“When I was in college, we had to go to the library to do research, and we couldn’t use personal computers for homework assignments.”
That’s something I’ve heard from almost all of my professors, or anyone who went to college more than 10 to 15 years ago. And because I’ve had a computer in my house for as long as I can remember, it’s also a concept that’s unimaginable to me.
Unlike my professors, I’ve always considered my notebook to be my most valuable resource on campus. It not only allows me to perform research, write papers and manage email but also helps me to keep up with my friends from high school via social media.
Beyond that, my university’s learning management system keeps track of all my classes and gives professors a platform for assigning homework, sending messages to students and releasing grades. Although some professors choose not to use every aspect of the LMS, others treat the system as a class outside of the classroom. One of my favorite parts of this approach is when professors assign online discussions.
Students can write blog posts and comment on their classmates’ entries, all within the LMS. This is important because time in the classroom is finite, and these discussions give everyone an opportunity to participate and have their opinions heard. This use of technology also makes learning more efficient by letting it occur both inside and outside the classroom.
What makes the LMS even more convenient is that it is accessible to me no matter where I am. I usually access it via my notebook, but I don’t always have that with me. When I’m on the go, or need to check my grades or other messages, I can also access the system through my smartphone.
Because different professors post things at different times of the day, it is beneficial to be able to access the system from any of my electronic devices, through a very wide and reliable campus wireless network.
Staying Up to Speed
Another way technology has enhanced the college learning experience can be seen in courses with larger attendance. During my freshmen year, I took a general chemistry class alongside more than 200 other students. The course included the usual features: participation requirements, homework, midterms and a final. The main difference between this class and classes I’d taken in high school (besides the difficulty level) was that students had to log in to an academic website to submit homework.
At first, that seemed strange, because chemistry is a math-oriented subject and doing math on a computer is more difficult than using a pencil and paper. I realized, though, that the online homework was conducive to a larger class size. With 200-plus students submitting assignments every other day, it would have been impossible for the professor and teaching assistants to return the graded homework before the class moved on to the next subject.
Online homework offered something that traditional homework could not: immediate feedback. Because the website graded my chemistry homework instantaneously, I had the opportunity to figure out what I needed to work on before we moved on to the next section, and I never fell behind.
College may not look much like it did 10 to 15 years ago, but by embracing technology and the many services it has to offer, universities are rising to meet the challenges and expectations of today’s students.
This article is part of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education’s new UniversITy blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #UniversITy hashtag.