THE FUTURE IS NOW
University of Georgia Student Offers Inside Look at the 21st Century Campus
In science-fiction and fantasy books, seers and prognosticators usually are ancient men with white beards down to their knees. They wear cloaks. They carry scepters. Sometimes, they're even wizards.
Andy Homrich, however, is none of those things.
Sure, the jovial 21-year-old is a senior, but he's a senior at the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga., a speech communication major, and a student with everyday, on-the-ground experience with the various social networking, Web 2.0 and wireless technologies as components of a 21st Century Campus.
On a daily basis, even before he comes to campus, Homrich says he uses a SmartPhone, his laptop, and his iPod. He notes that over the past two years, he can count on one hand the days that he has not gone online at least once. Much of this daily online activity surrounds checking multiple email accounts, podcasting, Facebook and world and sporting news sites.
Of course, Homrich, who is a Field Sales intern for CDW-G, also regularly logs onto his school's learning management system to complete coursework.
Still, from Homrich's perspective—the perspective of someone who has lived, eaten and breathed the 21st Century Campus for the last four years—the campus of tomorrow must incorporate a much broader array of technology in order to be successful.
"The 21st Century Campus is one that is not limited to the confines of a physical space, but instead is more about technology that allows you to experience class work outside the classroom," he says. "It's less about in-class media and more about media that enables students to turn any situation into a place they can learn."
Specifically, at least from Homrich's point of view, these technologies should facilitate:
- Easy information gathering (class slides, lecture notes and Web-based articles)
- Instant feedback (assessment tools, chat/email with instructors)
- Collaboration with classmates (discussion boards, shared workspaces, wikis)
Already, at least at the University of Georgia, in-class technology use is pretty high. Homrich reports that most of his instructors use projectors for PowerPoints and occasional media. In addition, students use laptops during class to take notes, download lecture slides and look up supplemental material online.
Furthermore, in Homrich's experience, about 75 percent of classes use WebCT or Blackboard for online course collaboration and communication.
Still, at least according to the CDW-G 21st Century Campus Study released late last year, there's always room for improvement. The study collected replies from 1,007 student, faculty and IT staff respondents, and indicated that when ranked by an index of 20 different factors, the average U.S. post-secondary institution scored in the mid-range (46.08 out of 100) on technology integration.
One area the survey targeted for improvement is educator use of technology; 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.
While Homrich estimates that nearly two-thirds of his professors at the University of Georgia actually had a refreshing command of the latest classroom technology, he noted that there were always professors who shied away from technology because they were uncomfortable utilizing the technology in the classroom.
"When a teacher just does not use technology in the classroom, I personally am frustrated," he says. Another area with room for improvement: communication. The CDW-G survey indicated that higher education students want regular and immediate communication with professors, but only 23 percent of IT professionals say their campuses offer it.
Homrich says the ability for students to communicate with educators electronically could revolutionize the age-old concept of "office hours," and would be particularly useful for commuter students with disparate schedules who have trouble getting to campus for large chunks of time.
"Anything to make life easier," he says.
Still, as Homrich prepares to move from the world of higher education into the workforce, he looks back on his tenure at the University of Georgia and admits that the 21st Century Campus has come a long way. When he visited the school as a pre-freshman in 2005, he was impressed with the school's ID cards, hand-scanners, digital signage and wireless connectivity.
"They've gotten better tenfold over my tenure," he notes of these technologies. "No matter how you look at it, those are steps in the right direction."
For more information, go to: www.cdwg.com/highereducation