Digital tools and Internet access have changed the landscapes of both the college world and beyond. The Ed.gov website says that 60 percent of the jobs in the 21st century will require computer and digital skills. But aside from the future job benefits that students gain, schools that use technology today report higher attendance rates, lower numbers of dropouts, and a host of other critical benefits that students receive because they have access to technology.
Modes of Instruction
Technology-based learning taps into multiple learning strategies. College instructors using technology tools select from a variety of educational tools that include audio, video, digital simulations, illustrations and other multi-sensory tools. Students in classrooms that feature these technologies use them to watch an animation of how the blood pumps through the heart, listen to international news sources to learn a foreign language or use weather graphing to create an assignment for a geography class. Ed.gov reports that students in these classrooms perform 30 percent better than their counterparts in classes without these technologies.
When trying to restructure the traditional classroom so that it better fits the needs of the 21st century learner, educators often talk about "seat time." This term indicates how much time students must actually be in the classroom in order to get full credit for their coursework. Many nontraditional students populate the classrooms of today, and traditional class schedules requiring daytime attendance won't work for them.
Technology fills this gap in a number of ways. Courses that take place completely online usually adhere to an asynchronous attendance schedule, allowing students to access the lessons when their schedules permit. Hybrid courses require some in-class time, but the rest of the coursework takes place online. This grants great flexibility to students and allows for universities to double the use of the classroom; two hybrid classes that share a classroom every other week equal the same occupancy as one full-time, in-person class.
Digital technologies meet people where they are, allowing college instructors to reach a variety of students. Whether the student faces some sort of disability or lives too far away to attend class, technology bridges the gap. For example, screen-reading technology grants class access to the visually impaired while online coursework allows the rural student to attend university lectures despite living four hours away from the college.
While digital technologies in the university setting do help enhance the overall learning experience, they give the basics a boost as well. For example, students working on their composition skills perform better with the use of word processing software than they would without it, according to an article on Education.com.
While educators don't exactly know why this happens, they hypothesize that it has to do with the ease with which a student can revise her text. They additionally feel that her ability to share electronic files on disc or via email with teachers and her peers helps her composition skills because the student can more easily receive constructive feedback. She can then apply this information to future drafts of her work, allowing her to create a better final product.
- Education Week: States Loosening 'Seat Time' Requirements
- College Atlas: Why College Students Like Online Learning
- Bright Hub Education: Foreign Language Teaching Techniques Using Multimedia Technology
- Ed.Gov: Benefits of Technology Use
- Advances in Physiology Education: Hybrid Lecture-Online Format Increases student Grades in an Undergraduate Exercise Physiology Course at a Large Urban University
- Digital Divide Institute: Digital Divide Defined
- Science Daily: College Students Score Higher in Classes That Incorporate Instructional Technology Than in Traditional Classes
- Education.com: Why Teachers Use Word Processing
Buffy Naillon has worked in the media industry since 1999, contributing to Germany's "Der Spiegel" magazine and various websites. She received a bachelor's degree in German from Boise State University. Naillon also attended New York University and participated in the foreign exchange program at Germany's Saarland University. She is completing her master's degree in educational technology at Boise State.