Two research reports with surprising results were the most popular higher education news stories this year, while stories looking at textbook free zones, higher education IT issues and funding round out the top five.

Let's take a look at the top five higher education technology stories of 2015.

Outperforming online students: Students who attend class in person outperform online students in some community colleges. These results, however, contradict a number of studies that came to different conclusions. Further study that takes into account the level of support and engagement that students experience in both situations may be warranted.

Too much phone time: Researchers found a correlation between high cellphone usage and lower grade point averages with about 500 students at Ohio's Kent State University. Students who used their phones more than 10 hours a day did worse than students who used them up to two hours.

Textbook free zone: Open educational resources have become more popular as colleges try to curb the cost of earning a higher education. In the Z-Degree program at Virginia's Tidewater Community College, for instance, students save about 25 percent on the first two years of a business administration degree because of a zero textbook policy.

Higher ed IT issues: Information security topped the list of issues that higher ed IT leaders will grapple with in 2016. A group of leaders convened by EDUCAUSE came up with 10 major issues, and some of them examined the results in a panel discussion.

Billion dollar spending: A report released in May forecasted that higher education institutions would spend $6.6 billion in 2015 for IT. And next year, that number is expected to increase even more.