College Students Say Classroom Technology Could Improve the Learning Experience

Posted By Terri Williams on October 12, 2015 at 2:32 pm
College Students Say Classroom Technology Could Improve the Learning Experience

Technology is a way of life for the millennial generation. So it comes as no surprise that college students want their higher education experience to be tech-savvy as well.

According to a recent survey by VitalSource Technology and Wakefield Research, college students say better use of technology could help them save money and use their time more efficiently:

  • 34% of students say the greatest benefit of using digital textbooks is affordability
  • 31% of students say digital textbooks are more convenient

Beyond cost and convenience, students believe that technology can provide other benefits as well:

  • 61% of students say homework that is more interactive, containing elements such as video, would improve learning
  • 48% of students say their learning would be enhanced by technology that helps them collaborate digitally with students from the class, or from other schools
  • 61% cite the ability to exchange instant feedback with professors as something that would improve learning
  • 55% say digital learning that personalizes their learning experience (i.e. gives teachers the ability to track student progress in real-time) would be useful

Does technology actually make a difference?

It’s not surprising that students want more technology in the classroom, but would it really make a difference? To find out, GoodCall spoke with several technology and communications experts.

According to Provost Dr. David Bolman at the University of Advancing Technology in Tempe, Arizona, technology is already making a difference in the classroom.

”Technology in the classroom is a reality. Its presence at educational institutions and within the hands of students and teachers is probably the single greatest enhancement to the learning process that has occurred in our lifetimes,” says Bolman.

He explains that smartphones provide students with common and inexpensive tools that allow professors to quiz them in real time and get a read on how well concepts are being understood.And, if needed, teachers can make in-class adjustments. “As physical clicker-style devices are being replaced by simple smartphone apps, live polling tools and apps are beginning to make their way into mainstream learning,” says Bolman.

In addition, he says smartphone apps allow informal groups of students to gather, share information, edit videos and mix complex digital media into a final, shareable product.

However, the successful use of technology is dependent on professors and instructors. According to Jordan Schugar, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of English at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, technology changes the way professors teach. “Why would I lecture on a topic when students can quickly do a Google search to find the same information?”

On the other hand, he says schools must use technology in transformative ways. Schugar warns, “Teaching students with a Powerpoint or showing them how to use Microsoft Word isn’t really using technology well.”

Jonathan Holiman, a lecturer in Communication at Southern Utah University, adds, “Technology is now a student’s most fluent language. In order for people to teach this generation, they have to teach in the student’s language. Their phones are the friends they never leave without, so you might as well use it to your advantage as a professor.” Holiman says that using technology in the classroom creates more interaction, which leads to a better classroom.

But Kentaro Toyama, an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan School of Information and the author of “Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology,” has a different perspective. He says technology might improve the learning experience, but it also might not.

“I ask students to put away digital devices in my class unless we are doing a specific project that requires them,” says Toyama. “Many of my classes are discussion-based, and nothing kills discussion like a room full of students focused on their screens, smiling to themselves as they swipe through their Facebook pages.”

Toyama says he does post readings and assignments online, and admits that email allows him to provide individual feedback to students outside of class. However, he warns that a strong human foundation is vital for technology to be used well: “Technology follows a Law of Amplification: For the most part, technology amplifies underlying human forces.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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