UVic Law Student Technology Survey 2014

Introduction to the Survey Results

The 11th annual law student technology survey results are now in.  The report reflects the responses of 27 incoming and transferring UVic law students during their week of classes, which yielded a 25% plus response rate. This response rate, while respectable, is much lower than the 90% plus response last year because of a technical problem on orientation day.

For anyone interested in more detailed look at the survey data, here is the anonymized raw data from the survey, and a summary report generated by the survey software.

Executive Summary:

  • Smartphones: 100% of incoming law students surveyed own “Smartphones” that can browse the internet (up from 96% last year and 50% four years ago), with 56% of the total being iPhones, 30% Android and 0% Blackberry. New law students are primarily using their mobile devices for directions, email, and looking up schedules & contact information.
  • Tablet & eBook ownership has doubled in the past two years with 59% of students owning tablet devices or ebook readers, up from 31% two years ago. iPads make up 53% of those tablets. 35% of tablet owners bring it to school every day. Faculties should endeavour to provide coursepack and textbooks in eBook formats for students.
  • Videoconferencing: 100% of students use Skype for real-time audio/video calls and collaboration. 48% use Apple Facetime and 17% use Google Hangouts. This opens up opportunities for faculties to make courses more widely accessible by offering blended or multi-access courses that use both face-to-face and video lectures.
  • Email: 62% of students use Gmail as their primary email account, and 4% use UVic email. To check their @uvic.ca email, 56% forward their email to another service, and 28% use the UVic webmail interface. Over the past few years many students have complained at lack of storage space and antiquated @Uvic.ca email interface for students.
  • Document Sharing: 77% of students use Google Drive for collaborative document editing, and 62% use Dropbox, both up significantly from last year. Efforts should be made to educate students on the impact of the US Patriot act on the security of their documents when they use US based cloud services.
  • Social Media: 92% of students use Facebook (down from 97% two years ago), 31% user Twitter, 19% LinkedIn, and 3% don’t use online social networks. In spite of some negative comments about social media, 79% of students used social media to connect with other students before the start of the school year.
  • Laptops: 100% of students own laptops.  54% of laptops are Macs, up from 49% two years ago. 46% use Windows.  54% of students bring their laptops to school on a daily basis and 8% never bring them to school.
  • Note Taking: 71% of students use laptops to take class notes, 92% use pen and paper, 8% use tablets and 8% use cell phones. Consideration should be given to discussing the potential drawbacks associated with using laptops for transcription style class notes in a first year class, and faculty members should explore ways to creatively use personal technology to engage students more deeply during class time.

Smart Phone / Cell Phone Ownership

Smart Phone Ownership

97% of surveyed students own “Smartphones” or phones with built in web browsers that allow them to surf the internet on their cell phones.  That is up significantly from 89% last year, and 50% three years ago.  Sadly for Canada, Blackberries have disappeared, down significantly from 11% last year and 27% two years ago.

On the other end of the spectrum, 11% of students own a regular mobile phone, and every student owns either a smartphone or regular mobile phone. The non-smartphone percentage is up from 4% last year, but this may be due in part to our smaller sample size.  As recently as 2010 11% of all law students did not own a mobile phone of any kind.


  • Anecdotal evidence, along with feedback comments indicate that students are using their Smartphones to quickly access class and campus information, including maps and schedules. Where possible information for students should be made available in mobile formats.
  • From the library and faculty’s perspective this is an important area to watch, as there are a number of interesting new technologies (Smartphone apps, and NFC for example) that could potentially enhance the services that the University offers to students.

Tablet Ownership & Reading Technology Usage

Tablet Ownership

This is the fourth year we have asked students about their tablet device and/or eBook reader ownership and found that a growing number of students own these devices. This year 59% of students own ebook readers or tablets (53% of those iPads), up from 44% last year and 19% the three years ago. 35% of students report bringing their tablet to school on a daily basis.

Tablet Adoption Rate

When asked if they would use a library run tablet lending program, 52% of students said they would not use it at all while 22% said they would use it daily or weekly.  This probably indicates a preference for laptops for note taking and research, and the unavailability of many textbooks and coursepacks in eBook format.


  • Professors and Faculties should give serious consideration to creating coursepacks in eBook as well as paper format whenever possible. All other things being equal, textbooks available in eBook as well as print formats should be purchased. Most Open Access textbooks are freely available in print and eBook formats.

