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How Students Spend Their Time Online

On the 26th of September, a SESL post-graduate student Dmitry Simanovskiy presented his paper "In search of the digital divide: how the schoolchildren of Saint-Petersburg use the Internet for educational purposes?” at one of the regular SESL seminars.

The digital divide, and specifically an access to the Internet, is one of the most urgent problems of modern society. Questionnaires for one of the SELS studies, aimed at students of 15 and 16 years old (11 and 11 grades) included questions about their daily use of the Internet: what resources they use to study for their classes, and what resources they use for socializing and communication.

Dmitry has shared the first results of his study.  He found that 47.1% respondents spend 3 hours or more online, 42.4% from 1 to 3 hours, and the remaining 10.5% spend less than an hour online, or don’t use the Internet at all. The online activities of students was divided into three categories: homework-related study, social networks and online games. As expected, social networking was the most popular kind of online pastime for the students, and online games were of lowest interest.

Students were divided into three groups depending on their academic performance: low scores (average score to 3.5), average scores (3.6 - 4.4), and high scores (4.5 - 5).  The researcher didn’t find any connection between the time spent online and the academic performance of students. However, the students with low scores spend somewhat more time in online games and on social networks than students with high scores.

Dmitry also correlated the online practices of students and the socio-economic status of their families. The higher education of the student’s mother was used as a proxy for this parameter. The online practices in these groups didn’t show any significant difference, which means that there’s no digital divide.

Wikipedia (https://ru.wikipedia.org/) and and educational portal Znanija.com (http://znanija.com/) were the two most popular online resources for study and homework among students. The portal is a kind of an educational emergency room built in the same way as a social network. There, students can respond to questions and earn points, which they can further use for asking their own questions. Students from educated families use Wikipedia 3% more often, and Znanija.com is more popular among students from families with a lower educational level and with a lower academic performance (low scores). Students with high scores prefer the website InternetUrok.ru (http://interneturok.ru/). Students with better academic performance prefer looking for the correct answers on their own, while students with low scores seek help from their networks. A large part of the students don’t use online resources to prepare for classes.

While working on his research, Dmitri was basing on the results of an OECD study: PISA 2012, “Inequalities in Digital Proficiency: Bridging the Divide”: how do children use the Internet? This study covers a wide range of aspects: from the amount of time spent on the Internet to the number of children per computer.

After the presentation, the audience discussed the already completed stages of the research and gave recommendations on further directions of the study.

By Anastasia Kuznetsova