Computers have the changed the landscape of education by changing how students learn, process and obtain information. Instructors and students now use computers to increase productivity, monitor class discussions and provide round-the-clock access to information. Computer technology reduces the cost and waste associated with traditional paper formats. When used effectively in the classroom, computers provide interactive content, save time and enhance instruction.
Schools invest a lot of money in the technological infrastructure that provides support for computer-based research and collaboration. As Internet access becomes a standard technology on college campuses, students don't need to visit a library, cafe or dedicated Internet spot to locate information and stay connected. According to the Federal Communications Commission, 97 percent of schools in the United States have some form of Internet connectivity. As many colleges add computer labs within individual departments and not only in libraries, individual academic programs have started using the technology and requiring students to use computer labs for skill-specific training. For instance, music departments use ear-training programs, and science departments may use professional-grade engineering applications.
The days of going to the library or using inter-library loan to find resources for a niche research project are becoming less common. Students at many universities now have the ability to obtain electronic records of books, reducing the need to wait several days to weeks for another participating institution to ship research materials. Colleges have subscriptions to industry journals and academic papers that allow students to research a topic online. Even from home, students can search the Internet to find abstracts and in many instances complete case studies. Google Scholar, for example, provides free access for anyone, while JSTOR -- an online subscription service -- charges a fee, but universities usually provide free access for students on campus, and some provide a method of connecting off-campus as well.
Many colleges offer traditional brick-and-mortar in-class learning, online learning or a combination of both. In classes with online and classroom components, the student usually attends a classroom on campus for collaboration, lectures and important tests. The online aspect of a combined course involves submitting assignments, watching supplementary video and obtaining course materials online outside the classroom. Even in traditional classes, students may have access to an online syllabus, research materials and other class information via an online class portal. Depending on your intended program, finding an accredited college that provides an entire degree program online may be possible. Computers have made online learning available and provide access to education regardless of where you reside.
As the computer's physical footprint shrinks, opportunities have increased to incorporate mobile computing into the classroom. Students can use mobile computing devices for interviews, to take notes in the field and to record lectures. Students who can't afford the cost of a laptop may use a tablet or other less costly mobile device to access educational resources. Drawbacks exist to using such devices. Mobile devices aren't always able to access content available to traditional laptops and desktops, such as certain video and other programs that students might need to access.