Laptop Ownership & Usage at School

Laptop ownership has plateaued in the high ninety percent over the past six years (this year at 100% in our smaller than normal sample size). 54% of all incoming laptops are Macs which is down slightly from last year, but up from 49% two years ago, and 46% are running Windows.

8% of laptop owners never bring their laptops to school with them, while 54% bring them daily, and 21% weekly.


  • Given the high percentage of law students using Macs, it would be interesting to follow up with them once they are practicing law, to see how smooth their transition is to the predominant Windows computer usage in law firms. The results of such a survey could help guide hardware recommendations for incoming law students.

Tools for Taking Class Notes & Recording Audio

Note Taking

71% of students use laptops to take class notes and smartphones are used by 8% of students. Interestingly 92% of students use pen and paper to take notes, which is up from 72% last year, and 63% the year before. Recent research from Princeton and UCLA seems to indicate that students who transcribe their lectures, process lecture content as shallower levels.


  • Consideration should be given to discussing the potential drawbacks associated with using laptops for taking transcription style class notes in first year classes.
  • Universities and Faculties should sponsor Professional development for professors and instructors to help them to learn to use new pedagogies that leverage the technology students are bringing with them to class.
  • Faculty members should explore ways to creatively use personal technology to engage students more deeply in constructivist activities in class.

Primary Email Account

Primary Email

Currently only 4% of students use their UVic email account as their primary email account (down from 9% three years ago). Most use 3rd party email providers: 62% use Gmail as their primary account (up from 53% to years ago), 19% use Outlook.com (formerly known as Hotmail), and 7% use their previous university’s email system.

Of the students who use a UVic email address, 56% forward their email to a 3rd party account, 28% use UVic’s webmail interface, 24% use a smartphone email program, and 16% use a desktop email client.  96% of students check their email accounts once a day or more, and 46% are instantly notified on their cell phones when a new email message arrives.


  • UVic should consider phasing out it’s in-house email system for students by giving all new students forwarding accounts for their @uvic.ca email addresses.
  • Because half of students have instant notification turned on for their email, and are instantly notified when they receive text messages, instructors might consider asking students to put their phones in “airplane mode” while in class. This would help students from being distracted by their smartphones during class time; Instant notification = distraction.

Favorite Tools for Collaborative Document Editing

Collab Doc Editing

This year 77% of students use Google Drive for collaborative document editing. 62% use Dropbox, which is a reversal from last year when Dropbox was used more often.  12% use Apple iCloud which is down slightly, and 12% use Microsoft One Drive which is up significantly from 3% last year.


  • With more and more students using US based cloud service providers for collaborative document editing and backup, efforts should be made to let them know that their documents and data are potentially subject to search by US authorities under the Patriot act (and associated NSA data collection).
  • Consideration should be given to providing faculty, staff and possibly students with a Canadian based alternative to minimize the effects of the Patriot act.

Favorite Tools for Real-Time Audio & Video Collaboration

Video Conf

The current big three video conferencing services for students are Microsoft Skype with 100% of students using it, Apple Facetime with 48% usage, and Google Hangouts at 17%.


  • With student laptop ownership and broadband internet access in their homes at near 100%, opportunities for classes that blend face-to-face learning or offer multi-access (student choice of face-to-face, real time video or asynchronous video) become cost effective and do not present insurmountable accessibility issues. Enabling a choice of lecture delivery method increases access to courses, and allows students to review lecture materials at their own pace (either faster or slower).
  • Courses that use video technology can be more easily taken by students at other institutions. By enabling students at other universities to take courses at UVic, some niche classes that would not have enough local enrollment to run can become viable.

Social Media Usage

Social Media Usage

Currently 92% of students use Facebook. This is down from 97% last year, and the same as two years ago.  79% of Social Media users connected with other incoming students before the start of school, and another 4% indicated that they would have liked to do the same. While a number of students commented about their dislike for Facebook, it’s obvious that a large percentage of students find it useful for connecting with their classmates before and after they arrive at school.


  • Faculties can assist incoming students to connect with each other by pointing them to student-run social media groups in their welcoming emails. This can be especially helpful for out of town students looking for shared accomodations.

Leave a Reply