Instructors are integrating computer technology into their presentations. Professors use communication technology to supplement or otherwise alter course instruction in two categories:
- Presentation of course content
- Providing access to information
[source: Campus Technology]
As a supplement to the physical classroom, many universities are using platforms like Blackboard.com, a virtual classroom environment that lets students access course materials, post and store assignments, and receive feedback from their professors and fellow students. At Bradley University, 80 percent of courses use Blackboard to one degree or another, and 2 percent of the university's offerings are taught exclusively on Blackboard [source: Blackboard].
Stanford University is at the forefront of technology-assisted learning. The university's Wallenberg Hall is devoted to technology-assisted learning. Here are some of the innovations:
- In a class on online learning communities, students use wireless laptops to research and record their work, then use Iroom software to send their work instantaneously to a shared Whiteboard screen at the front of the room.
- In Psychology of Media, students do research in an immersive 3-D environment with Media X Works software.
- In an ancient poetry class, students use digital markers to annotate poems displayed on Webster screens (large display screens).
- A Bioinformatics class incorporated videoconferencing in a discussion on protein databases.
[source: Wallenberg Hall]
Access to Information
Many students enter college with the expectation of 24-hour access to information. Weaned on the Web, they don't want to have their research time limited to library hours. With the Web access they have in their dorm rooms, students at the University of Maine are able, via the "Ask a Librarian" service, to request information from the library over e-mail, text message or live chat.
Many instructors also make lectures available as audio or video files on the Web that students can also download to their iPods as podcasts. Stanford University professors has a page on iTunes where students can download lectures.
However, this trend diminishes the need for students to actually show up to class. Students have been known to skip lectures once in a while, but technology now enables them to obtain the information presented in the classroom from remote locations.
An "Introduction to Computing" class at University of California, Berkeley where lecture recordings were available for download had an enrollment of 200, but only about a tenth of the students ever showed up to class [source: Los Angeles Times].
Now let's look at some ways universities are employing communication technology outside of the classroom.