey
This report was compiled based on the data results from the 2020 VCU New Student Computing Survey. The responses provide VCU Technology Services with valuable information to optimize the technology experience for current and future VCU students.
This year’s survey was distributed by email to 3,740 first-year students with a completion rate of 12%. Two randomly selected students that completed the survey were chosen to receive one of two Apple Series 6 Watches for their participation.
Student primary computers:
Student's other electronic devices:
How frequently are devices used:
How are students using VCU Mobile:
Students respond to the services provided:
Please share any campus locations where you have regularly experienced wireless connectivity issues with
the VCU network.
Technology Services understands and appreciates the importance of the data network including the wireless infrastructure. While a lot of time, effort, and resources have gone into building a reliable network there is still room for improvement - especially in the wireless arena. It is this understanding that has led to robust changes over the past couple of years to the wireless network. Here are some of the highlights that we have been working on to provide a better overall experience.
- A completely new wireless network that is cloud-based and allows for easier management and updates. The wireless network now has more than 4500 access points (APs) university-wide.
- Installed wireless access points that are specific to the residence halls that allow for better coverage due to the fact that these are now approximately in every other room.
- Improved automated monitoring for notification of issues as well as proactive indications that there could be a problem on the horizon.
- New wireless access points throughout the university allow for better coverage, better handoff between APs, and better throughput since all are running the same code and are now connected at 2.5Gbps vs the max of 1 gig from the old APs.
- A recent update was provided by the vendor to address connectivity issues with residence hall specific APs. This update has been applied.
- Worked with a partner to provide an "at home" experience in the residential dorms whereby devices like Google Home and Alexa are now allowed on the VCU network.
- Over the coming months, all of the residence halls will be upgraded to a 10 gigabit per second connection to the VCU fiber backbone. Currently, these buildings have a 1 gigabit per second connection.
Please note that we received many responses concerning network connectivity at Gladding Residence Center (GRC) this fall. It is important to note that the network in GRC is not operated or managed by VCU Technology Services. However, we have shared the feedback concerning GRC with University Housing.
It is truly the goal of Technology Services to provide the best network experience possible so we will continue to make adjustments and improvements toward that goal.
What is your biggest challenge with online learning?
It wasn’t until this year that Technology Services (TS) asked a few open-ended questions – one was more academically focused and it turned out the responses were as well. The question was, What is your biggest challenge with online learning. While TS was prepared to get flooded with internet access, hardware, and software complaints, the majority of the responses centered around motivation, academic self-regulation, time management, and similar. By far the most frequent responses were about the lack of instructor & classmate interaction and/or communication. Since interaction and communication are two important human needs, and something that college students expand their understanding about, it was important the Academic Continuity Committee (a committee of faculty, students, and administrators assembled to respond to the challenges presented by COVID) review the responses and make any necessary adjustments to their services.
The technology responses primarily dealt with two areas; the heavy reliance on a stable internet connection and a computer that has the capability to download and manage the software. Excess screen time contributing to headaches, eye strain, and distraction was also mentioned often as most instruction and university business is primarily through Zoom.
It should be noted that at the time of the survey VCU was transitioning Learning Management Systems (LMS) from Blackboard to Canvas. A transition of this magnitude is hard enough during a “normal” year, but the use of two LMSs added to student learning frustrations. Not only did survey respondents mention instructors were using one or the other, but many other instructional tools were being used as substitutes to deliver content and in-classroom activities. The Canvas transition will be completed by the early summer of 2021, so that will relieve the use of multiple LMSs. However, the use of free or department/program instructional software/tools is more of a challenge for Technology Services to monitor or stop. This issue has been raised in the Academic Continuity Committee and with the Office of the Provost.
If you could share one way for VCU Technology Services to improve our service to the VCU community, what would that be?
The central theme for the responses from new students was centered around communication rather than the technical aspects of our service offerings. New students were surprised by the breadth of services we offer but they were not aware of many of them until listed in this survey. Students also expressed that the discovery of VCU Technology Services (VCU TS) offerings is not entirely intuitive which led to the surprise mentioned earlier. A number of students encouraged VCU TS to provide regular communication in order to be better aware of the services we offer and any service disruptions. Below are some of the actions
Regular Contact: We plan to offer, beginning this spring, a monthly newsletter for students that highlights services, tools, and resources available to learn how to utilize VCU TS services for academic purposes. This will be an opt-in newsletter that will be a quick read with relevant links for students busy with college life. We will cross-promote these activities with our current social media accounts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Service Disruption Communications: This spring, we will work to evaluate our current service disruption tools such as social media, TS Status, and the VCU TS webpage to determine how better to notify students of any service disruptions. The goal will be to deploy a new service disruption communications plan for the fall 2021 semester.
Promote the IT Support Center: We will continue to promote the IT Support Center as a resource for not only assistance with technology but also a source to learn about what services are offered by VCU TS. This dedicated team handles over 50,000 requests for service every year and possesses a wide breadth of knowledge for the service options we make available to students.
Feedback: We will investigate new methods for eliciting feedback from students on service offerings and where we can improve those offerings. This may take the form of additional surveys targeted at specific groups, table events, and online methods. We will look to begin rolling out new feedback mechanisms this spring and over the coming year.
Student Technology Advisory Committee: We will share the results of the survey with STAC this spring in an effort to get their input for any other relevant actions that we can take to better communicate and create more awareness for our service offerings for the community. STAC has proven to be a valuable resource for VCU TS as we learn about issues that students are having with technology and can preview new service offerings and updates to the group to better fine-tune our plans.
As always, please contact VCU TS with any ideas for better communications or service offering suggestions by contacting the IT Support Center at email@example.com.