Last week the Telegraph reported that US students spend so long surfing the net and e-mailing friends that their college work suffers. A similar survey produced by NUA however appears to present the news that US students are the most wired in the world.
So why the difference in spin? Well, OK, the results stem from two different surveys, conducted for two different clients, but is there another message here?
Anecdotal evidence in the UK would seem to bear out the message that students here are increasingly using the Internet for research - and let's face it, that's pretty much the whole reason that the internet began in practice anyway. Not only that, but for web savvy students, researching using the internet is far quicker and gives a broader range of resources than a search of the library and journal shelves.
Insofar as staying in touch with friends using e-mail: remember back to your own student days. Did you ever scrimp and save for the trip to the student bar? Was buying a stamp at the top of your priority list very often? Did you relish going down the road to stand in a drafty telephone box to phone family and friends? No, I don't think so.
The Internet and e-mail is seen as a big help by most students. It helps them do their work, and it helps them to stay in touch with family and friends - and it has always been free.
For employers, especially of new graduates, there is an insight to be gained. Students have been squeezed financially in recent years. They no longer have grants, they have student loans, they also have to pay tuition fees. They also experience a freedom that they have not had before and they also further develop their own personality, work ethic and values during their college years. Part of that freedom, value system and work ethic is expressed through using an easy-access, free-to-use high-speed Internet facility available in most HE and FE institutions.
They may not have a fully developed balance between work and play in their Internet use, but most students will know quite well how to use the net for work.
The move to employment can be a shock. The Internet is still seen as a timewasting past-time in many organisations, an open invitation to stop work and begin play. E-mail is seen as something that too often encourages greater comment than is needed in a workplace situation. Students entering the workplace frequently experience a culture shock as they are forced into a situation where access to information is controlled, and they are no longer encouraged to teach themselves with technology. E-mails are controlled, even snooped upon.
Consider carefully your student intake this year and your Information and Communication policies, what you may see as safeguards, they may see as restrictions and stifled creativity.