Students today are the “most wired” ever so it’s no surprise that a recent study by Educause found that 60% of students said they would not attend a college all if it does not offer free wifi. While most colleges and universities in the US have (one would think) internet, wifi that works consistently and anywhere on campus is increasingly thought of as an essential feature, rather than a luxury. Students want to be online not only in their dorm rooms or computer centers or the library, but anywhere.
However, only 78% of students think that wifi is “extremely valuable for their academic success” — suggesting that, their reasons for wanting wifi are for reasons others than their studies, to stay connected with friends and family; to play video games, watch videos, access music?
The Educause study also found that, while 47% of students believe technology makes professors better at their jobs, over 30% of students think that their instructors are “incapable of getting technology working without student aid.”
Student Preference For Hybrid Courses
Students want, or rather, need (they believe) to be online all the time. Another study by Online Colleges found that students now prefer “hybrid” classes that combine online learning and assignments with “face to face” time in the classroom.
This last finding was the most interesting to me. I’ve taught an online course in Great Books; all of my courses are currently in a ”traditional” format with twice-a-week meetings with students in a classroom with a chalkboard and quizzes and tests printed out on paper and graded with an old-fashioned red ballpoint pen. There is a computer in the classroom and I use it regularly, to show all kinds of visual material — maps, archaeological artifacts, clips of movies. I communicate with students using email and texts and very rarely over the phone.
I’d like to try teaching a hybrid course as I already use the internet for numerous assignments. Also, many of the students at my college commute and work part-time jobs; some have children and/or older or disabled relatives to take care of. An entirely online course means minimal, if any, actual contact with students but I think such is essential: Teaching is about more than ensuring that students know the subject matter (Latin grammar, in this case). I can think of ways to administer tests and quizzes online, but it’s important for students to sit at an actual desk in an actual classroom and write out the answers to a quiz or test. A course taught in a hybrid format seems a good way to meet students “halfway,” by acknowledging the ways they prefer to learn, while also ensuring that some of the “traditional” format of teaching — instructor speaking, explaining, interacting with students — remains in place.
Computers are a very recent innovation in the history of human existence and of learning and technology and education have become quickly intertwined. Students today cannot imagine writing papers without computer; I don’t even ask them to submit actual paper copies anymore. I’m intrigued that, according to one of the above-cited studies, students say they’d prefer not online courses, but ones that do involve some contact with instructors. Even as we live in an increasingly wired and online world, perhaps we’re also learning to value actually seeing, talking to, being with each other even more.
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