LIMITS '21 Paper
Technology has become pervasive in everyday life. College students are required to use internet-enabled computers and smartphones to access and interact with course material, often via browser software. However, the trend of requiring technology disadvantages lowerincome students. Additionally, the increased cycle of manufacturing, purchasing, and discarding devices comes with an environmental cost in the form of eWaste. Research has been done examining how long users can and do keep devices before discarding them, but we wish to understand this in the context of requirements for college students.
In this paper, we examine how well online learning platforms function on older browser software and device hardware. We then perform an analysis over several years of data from a learning management system used at the authors’ university campus. We find that software and hardware become obsolete within roughly a four-year period, meaning students are likely to be required to purchase a new smartphone or laptop during their college careers. In reality, these “obsolete” devices are just as capable as they were when they were new. We advocate for a student-focused solution and examine possible future lines of research in this area.