Julie Smith is vice president of CDW•G Higher Education.

Sep 29 2010

Accentuating Campus Technology Offerings


It used to be that the only "technology" required to complete college successfully were textbooks, paper and pencils, and perhaps a calculator.

Today, however, the increasing expectations of current students and the anticipated needs of future students are compelling universities and colleges to increase technology offerings on their campuses.

That's one of the chief findings of the CDW-G 2010 21st Century Campus Report: Campus 2.0, the third annual study examining the role of technology in higher education.

Based on a survey of more than 1,000 college students, faculty and IT staff, the report found that today's students view technology as an engaging, interactive learning tool that they expect to be readily available on campus.

Sixty-three percent of current college students say the availability of technology on a campus weighed heavily in their college selection criteria. And according to our separate CDW-G 2010 21st Century Classroom Report, which surveyed technology use at high schools, 93 percent of today's high school students say campus technology will be an important factor in their selection of a college as well.

While the 2008 higher education report offered a baseline for campus technology use and last year's study uncovered how student needs are changing, the 2010 report focuses on technologies that colleges are implementing and whether institutions are incorporating these new tools in interactive learning.

Among the trends, colleges increasingly support advanced technology infrastructures and applications. On the hardware front, 81 percent of the IT professionals say their institutions support notebook systems, compared with 72 percent last year; and 43 percent support interactive whiteboards, versus 38 percent in 2009.

In terms of interactive technology, 61 percent say their institutions now offer video conferencing, versus 47 percent last year; and 55 percent also host web conferencing, compared with 46 percent in 2009. Fifty-four percent of colleges also now make use of digital content, which includes online textbooks and material available to download, including PDFs, notes and other curricular materials in electronic form.

Growth Experience

John Brownell, a senior at Temple University and an on-campus intern for CDW-G, has experienced firsthand the gradual rollout of new classroom technology during his years at the university. Recently, he had the opportunity to compare his learning experience in an online finance class with a similar, more traditional classroom course offering. His experience dovetails nicely with the survey's findings.

"I learned so much more in the interactive class," Brownell says. "We had homework problems every day, and if we had difficulty, the program walked us through the problems step by step and also demonstrated multiple approaches. I also retained more from the online class."

Despite the progress, some students expressed concern that faculty professional development fails to keep pace with classroom technology. Twenty-four percent say lack of technology knowledge among professors remains the biggest hurdle to technology integration in lessons. And another 14 percent say faculty members don't use available technology.

To read the Campus 2.0 report and access the assessment tool, go to the21stcenturycampus.com.

When it comes to administrative IT, 44 percent of IT staff say their institutions' infrastructure needs refreshing. To deliver "always on" technology access, IT professionals say they need to improve or expand storage, security and server components.

To enhance and expand campus technology, the focus needs to shift from procurement and deployment to how technology can improve learning.

Next, college IT organizations need to survey students, faculty and IT staff to better understand their technology expectations. (Consider using CDW-G's 21st Century Campus Report Assessment Tool to benchmark these findings.) Finally, colleges should build demo labs that will allow both the faculty and IT staff to gain hands-on experience with the latest technologies.

There is a great deal of work ahead. But with 85 percent of college students saying that technology helps them study better for their chosen field and 88 percent of faculty saying technology has become an essential learning tool, colleges and universities are clearly on the right track.