Today's generation of college students is among the first to take technological innovations such as e-mail, text-messaging and wireless Internet capability for granted. Entering freshmen in 2007 anticipate that they'll be connected in the dorms, in the classroom and across campus.
As university administrators try to keep pace with the expectations of these students who've grown up using the Internet, they're transforming the college campus into a wireless environment that integrates the latest communication technologies into the classroom and into student life. Some of the changes simply enhance the student lifestyle; others strike at the very root of timeworn notions of how learning should take place in higher-education institutions.
A 2007 University of Virginia survey found that 67 percent of incoming freshman owned an iPod. Among students who came to school with a computer, 97 percent of those computers were laptops, in contrast to 1998, when 87 percent of students' computers were desktops [source: University of Virginia].
The trend toward laptops has led universities to shift much of their technology budget away from computer labs and toward wireless capability. According to a 2006 survey by the Campus Computing Project, more than half of college classrooms across the U.S. are now equipped with WiFi, a 9 percent increase from the previous year [source: The Campus Computing Project].
Intel named Ball State University in Indiana as the "Most Unwired Campus" in 2005. [source: Intel]. Not only does Ball State's wireless network blanket all academic buildings and residence halls, students with laptops can also go online at the football stadium and even on one of the university's shuttle buses. Students waiting to do laundry receive text-message alerts when a washer has become available, and another when their laundry is done. A $156 annual technology fee is incorporated into students' tuition.
In this article, we'll look at how innovations in communication technology are transforming higher education institutions, both at the classroom instruction level and across the campus as a whole. We'll explore specific examples of how technology has been integrated into college campuses and go on to consider the impact communication technology is having on the lives of students and faculty.