Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Communication Preferences among University Students

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Communication Preferences among University Students

Article excerpt


University students and other members of the Net Generation are highly involved with using technology to communicate and stay connected with friends. According to Rishi (2007, p. 7), "Contemporary students use a new and different model for communication and information access, one created by the Internet and fueled by mobile technology."

Cell phones and smart phones are used for both sending text messages and talking, while online communication methods such as email, chat and social networking provide additional methods to keep in touch. Stories of people texting each other while sitting side by side are pervasive, suggesting that technology-mediated communication is preferred over all other methods. However, the modes of communication most preferred by students for social purposes are not necessarily those they prefer for school/work activities. In fact, once institutions and parents adopt a media popular with students, they often move on to new ways of interacting.

This study examines university students' preferred communication methods for work/school and social purposes. The following section presents a brief background on student use of media. The results of a survey asking students about their preferred communication methods are then analyzed.


Students of the Net Generation take technology as a given; staying connected is a central part of their lives (Frand, 2000). The "need for speed" is evident, as "a faster approach is often perceived as a better approach" (Johnson, Levine, Smith & Stone, 2010, p. 4). Data from a 2009 EDUCAUSE study showed that a little over half of students had internet-capable mobile devices and almost 12% reported that they planned to buy such a device within the next year (Smith, Salaway & Caruso, 2009). Regular cell phones were, of course, ubiquitous. Email, and presumably sms texts, show aspects of both oral and written communication pointing to a perceived convergence of these two basic types of communication (Crystal, 2001; Gruber, 2000; Lightfoot, 2006, Matthews, 2000). This concept is confirmed by a study on teens showing that email and sms texts are not viewed as writing (Lenhart, Arafeh, Smith & Macgill, 2008).

In a study conducted at the College of the Sequoias (Student Voice Forum, 2009), it was determined that slightly over 60% of students prefer to communicate using sms texting, almost 40% use the telephone, almost 30% use email, and about 10% prefer social networking, instant messaging or face to face methods. Of those who said that they do not use the college email system, 17% said they do not use email much for communication. The small proportion of students who named face to face as a preferred method is somewhat suspect, however, given that 58% stated that they would like to attend college social events where they can meet other students, meaning a face to face experience. The way in which the question was asked, or at least perceived, is clearly an important factor.

At the Ohio State University, students were asked how they would like the school to communicate with them about their accounts, academic schedules, etc. (Ohio State University Office of Student Life, 2010). Email was selected by 82% followed by the website (17.8%), with Twitter, sms, phone, and Facebook chosen by fewer than 10%. For general updates, 68.9% chose email and 33.7% chose the web, with the other modes of communication again being chosen by fewer than 10% of the students. Similar results were found in regard to events and activities except that Facebook increased to 14.3%.

These results differ significantly from those of the College of the Sequoias study. One reason for this may be that the Ohio State University study pertained to the school communicating with students, whereas the College of the Sequoias study was more general. This confirms the findings of an EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research study (Rishi, 2007, p. …

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