Nine years into the 21st Century, a millennium that many expected to be characterized by the Internet generation, many classrooms at higher education institutions are looking a little…old-fashioned.
Sure, a growing number of institutions have embraced wireless 802.11n. And yes, more and more colleges and universities now boast hardware such as electronic podiums, interactive whiteboards, student response systems, classroom management software and lecture capture software.
Most schools, however, still need to incorporate more IT into their curricula—at least according to the CDW-G 21st Century Campus Study released late last year.
The study, which collected replies from 1,007 student, faculty and IT staff respondents, indicated that when ranked by an index that takes into account 20 different factors, the average U.S. post-secondary institution scored in the mid-range (46.08 out of 100) on technology integration. Ask any college professor: this essentially is a failing grade.
The trouble stems from a gap between student expectations and in-class realities. While an overwhelming majority of surveyed students reported that technology matters most, only 33 percent of faculty members said technology is fully integrated into the educational experience.
Some interesting specific results:
- Students want regular and immediate communication with professors through online chat, but only 23 percent of IT staffs say their campuses offer it.
- Though 85 percent of all responding faculty members said their institutions provide IT training, 44 percent say they don’t know how to use the technology.
- More than 63 percent of responding students said they use technology to prepare for class, but only 24 percent said they actually use technology in class.
- Despite the importance of collaboration in the workplace, 73 percent of students don’t use Wikis, 83 percent don’t listen to podcasts and 88 percent don’t use Web conferencing.
What’s more, technology resources at many post-secondary institutions spend most of the time sitting idle; 57 percent of faculty members who teach in smart classrooms said they don’t use the technology daily.
Juxtaposed with soaring demand from employers for job candidates with technology experience, these findings raise some interesting questions. Why are technology resources sitting idle? Why aren’t educators providing what their students want? Most important, what happens next?
According to the CDW-G survey, some of the answers to these questions may be found by spending more time and money on technology overall.
To serve student needs more efficiently, schools can implement better IT resources for faculty, such as improved faculty training and online chat capabilities. To serve faculty more effectively, schools can emphasize academic applications, integrating education-oriented technologies directly into the classroom experience. To serve IT staffers more intelligently, schools can invest in next-generation tools that will remain modern well into the next decade.
- Monitor which technologies are relevant after graduation.
- Assess what’s happening on campus every year.
- Train professors what they need to know.
- Figure out how to incorporate collaborative Web 2.0 tools.
The Future of Learning Technology, a report from the Alliance for Higher Education Competitiveness, indicates that trying to identify worthwhile experiments before they become commonplace is also important for a modern-day, higher-education CIO. In particular, the AHEC document suggests that the following areas will become big in the next seven years: Tools to help students work more productively, pedagogical tools to help faculty members easily create online lesson plans and study guides, hybrid programs that merge classroom and online learning environments, and online assessment tools that link students, faculty and administration.
The Funding Question
Given the current state of the national economy, funding the necessary steps toward better 21st Century classrooms might be challenging. The solution: improvise.
Some schools charge students a small technology fee per credit hour up to a certain amount per semester. Others rely more heavily on endowments, donations or public funding.
Whatever the strategy, it’s high time that 21st Century classrooms catch up with the 21st Century. The future is a mix of wireless technology, sophisticated hardware, suped-up software and a commitment to training educators how to incorporate these tools into the everyday learning environment. At this point in history, anything less would be so 1998.
For more information, go to: www.cdwg.com/highereducation