Colleges upgrading technology to improve learning opportunities

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Colleges are bringing technology into the classroom, catching on to the worldwide technological trend.

Chalk and blackboards just do not cut it in today's schools. Young people grow up exposed to the Internet, smartphones and television on demand - and research suggests that many youth are now addicted to the constant interactions and amusement that technology gives.

Sixty-two percent of young people between 11 and 18 owned or used a computer before the age of 8, and 80 percent first used the Internet between the ages of 5 to 10, according to a recent study conducted by researchers at the Cranfield School of Management at Northampton Business School in the United Kingdom and AJM Associates. Moreover, more than half of young people today spend more than 30 minutes a day on mobile phones and roughly 26 percent of young people in the study spent six or more hours on the Internet.

Many educators criticize this widespread use of communication technology as an "addiction," and suggest that it can result in short attention spans or an inability to focus. However, many schools and universities are finding ways to harness technology's capabilities to re-engage students in learning.

"Technology is an essential part of young people's lives today - and bringing that technology into the learning environment is a natural extension of our goal to make learning relevant," says Theo Eggleston, academic dean at Everest University in Tampa. Incorporating technology into college classrooms has a wide range of benefits that help both students and faculty. Students benefit from the individualized instruction that many types of technology offer, and instructors find opportunities for enrichment.

For example, Eggleston explains that Everest has made a multi-million dollar investment in SmartBoards in the schools' classrooms. SmartBoards are a versatile learning tool - they allow students to engage in interactive learning, can help professors gauge individual and class performance, and provide easy access to the Internet. These advantages ensure that lessons are personalized and interactive.

The shift to high-tech learning tools can also help make learning experiences more authentic, and allows instructors to make more effective use of class time. SmartBoards have also allowed instructors to make their class time more efficient. "When you are used to having constant access to the Internet and quickly typing on computers, spending time writing on traditional chalkboards can seem like a waste of class time," says Eggleston.

SmartBoards are only one investment that colleges are making to ensure they are making the most of available technologies. Mobile technology and communication technologies are also widely used in today's college classrooms. For example, some Everest locations use iPods to provide self-guided campus tours for students and their families.

Many courses also have online study tools and practice questions. Online components of courses provide additional practice for assignments, and can help students prepare for exams.

Many programs are finding that technology can improve the learning environment. For example, in Everest University's Medical Assistant program, instructors use computerized mannequins for patient simulation. These computerized mannequins can be programmed to display a wide variety of ailments, which helps streamline the process of identifying and diagnosing symptoms.

"Keeping our classrooms up to date with advanced learning technologies is crucial to ensuring that we are not only providing the best learning environment for students, but also that our classes engage today's students," says Olga Santiago, medical assistant program director at Everest University in South Orlando.

As college administrators and instructors increasingly adapt their teaching, they are finding that students' interest in technology can in fact be transformed into productive learning.
Courtesy of ARA content