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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Internet killed the analog star; digital tech hike heals rift

    I dare you to try and count the number of times you have been on the Internet within the past 30 minutes. Try remembering how many times you’ve glanced down at the shiny iPhone superglued to your hand, or used that tablet to “take notes” during class.

    I pose these challenges not because I resent technology — I am just as guilty of constant device-use as any other college student. It’s our educators who need to realize this trend. Many professors ban the use of laptops or tablets in class, and speak longingly of the days before “eBooks” and “online homework.” But they’re missing a key piece of the puzzle: online is opportunity.

    Pearson released a survey this month titled, “Grade Change.” The survey examines whether we are embracing the digitalization of our higher education system by looking at the attitudes of professors and educators, rather than those of students.

    Despite the wealth of resources available online, the survey points to a crowd of educators stuck in the past. Thirty four percent of those polled said that online learning “was not critical to their long term strategy.” This is disheartening, considering the survey also reported that almost 7.1 million students in the U.S. are taking at least one online course.

    The numbers show that students are embracing online education, but educators haven’t yet learned that there are more resources and greater flexibility available online than in a typical classroom.

    For instance, look at the success of sites such as Khan Academy, which provides simple yet effective tutorials on everything from elementary algebra to differential equations. Students are not trapped in a 50 minute class period. They can view materials as many times as they need and engage in online discussions with their peers, to solve complex problems.

    If Khan doesn’t work, there are thousands of other sites and tutorials available for free online.

    Moreover, online learning can be self-tailored; if you want to take a class at 3 a.m. because it’s when you’re most awake, you can. If you don’t understand a math problem, you can watch an instructional video more than once. Learning is not the same for every student, and online education provides opportunities for each student’s distinct learning style.

    And yet, traditional college classes are still defined by the lecture format — a completely antiquated method of teaching that better corresponds with the era of manually catalogued library books and late nights spent pouring over dusty textbooks.

    Professors who still rely on this “face-to-face” method of teaching are skeptical about online learning because it creates a “disconnect” between student and teacher. But this “disconnect” is already prevalent in 400-plus person lectures.

    Ashley Lykins, a pre-pharmacy freshman, said she has similar feelings about teacher-student engagement in large lecture classes.

    “I think it really depends on the professor,” she said, “but for the most part they just talk at you.”

    It is time for higher education in the U.S. to move forward and embrace the resources available to us through digital classrooms and online learning. If professors are worried they will lose the intimacy of a “real” classroom setting, they have yet to discover webcasting, Skype or FaceTime.

    If they are worried about the efficacy of their teaching, it’s because they have yet to realize that the Internet is a massive ocean of untapped resources and educational opportunities waiting to be explored.

    Online learning does not diminish the efficacy of good educators, rather, good educators are the ones who take advantage of the opportunities presented by teaching in an online setting and using digital integration in a physical one.

    Our generation of students is the most plugged in to ever attend college, but this doesn’t have to pose a threat to the professor who is willing to adapt. It’s an opportunity to explore the possibilities of putting more classes online, of embracing the digital era and of reconditioning the old teaching system to meet the growing needs and demands of its students.

    Mackenzie Brown is pre-physiology freshman. Follow her @DailyWildcat.

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