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Archive for May, 2011

Are Mobile “Classroom” Apps the Future of Collegiate Learning?

May 19th, 2011 by CourseSmart

In an effort to make higher education available to all types of students, some universities are launching mobile classroom extensions via an iPhone/iPad app, thereby making access to extended course materials, classroom discussions and assignments more flexible for the non-traditional student. While many students feel these mobile apps enhance their ability to learn, detractors believe a mobile app dilutes the value of education.

A widely known, for-profit university that has seen great success with the mobile app, is quick to call the experience an extension of the online classroom, making the learning experience flexible for its large population of online students. For a university founded on providing secondary education that meets the needs of non-traditional students, the mobile app benefits its intended market and increases the flexibility of the curriculum. Bringing the classroom to a mobile device also increases accessibility and reaches a greater number of students.

Those who challenge the idea of a mobile app “classroom” are quick to comment on the degradation of the learning process and the “on-the-go” perception a mobile app creates, arguing that universities who use them are diluting the value of a traditional college education. They also argue that learning designed to take place via a mobile app places little value on the focus and interaction required for a robust educational experience. They further insist that long-term retention of knowledge is closely linked to studying from physical materials, and an app removes the acute attention normally needed when learning from physical course materials or participating in face-to-face discussions.

The role of technology in the learning process continues to evolve, but at a seemingly much slower rate than that of the college student. And, with college students’ growing need for flexibility and mobility in their educational experiences, a “classroom” mobile app just may be the future of learning.

Are you a student who uses a mobile app? How has the app changed your classroom/learning experience? Faculty, would you like your university to introduce a mobile app for online course offerings?

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The Student’s Wireless Chain

May 13th, 2011 by CourseSmart

After reading Joshua Kim’s Technology and Learning blog post titled “The Wireless Chain,” I faced the realization that until I read this blog post, I had never really examined my own wireless chain, or my constant connectedness to the internet, email, or even textbooks and online courses. It occurred to me that while this chain might not be crucial to me, there are hundreds of thousands of students who count on the strength and reliability of a wireless chain.

For those not familiar with the term “wireless chain”, Kim describes it as “the degree to which a person can move from place-to-place with uninterrupted access to wireless Internet.” For a college student, this chain can include wireless access available across college campuses, bookstores, coffee shops, dorm rooms, off-campus apartments, and any place in between. And, access to a continuous chain is vital for a student’s productivity as much as it would be for a business traveler, especially with coursework, studying, writing and reading sometimes all requiring constant access to materials online. Unlike me, the continuous nature of a college student’s wireless chain might be so ingrained in their lifestyle, that they hardly notice its existence until there is a failure or interruption in the chain. Just ask any student who struggles to connect to Blackboard via an overloaded campus wireless network.

It’s hard to ignore the importance of a wireless chain with the existence of laptops, Smartphones, and now tablet devices, and while a college student might not always be conscious of its existence, it shouldn’t diminish the need for college campuses and even businesses around campuses to create a seamless wireless chain.

If you are a college student, have you ever thought about how many links are in your wireless chain? Are there places you would choose to add more links to your chain?

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The Campus Library: Resource Center or Study Space?

May 11th, 2011 by CourseSmart

Last week the University of Denver revealed to faculty that after a proposed $32 million dollar transformation, the campus library will no longer house 80% of the library’s holdings in favor of creating more space for students to gather and study. The last minute decision to permanently store the majority of the library’s little-used books and journals has spurred a serious debate on the university campus with social science professors who are up in arms over the removal of much needed materials, especially for students taking humanities courses.

The University of Denver is not alone in making this radical change in the function of campus library space. In 2009, Syracuse University announced that it would be removing seldom-used, printed materials from its Carnegie Library after the completion of a major renovation of the space. While the University of Colorado faculty has been less vocal than that of Syracuse University, the major complaint remains the same: is the student discovery process hampered by an inability to reference “printed” materials?

With the wealth of journals and resource materials found in digital format, in addition to the accessibility of humanities-related materials on the internet, the move away from a campus library laden with actual books seems like a foreseeable change. But again, it is the process of student discovery that has most professors concerned. One professor from the University of Denver, in reference to her personal library experiences, noted stumbling upon several additional books when conducting library research as a common occurrence. While this experience might not be shared by the average college student, it’s not to say this type of discovery doesn’t occur with students searching the internet when researching a variety of topics. To analyze the number and frequency of links clicked by a student conducting research in digital journals would suggest that the inevitable discovery of new resources and exposure to new knowledge is not limited to experiences with printed materials in a campus library. Though it’s unclear whether there is data support this, it might be entirely possible that, with the immediacy of the internet, research conducted using digital materials exposes students to a greater quantity and variety of resources it would take hours upon hours to discover in a library setting.

It seems likely the debate about the inevitable discovery of knowledge linked to research conducted with print-versus-digital resource materials will continue as the renovation at University of Denver is completed and more universities seek to transform library space from a facility for intensive research to a facility for studying and social learning. It is certain that most universities will be faced with a similar decision of adapting the campus library to an area that meets the needs of a tech-savvy student who conducts research on the internet or to maintain the status quo at the request of faculty who prefer student research to be done using printed resources. With the availability of digital journals and resources expanding, campus populations booming, and many universities finding space to be at a premium, it appears as though the future of the campus library may not include books.

Are you a student or faculty member? How would you feel about your campus library removing printed books and journals in favor of creating an “academic commons” like the University of Denver?

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