The Digitization of the College Experience

As I was sitting around this past week trying to find a topic to write about for this week’s blog post, I paid particular attention to everything I was doing online, hoping that I would find something that would inspire a blog post about digital business. What I noticed, when I tracked what I was doing online and what I was using it for, was that I was using a lot of my time online to accomplish things I needed to do for school. Over the course of the day, I had gone online to buy textbooks, to check what my readings were for class, to add meal plan funds on to my Eagle One card, to check to see when my laundry would be finished drying, to type in a code to be marked present for class, to go on GroupMe to set up a meeting time for a project, to answer in-class questions for a different class, to check what time my intramural dodgeball game would be, to register an iClicker for my Chemistry class, and to scroll through the #IS6621 Twitter feed. Almost everything in my planner that I had to do that day for school required me to be online, at least for a moment. Things you would never typically expect to go online for, such as intramurals, class attendance, and laundry, all required me to be on my computer, on sites such as IMLeagues, TopHat, and LaundryView.

Image result for laundry view     Image result for imleagues website

 

At first, this realization made me think about how students were able to operate and get through college without the use of computers and other online technology.

Image result for banging head against computer meme

 

After thanking God that I didn’t go to college in the 1970’s, I began to think about the impact that this has on society, and how it could affect the college experience and digital business in the future. I struggled to think of an aspect of college that hasn’t yet been digitized in some way, shape, or form. All classes are recorded and posted online. All professors communicate through e-mail. I register for all of my classes online. I submit all of my homework online. I might as well go to an online school. Technology definitely makes many aspects of my college experience easier, but does it necessarily always make it better?

 

Inside the classroom, many experts are saying technology can sometimes be a disadvantage. According to a Cornell University study in which half of the class was allowed unfettered access to the internet, and half of the class was not allowed to use laptops at all, the students who did not have laptops available invariably performed better on quizzes in the course. An article from The New Yorker claims that this is because of a high potential for distraction, which is undeniably true. I definitely have been known to click over to Facebook from time to time if one of the innumerable BC Core classes isn’t quite capturing my full attention. But even in classes where my laptop is strictly dedicated to taking notes, studies have shown that the physical act of taking the notes, even if you are able to write down less words in total, will help you to absorb the material better, and therefore perform better on quizzes and exams in the course. My finance professor told us on the first day that the department is working to outlaw the use of computers while in their classes, and I was not happy with the policy. “It’s 2017, let me take notes on my computer” I thought. After reading these studies, and after a few weeks of personal experience in this class, I am reluctant to admit that the actual quality of my learning may have benefitted from his “no laptops” policy.

 

Outside of the classroom, the implications of digital business on the average college student is a little less clear. There aren’t exactly many studies published on how LaundryView is impacting the lives of the typical college senior. And I’m not necessarily trying to make the claim that it is. But I do believe that the combination of all of the different things that we do online, from the LaundryViews, to the IMLeagues, the GroupMe’s, to the Facebook party invites, and so on, makes for a markedly different college experience than previous generations have experienced, and one that the universities themselves have little control in impacting. Part of the appeal, the allure, or the luster of college is venturing out on your own for the first time. College students can learn about responsibility, about growing socially, etc. when thrust in to this environment. However, as technology has made a lot of things easier for the average college student, it has made some of these intangible lessons a lot harder to learn. It is difficult to learn about being responsible for your assignments when a professor can easily send out reminder e-mails and Canvas notifications about upcoming tests and readings. It is tough to grow socially when you never have to ask a stranger where the dining hall is, but rather can just pull up the campus map on your phone. I don’t want to say at all that all of these things that have made life easier for college students are a bad thing. However, Professor Kane said on the first day of class that he does not want us to assume that technology and social media and digital business is necessarily a good thing. I would be surprised if the way that the college environment has been affected by technology outside the classroom had no effect on the experience. Whether it is a positive or negative effect, I think we will have to wait some time to be sure.

