Saturday, May 5, 2012

Technology Levels the Educational Playing Field

A guest post by Joseph Baker

The traditional picture of college includes 18-year olds to 20-somethings living on or near campus, registering for classes at the Office of the Registrar, buying your books at the campus bookstore and attending lectures in large classrooms. Advances in technology have made this scenario outdated. It’s comparable to waiting for the morning newspaper instead of checking the Internet for news updates, or comparison-shopping by driving around town instead of using a smartphone app to locate the lowest price. The old methods are still functional, but the new methods are increasingly common. Technology is changing education and making it more accessible.

Examples of Technology in Learning
Technology is evident in colleges and universities in on-campus and online courses. Students can read e-textbooks on smartphones instead of purchasing and carrying physical books from stores, and they can access academic journals electronically instead of going to the library. Interactive games let professors quiz students on lecture points during class time. Social media platforms, such as Twitter, let students tweet questions and lecture feedback so professors can adapt during the lecture. Web-based file-sharing apps let students collaborate on group projects without needing to meet in person.

Potential Leveling Effects of Technology in Education
Educational technology can make higher education attainable for more people.
  • It promotes higher education. The effects of technology are evident even in grade school. School Connect, for example, is an app that lets parents access their children’s records. Children whose parents are involved are more likely to do better in school.
  • It encourages education at different life stages. The college party scene may be attractive to recent high school grads who don’t have to work and are away from their parents for the first time, but online learning may be more practical if you’re a little more settled, you have a job and you’re taking care of your family.
  • It accommodates you. Some people just don’t learn that well from sitting through lectures, taking notes and staring at their scrawl to study. Note-taking apps and recorded online lectures can help you learn in different ways. Online courses accommodate your schedule because you can access course materials at anytime from anywhere.
  • Flexibility: Online courses can help you complete a degree faster because you won’t have scheduling conflicts when you’re choosing your classes each semester. In addition, web-based learning lets you study anytime, so you can study instead of wasting your time while waiting for busses or watching your children’s soccer practice.
Strategies for Success
These tips can help you succeed if you pursue your education in an online program or a program that relies heavily on technology.
  • Get involved. If you’re attending virtual instead of on-campus lectures, make every effort to be as engaged as you would in a traditional program. Colorado Technical University has developed Virtual Campus, an app that all students pursuing degrees can use to communicate with classmates and instructors, check their grades and do everything they would do on a physical campus.
  • Stay organized. Stay on top of your due dates so that you don’t get caught off guard. If you have trouble keeping track of work and school, organizational smartphone apps may be helpful.
  • Stay current. Go beyond minimum software requirements if necessary. Sometimes, new apps can increase efficiency and make your education easier.
Rapid advances in technology influence every aspect of our world, and innovations in education are part of the trend. Technology can make higher education more accessible to people of different backgrounds, interests and resources. Online programs provide flexibility and are practical degree programs for many adults.


  1. Technology has definitely promoted higher education for me. 5 years ago, distance education consisted of me using technology to email scanned assignments to my prof 3000 km away from me, and he'd mark up the paper, scan it again, and email me the results. Every other week or so, we'd set up a phone conversation so that he could check in on my progress. I started to really like the way that course was set up because it meant that I would actually have some contact time with my profs. Getting a hold of them was very easy and I could have all my questions answered within 24 hours if I just emailed him. It was very different than traditional classes being held in my university - there was so much going on after class: 500 other kids would fight to ask profs questions about anything and everything - it was so hard to just say hello. I felt that traditional classes was more "faceless" than doing it online. Indeed, I've been taking an online courses to get my Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy, and the format they have set up just makes it incredibly more engaging and interactive than a traditional lecture room. The best part is that I can be learning anywhere in the world - I've done work on vacation in Spain, on coaching trips in Estonia, or at my temporary home in Ukraine. When I graduate, I'll definitely be dedicating part of my achievements to tech!

    1. I agree Mike. I've just done an online course and found it very engaging. I had a lot of contact with the others on the course and with the teacher. I'm about to start another degree course soon, part of which is online, and I'm really looking forward to it. In my busy life, it's good that I can work on this at times that are suitable for me, even sitting at home in my pyjamas!