We finished writing this article back in December 2009. Fifteen months later it has finally been published in the Canadian Journal of Learning Technology. We released a pre-publication version several months ago so if you read that, there is nothing new here. For the record, here is the publication version of Digital Learners in Higher Education: Generation is Not the Issue.
Generation is often used to explain and rationalize the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in higher education. However, a comprehensive review of the research and popular literature on the topic and an empirical study at one postsecondary institution in Canada suggest there are no meaningful generational differences in how learners say they use ICTs or their perceived behavioural characteristics. The study also concluded that the post-secondary students at the institution in question use a limited set of ICTs and their use is driven by three key issues: familiarity, cost, and immediacy. The findings are based on focus group interviews with 69 students and survey responses from a random sample of 438 second year students in 14 different programs in five schools in the institution. The results of this investigation add to a growing body of research that questions the popular view that generation can be used to explain the use of ICTs in higher education.