8 comments

  1. At the very beginning of the year, my laptop crashed and I felt completely disconnected/ like I was unable to do anything I needed to do for class. It really made me think about the same thing you are pointing out here–how reliant we are on our technology. It was almost disheartening to realize how much I needed a computer in my life. On a related note, after working in an office setting all summer, I remember having a conversation with my dad about how I struggled to even comprehend what an office would look like pre computer. I really cannot imagine an office where people don’t have instant access to internet and email etc., and where people don’t have their faces glued to their computer screens for eight hours a day. Like you said though, I think its tough to say whether the increased use of technology in our lives is all good or all bad. While I do see the negatives of having more tech in our lives than our predecessors, I think it is allowing us to learn faster and more than they did.

  2. I’ve noticed that because we now have the ability to be connected to school (classes, professors, clubs) at any time, we now are expected to be connected at all times. It is nearly impossible to truly get away. If you get a text from your case group when you’re at the Sox game, you are expected to respond immediately. There is no on/off switch.

  3. I certainly believe that technology has changed the typical college experience. I was an undergrad from 2010 to 2014 and I can say that my social experiences were much different my first two years of college versus my last two years. Smartphones were only starting to get adopted by the masses in 2010-2011 so at parties or on campus events, everyone had to try to stay verbally engaged to keep the fun going. In the later years, almost everyone had a smartphone and people didn’t have to try as hard to be engaged at parties because they can just sit in a corner somewhere and look at their phone the whole time. I think that this direction will continue as technology continues to advance but we can take baby steps to mitigate some of the adverse effects, such as disconnecting yourself from electronics for an hour a day.

  4. When I started college back in 2006, Universities were just sending out emails. There was no Canvas sites, you didn’t turn assignments online, and a plethora of other changes. I do think that this advancement in technologies has helped out. I can now take a new approach to class because of panopto recordings. During class I can watch the instructor and absorb the material and then go back home and watch the class recording to see what material I missed or forgot when I was doing the assignment.
    I think that if you are disciplined enough to shut off distractions, you can enhance your capabilities while not being slowed down by superfluous information. We allow the distractions to happen.

  5. I too have had thoughts about being thankful to have so much technology to help us through college. Our parents’ experiences in college was incredibly different, and it seems much more difficult! However, sometimes I wonder if they were actually better off. Yes, they didn’t have the convienence of Uber, Google Maps, the internet, messaging, etc. But perhaps the convienence is worth the trade in lived experience. They didn’t worry about social media, they didn’t care about Snapchats and selfies, and they didn’t have a host of mental health issues stemming from technology.

  6. Cool post. I had often thought about the in class implications that technology has had on my educational experience, but I thought that working in the idea that technology is also having a profound effect on our out of class experience as well was really interesting. I think that there are positives and negatives to this trade off. I would hate to go back to a world without Uber, etc. but I definitely see your point about how it could have an effect on the idea that college kind of “throws you into the fire”. At the end of the day though, with all of this technology that assists us, we may truly never be “thrown into the fire” the way that our parents and older generations were, and therefore missing out on some of these skills or experiences may affect us less than you would think as we move forward.

  7. Very interesting post. I’ve found in my own studies that I do much better when I don’t bring a laptop to class and take all my notes by hand. Not only does it eliminate the potential for distraction, but there’s definitely something behind writing the word out that helps you remember it more than hitting a key.

  8. I have not really given much thought to the extent that technology has influenced my college career. I have more so, just accepted its presence, for better or worse. I definitely agree that I pay more attention and in the end do better in class when I do not have my laptop out. There are so many pros and cons of technology being so intertwined with our lives, but there is no turning back.

    My mom is a middle school teacher, and it is crazy to see how much school has changed at the middle school level since I attended. Now, the school runs on technology and both students and teachers have become dependent on laptops, Google docs, and online grading. We, like @mgogg10 said, have to learn how to adapt to these changes and stay focused in a world with seemingly endless distractions.

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