The prevalence of personal digital devices, such as personal computers, smartphones, and tablets, has enabled students and teachers to utilize a tremendous amount of online learning materials and resources available anytime and anywhere. In English education at the tertiary level, active exploitations of these digital devices outside of the classroom would be highly beneficial in providing learners with more opportunities to improve their English proficiency. Hiroshima University has been implementing an English education project in which in-class activities are combined with a variety of WBT (Web-Based Training) materials to be learned outside of school. It has also been developing and delivering its original English podcasts for self-learning on a weekly basis. In 2015, the university launched a BYOL (Bring Your Own Laptop) policy, which is expected to promote learning by using these lightweight devices.
In this paper, we report on a questionnaire regarding the penetration rates of digital devices and the popularity of English self-learning using personal mobile devices. The survey was conducted on 1,000 first-year students at Hiroshima University. The number of valid responses was 767. It was found that there are high penetration rates of laptop computers (99.5%) and smartphones (94.3%), while only 22% of the respondents are using their personal digital devices for English learning, and 3.5% of them are actually listening to Hiroshima University’s podcasts. With better publicity, the number of podcast listeners can be expected to increase in the near future because of the students’ high demands for online listening materials to learn daily English conversation.