Digital downsides: Exploring university students’ negative engagements with digital technology

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


Digital technologies are now an integral feature of university study. As such, academic research has tended to concentrate on the potential of digital technologies to support, extend and even ‘enhance’ student learning. This paper, in contrast, explores the rather more messy realities of students’ engagements with digital technology. In particular, it focuses on the aspects of digital technology use that students see as notably unhelpful. Drawing on a survey of 1658 undergraduate students from two Australian universities, the paper highlights four distinct types of digital ‘downside’. These range from low-level annoyances and interruptions, to ways in which digital technologies are seen to diminish students’ scholarship and study. Against this background, the paper considers how discussions of digital technology might better balance enthusiasms for what we know might be achieved through technology-enabled learning, with the often unsatisfactory realities of students’ encounters with digital technology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1006-1021
Number of pages16
JournalTeaching in Higher Education
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Students
  • digital
  • technology
  • student experience

Cite this