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.
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.
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.