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Fourth Annual Wakefield Survey Cites Cost of College, Technology Innovation as Top Trends in Higher Education

Nashville, TN – WEBWIRE

Vital Source Technologies, Inc., Ingram Content Group’s leading e-textbook solution, today announced the results of its annual survey revealing that today’s college students increasingly value online, social and mobile technology as essential educational tools. Fielded by Wakefield Research, an independent research consultancy, the survey of more than 500 currently enrolled college students also found more students are turning down certain colleges because the cost of tuition is too high and they worry about paying off student loans.

“The results of this year’s survey point to the continued acceleration and adoption of technology in higher education. Students and teachers alike are embracing new ways of accessing information which lower costs and improve academic outcomes in both the physical and online classroom,” said Cindy Clarke, Vice President of Marketing for Vital Source Technologies, Inc.  “The findings validate students’ dependence on technology to increase their productivity and job prospects in this competitive, globally-connected world, while also providing insight into market trends that will affect the next generation of educational technology.” 

Debt Threat Limits Options

Students value college as a life milestone and as a path to a fulfilling career, however, the cost of college is increasingly perceived as a major challenge. In fact, 44% of college students between the ages of 18-23 do not expect to pay off their student loans before they are 50.

Due to concerns over the cost of tuition and student loan debt, budget has increasingly become a deciding factor in students’ choice of which school to attend. A majority of students (58%) decided not to attend at least one college because the cost was too high; this is up significantly from 49% of student respondents who were asked the same question in 2013. The threat of debt often trumped all other considerations among survey respondents and even motivated students to limit discretional spending on entertainment and off-campus meals.

As important as affordability is to students, securing a full-time job is even more critical.  When asked to prioritize, 73% of students said a guaranteed full-time job is more important than zero student loan debt (28%) after graduation.

Students Give Top Marks to Technology

The proliferation of technology for personal use has not escaped the palms and desks of students. Of those surveyed, 45% of students said they usually do not go more than 10 minutes without using some form of technology during an average school day.

Despite their daily digital habits, students may be learning to regulate their screen time; last year the average amount of time students said they could go without digital interaction was 59 minutes, compared to respondents this year who said they are able to hold out for 64 minutes.   

When students are logged-on or plugged-in, survey results reveal the forms of technology used most often in their studies:

  • 62% use interactive textbooks with features such as video, audio and quizzes

  • 44% use mobile learning such as courses utilizing apps, social media and productivity tools

  • 33% use flipped classrooms including courses discussing video lectures watched prior to class

  • 23% use MOOCs, open online courses that allow for unlimited participation

Of the technologies listed above, students say the most helpful technology is interactive textbooks, with 31% agreeing the top benefit is that they make lessons easier to understand; 23% say they help them complete assignments more quickly; 21% say digital textbooks help them stay more organized.

Professors appear to agree on the benefits of interactive textbooks, as 67% of students say their professors frequently recommend they purchase the e-text versions of textbooks and other course materials, compared to 52% in 2013.

Increased Interest in Online Classrooms

Though the physical classroom remains most common, students are increasingly accepting of online classes, which are becoming a larger part of their overall educational experience. As growth in online is driven by both students and faculty, students are pushing professors to offer more digital learning, and professors increasingly urge students to get more involved with the digital components of their assignments. Further findings reveal the mutual push for greater online learning experiences:

  • 68% of students said the availability of online classes would be important to their educational experience, compared to 59% in 2013   

  • 77% of students have taken at least one online course

  • 42% of students said they get better grades in online courses vs. in-person courses

When asked which courses would be better taught online, half (50%) say history, followed by a significant percentage saying English (42%), foreign languages (29%) and math (28%).

Rise of the “Social” Classroom

In addition to online courses, students are experiencing greater use of social media in the classroom, a trend that raises new considerations:

  • 65% of college students ages 18-23 believe social media will eventually be required in all classes

  • 65% of survey participants said their Facebook accounts are not currently “class ready” due to questionable content

  • 77% of students said a professor has used, or asked them to use, at least one social media site for a class. The most popular accounts are YouTube (57%) Facebook (42%) and Twitter (25%).

About Vital Source Technologies, Inc.

The VitalSource Bookshelf® platform is the most used e-textbook delivery platform in higher education. Vital Source Technologies has more than 500,000 titles available in distribution encompassing content from more than 750 educational publishers.  Content is available to VitalSource Bookshelf users, including those living with disabilities anytime, anywhere, and on a variety of operating systems and devices. For more information about Vital Source Technologies, visit

About Ingram

Ingram Content Group Inc. is a subsidiary of Nashville-based Ingram Industries Inc. The company got its start in 1964 as a textbook depository and has since grown and transformed into a comprehensive publishing industry services company that offers numerous solutions, including physical book distribution, print-on-demand and digital services. Committed to the success of its partners, Ingram works closely with publishers, retailers, libraries and schools around the world to provide them with the right products and services to help them succeed in the dynamic and increasingly complex world of content publishing. Ingram’s operating units are Ingram Book Company, Lightning Source Inc., Vital Source Technologies, Inc., Ingram Periodicals Inc., Ingram International Inc., Ingram Library Services Inc., Spring Arbor Distributors Inc., Ingram Publisher Services Inc., Tennessee Book Company LLC, Coutts Information Services, and ICG Ventures Inc.  Learn more about Ingram Content Group at

Methodological Notes:

This survey was conducted by Wakefield Research ( among 500 currently-enrolled American college students, ages 18-23, between June 13th and June 24th, 2014, using an email invitation and an online survey.  Quotas have been set to ensure reliable and accurate representations of Americans currently enrolled in college, ages 18-23.  Results of any sample are subject to sampling variation.  The magnitude of the variation is measurable and is affected by the number of interviews and the level of the percentages expressing the results.  For the interviews conducted in this particular study, the chances are 95 in 100 that a survey result does not vary, plus or minus, by more than 4.4 percentage points from the result that would be obtained if interviews had been conducted with all persons in the universe represented by the sample.


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