Most likely the image that comes to mind when you think about attending a college class is sitting in a large hall listening to a professor lecture from the front of the room. Walk into many college classes these days and the scene is different – students collaborating over iPads or tweeting in class, and students collaborating through online class forum. Like so much of our daily lives, technology has dramatically altered the college education experience and will continue to change the way professors teach students.
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But how does technology actually affect students? While learning is a priority, of course, the goal of most students attending college is to improve employment opportunities. The McGraw-Hill Education 2016 Education Workforce Readiness Survey found that 85 percent of students felt technology in college classes will help increase their employment prospects.
Here are five ways that technology is improving classroom education on college campuses today:
1. Flipped Classes
Preparing for class used to mean reading a chapter or three from the textbook. Over the past few years, many colleges began using technology to implement the flipped classroom model, where students are assigned lectures and other course materials to review online as homework. This frees up classroom time for more interactive activities that promote high-level learning, such as discussions, group projects and collaboration.
But does a flipped classroom increase learning? Initial research says yes. Boston University reported a 25 percent improvement in learning outcomes and a factor-of-three reduction in dropped classes, withdrawals and failed classes after the Physics Department used the model for algebra- and calculus-based physics classes. A survey conducted by Faculty Focus found that 74.90 percent of professors using the flipped classroom model reported higher student engagement, and 54.66 percent reported improved student learning.
2. Collaboration Technology
Collaboration has always been a part of college, but it used to take place during group discussions in the classroom. Or in the library or dorm for group projects, with pencil and paper or perhaps a whiteboard. Today collaboration looks much different. As part of a $21 million renovation of Franklin Hall on Indiana University’s Bloomington campus, Media School classrooms were equipped with glass whiteboards and video walls. Instead of erasing notes on the whiteboards after brainstorming is complete, students take pictures of the collaboration and then share the photos over the wireless network to the interactive video wall. To encourage even more collaboration, students and teachers can interact with and manipulate the content to combine and organize the information from the photos.
3. Social Media
If you want to talk to college students, you don’t dial their phone number. Most parents know the best way is to text or, even better, reach out on social media. A Pew Research study found that 90 percent of college-age adults are active on at least one form of social media. Instead of banning social media in classrooms, professors are embracing this natural way of communicating to increase student engagement.
Lauren Jimerson encouraged students in her “Introduction to Art History” course at Rutgers to tweet using the hashtag #arthist106 by offering 2 bonus percentage points on final grades for participating. During the semester about 50 percent of the class participated, and students engaging on Twitter had final grades an average of 8 percent higher than the class average. But more important, she felt that Twitter encouraged her students to think about art outside of class and how it relates to their daily life. Interestingly, 86 percent of students (who took the course as a graduation requirement) said that their interest in art had increased during the semester.
4. Virtual Labs
In the past, students had to physically go to a lab to use a particular software program or have a particular science experience. This required physical space for the lab as well as staff to be on-site during lab hours. Additionally, students had to travel to the lab during set hours, which was often a challenge without transportation or for students with work and family obligations. By creating virtual labs via campus internet, colleges can both reduce costs and increase accessibility for students. Ed Tech magazine reported many examples of virtual labs, including a virtual cybersecurity lab at the University of Maryland University College, a virtual computer lab at University of South Carolina Upstate and California State University’s virtual fruit fly lab.
Playing a game is definitely more engaging than listening to someone talk or reading passages. While gamification has been used for years with K-12 students, many colleges are using this concept to increase engagement with the material among students. “Gamification allows students to become more active learners by inserting themselves into different scenarios, rather than passively listening to lectures and reading course material on their own,” said Andrea Eberly, an e-learning instructional designer at the New England College of Business, in the U.S. News & World Report article “Explore Pros, Cons of Gamification in Online Learning.”
While some colleges are using gamification outside the classroom, such as Ball State’s app to encourage campus involvement for low-income students, gamification also works within the curriculum. Tim Newby, Information Technology professor at Purdue University, uses gamification in his introductory educational technology classes by having students use an app for self-paced learning and awarding badges for completing challenges, such as objectives or projects. Students in Cliff Lampe’s informatics classes at the University of Michigan use gamification through mobile technology in role-playing groups with other students. Lampe’s app also allows for quick feedback to students from professors and enables students to control their learning path. Students can determine which grading structure they prefer: more tests or more artistic projects. This allows students to be more engaged while retaining more information because they are self-designing a course tailored to their learning style and strengths.
By using technology in college classrooms, professors help encourage many of the skills the employers want from new graduates, especially creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and digital communication. And since today’s traditional age college students have never known life without the internet, technology helps engage the students and increase learning. Technology has improved many aspects of our daily life and the way college courses are taught is high on the list.
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