High-Tech Study Habits and the Future of Education
Technology is changing education -- influencing everything from study habits to how students attend class -- and benefits are substantial and sometimes unexpected.
Gone are the days when pens, pencils and college-ruled notebooks served as the key ingredients for scholarly preparation. Today students without laptops could be left behind as higher education adopts e-books, online study halls, digital tutors and a variety of innovative study aids. As universities, high schools and other learning centers add more technology, they're discovering how digital tools can help reinforce solid study habits by monitoring online time, preventing plagiarism and even increasing attendance.
Taking Learning Online
A study from e-book retailer CourseSmart revealed 98 percent of students use a laptop in the classroom or for educational purposes, underlining how essential portable digital devices are for even basic classroom preparedness. Besides taking notes in the classroom, students use the Internet on and off campus to expand their learning opportunities, joining online study halls and webcam tutoring.
And though CourseSmart targets college students, younger learners are cleaving to technology as an essential learning tool as well, with kindergartners picking up iPads and a number of companies introducing digital programs to help children learn to read.
Though younger students are introduced to high-tech learning aids in a monitored classroom environment, devices make it easier for college students to get access to lectures and course materials, even if they cannot physically spend time in a classroom.
Many larger courses offer recorded lectures for students who can't make it to class or who want to go over what a professor said verbatim, This means students can hear and see exactly what their professor had to say from the comfort of their dorm room. And while this may encourage students to opt for home-based lecture viewing instead of trudging to campus to experience class in person, recorded lectures are potent study aids because students can watch them repeatedly to reinforce information.
Online degrees are also growing more popular because they allow students to work remotely and often offer a looser schedule. That's especially important for those students who hold jobs as they pursue a degree.
Increased Flexibility and Accountability
But just as technology lets a freshman with the flu keep up with their biology lectures online, it also provides several ways for schools to keep closer tabs on their students. Some larger courses provide students with check-in clickers they must bring to class to prove they attended, and a number of websites work to prevent plagiarism. TurnItIn.com uses an algorithm to check student papers against previously published work, and many schools insist students hand in their assignments through the website to ensure academic integrity.
Not only schools boost accountability through technology. Students dish it out as much as they take it, ranking and reviewing professors and universities on sites like RateMyProfessors. These sites are sometimes misleading because they give angry students a venue to write vitriolic descriptions. However, they also give an honest look at how some instructors interact with their students and present their courses.
Social media gives students several new platforms to make connections and share their educational experiences, but it can also serve as a potent distraction in the classroom, infuriate professors and result in lower-than-expected test scores. Students have constant access to their Facebook and Twitter accounts, and sometimes the temptation to write a status update instead of stay focused on 18th century economics is too great to resist.
Some schools try to limit student access to social media and cut distractions, but with many students using laptops, smartphones and tablets in the classroom, there is a challenge to curtailing non-educational uses. Unless administrations develop better ways to block social media, it may be better to simply penalize individuals instead of wasting resources trying to put blocks up students will find a way around.
Potential distractions are vastly outweighed by the educational benefits of being wired. For starters, moving materials to digital formats can save students a lot of money, especially if they take advantage of services like Chegg's e-book renting. And as more textbook makers and digital publishing companies join forces, the costs will likely continue to decrease, helping save students from nightmarish high book-buying costs.
"We're seeing students and the education industry moving toward e-textbooks slowly," said Dan Rosensweig, Chegg CEO and founder. "Further adoption is still a few years out, which is why we provide our students with the option to choose e-textbooks or traditional textbooks."
Once students and education officials pick up the pace of adoption, it will have positive long-term financial benefits for everyone involved. Accessing textbooks through tablets will also save educators money. Major publisher MacGraw Hill, along with Apple, Intel and the FCC, outlined a plan to push tablets into schools as a cost-saving measure.
Schools and educators adopting tablet technology are getting positive results in specific areas. Autistic students benefit from using iPads as learning tools, and medical and nursing students also report benefits from adopting tablets. Many of these technologies also have a positive impact on the environment, reducing the need for printed materials, saving paper and eliminating manufacturing processes.
As a result, the Obama administration is encouraging schools to transition to e-textbooks for these purposes, and to keep students abreast of the latest technologies and let them take advantage of the multimedia potential of working with digital texts.
The adoption of e-textbooks and tablets as a learning tool is already happening, and especially with government support, it is likely to continue growing in the next few years, eventually becoming the norm for developed nations. The positive aspects of digitizing study tools outweighs the potential for distraction of constant access to social media, and it will improve learning experiences overall. ♦
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