By Tanner Mondok
Classrooms no longer consist of only 20 desks and a chalkboard — they now most likely have at least a few computers and a projector at their fingertips. Technology has completely changed the way professors teach their classes and that trend isn’t going anywhere.
Technology in classrooms has evolved to the point where students now have the ability to never leave their house but still get an education thanks to online classes.
Sal Sanders, dean of College of Graduate Studies and a health professions professor, teaches an online class and said that technology is the classroom.
“It is the learning environment for me and for the students,” he said. “It’s not so much the effect of technology on students and on the classroom, it’s just how we live today.”
Sanders said that he has taught traditional classes before, but currently does an online class and said it’s easier for the students because of their schedules. He said that being able to go to class whenever they’re available is a big advantage for them.
While there is always the option of not using technology, Sanders explained that using it is more convenient.
“Could I? Sure. Would I want to? Absolutely not,” he said. “The media that’s out there and the resources allow me to find out how to do almost anything by googling something or finding a video on YouTube. I wouldn’t want to go back.”
At Youngstown State University, whether the class is held in person or online, the students will use online services such as Blackboard, an application that allows teachers to upload notes, assignments and communicate with students. Assignments can also be submitted by students via Blackboard.
Bill Swann, Office of Distance Education instructional designer, said that even though a lot classes utilize Blackboard, it is entirely up to the professor if they want to use it or not.
“A minority of the classes are fully online, so they’re typically using Blackboard. We also have in person classes supplemented with Blackboard,” he said. “Some faculty use that and some don’t. It depends on if the professor thinks it will work for that subject matter.”
Swann said it would be interesting to know if students believe technology is helping them with their education or not.
While younger students have no problem with relying on technology for their education because they grew up using it, there are the older students who didn’t grow up with it that have had issues.
Karen H. Larwin, associate professor of the Department of Educational Foundations, Research, Technology and Leadership, said that non-traditional students have had a hard time adjusting to using technology for their education.
“The traditional age students are used to using computers to turn in assignments and to do other things,” she said. “People that are in their late 20s, 30s and are deciding to come back to school are struggling because they didn’t use much of that in high school. I think that’s going to put them at a little bit of a disadvantage in terms of getting assignments done.”
Larwin said that a few years ago, she taught a graduate student who had never used a computer before.
“She had finished her undergraduate degree when they were still using word processors. She bought a computer when she returned to school and spent so much time trying to figure out how the mouse worked that her husband set up a banquet table so she could run the mouse along the table so she could get the mouse to go where it needed to go,” she said.
After realizing all the time she put into learning how to use a computer, Larwin said that the student could’ve applied that energy to her assignments and her learning.
Larwin said that this is something to think about when bringing in non-traditional students — technology shouldn’t be an obstacle for students to overcome. She suggested that there should be some kind of orientation to make students feel more comfortable with using technology.
In response to the increase of popularity in eBooks, Larwin said she just finished a study that looked at the effect of using eBooks instead of physical copies. The study also included the results of electronically recorded notes compared to written notes.
“We don’t cognitively process at the same level with an eBook at the same level that we would with a hardcover book. The same with note taking. When we’re writing notes, there’s a cognitive process that occurs that helps us remember things better than when we’re just typing,” she said.
While the use of tech has been proven to be useful in classrooms, it also has its negatives. However, classroom tech is here to stay and will continue to be implemented in the education process.