Ryan Petersen is Editor in Chief of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education.

Feb 05 2011

Bridging the Education Gap


Choosing which college to attend is one of the biggest decisions a person will ever make. Weighing options such as cost, location, which areas of study are offered, class size and the success of the football program (I'm mostly kidding here), have always been important factors. But unlike when I was in school, the availability of on-campus technology now plays an important role as students evaluate their higher education options.

In fact, the 2010 CDW•G 21st Century Campus Report found that 93 percent of current high school students say campus technology is an important factor when choosing a college.

It's difficult to dispute that number when you consider how teaching and learning on campus have changed through the years. A couple of my relatives are currently in college, and I question how long they can go without texting, tweeting, checking Facebook or generally surfing the web before they start to get the shakes. Technology is not only a part of their daily lives, it's a part of nearly every waking hour.

And as the college experience continues to evolve, the need for technology is ever more apparent. Distance learning, for example, is no longer a luxury, it's a necessity. The existence and influence of online universities is growing by the day. Meanwhile, the number of nontraditional students is rapidly increasing, and 24x7 access to resources is essential.

“A mother of two children who works from 9 to 5 doesn't have the luxury or convenience to go to a physical classroom,” says Michael Hicks, the director of information technology services at Paine College in Augusta, Ga. “She has to take classes at home over the computer. And we have to build up our online program to compete against other schools that specialize in that.”

At Viterbo College in La Crosse, Wis., the college's library, in conjunction with its media center, is also putting videos online that professors want their students to watch. The library loads videos onto a streaming server and provides a web link to the professors, who share the link with the students enrolled in their classes.

“We may have only one or two copies of a video in the library, so now [students] can click on the web link, and from within the learning management system, they can view the videos on their computers in their dorms,” says Chad Gilbeck, Viterbo's help-desk service coordinator.

The school also has built two distance education classrooms, with 94-inch screens, video cameras, microphones and tiered seating. The video conferencing system lets students view guest speakers from remote locations, but it also allows the school to stream lectures off-campus.

To learn more about the use of 21st century technology on campus and the 2010 CDW•G 21st Century Campus Report, read “Technology Overhaul.”

One for All

Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Mich., also recognizes the need for students to have as much access to technology as possible. To accomplish that, the university provides each of its 4,500 students with a stand­ardized notebook or tablet PC as part of its one-to-one computing program.

“We were constantly hearing that our computers were outdated, our software was outdated,” recalls Maria Vaz, provost at Lawrence Tech. “The moment we introduced the laptop initiative, that conversation went away. Now, we are told that our software is even more advanced than what is available at some companies.”

For more information about how colleges and universities are successfully implementing one-to-one computing programs, see “Accelerated Learning.”

Ryan Petersen,
Editor in Chief

<p>Matthew Gilson</p>