Technology and Learning in Higher Education
Determining the ultimate goals and objectives of higher education is a difficult task to accomplish considering its broad compass and the cornucopia of categories that are necessary to compartmentalize it. For instance, the quintessence, the significance, and the aims of higher education differ under various settings or circumstances. This thought may be represented by the varying educational principles or philosophies that establish the foundation of higher education in different countries.
For instance, in the United States, the foundation of higher education, although adapted from the British and German systems of tertiary schooling, is inimitable because it adheres to three philosophical principles that relate to popularly accepted American way of life. According to Eckel and King (2004), esteemed members of the American Council on Education, the cornerstones of higher education in the United States are democracy, capitalism, equality, and social development. Later on, the concepts underlying economics and sociology were integrated into the system of higher education to make it more conventional. (Eckel & King, 2004)
On the other hand, nation building is the principal core of the higher education system in Japan. Apparently, the structure of higher education was developed as an opportunity for the country’s citizens to contribute to national growth and advancement, most importantly to the rise of Japan’s economy. Both the public and private institutions of higher education in Japan were sitting rooms for students to contribute their knowledge and skills in looking for means to fuel national development through “university-based research activities.” (Enders & Jongbloed, 2008)
In Australia, the higher education system does not only focus on economic development. Since the nation values the society and environment, Australia’s system of higher education also aims for cultural enrichment and environmental awareness. Through Australia’s desire for economic, social, and environmental development, educational institutions become the hosts of professional advancement, which the nation believes to be the first major step in achieving national goals. (Department of Education, Employment, and Workplace Relations, N.D.)
Nevertheless, despite these differences, we realize that all systems of higher education observed in various nations, although influenced by various philosophies, principles, ideologies, or schools of thought, converge at one point. That is, higher education is crucial to growth, advancement, or development of all sorts. For this reason, higher education institutions from all parts of the globe continually seek various avenues and opportunities available in order to enhance their systems of higher education. This is where the integration of technology comes in. Apparently, the infusion of technology to higher education has greatly influenced all systems of tertiary learning.
We are living in the digital age. Technology has overridden various aspects of human living from business to sports, communication to transportation, domestic life to social life, and in this case of course, education. The integration and utilization of technology, for the most, part has improved the human condition. As we may have well experienced or observed, technology has provided a convenient way to communicate with other people despite the distance, fulfill various tasks or responsibilities, sometimes simultaneously as it endows us with the ability to work efficiently and multi-task, travel expediently and confidently from one place to the next through Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and so on. Because of the many perceived benefits and advantages of technology, it too was made a significant part of education.
In various institutions of higher education, such as colleges and universities, technology is being utilized for numerous purposes. For the most part, the infusion of technology in higher education primarily gave birth to the virtual classroom, school, or university. Although the conventional classroom setup is still prevalent in higher education institutions, some schools such as the Pennsylvania State University provide opportunities for students under distinctive and justifiable circumstances to attend online colleges or universities in order to afford them the unique opportunity to learn. (Ryan & Miller, 2000)
The virtual classroom evidently allows all eligible students to earn a degree in higher education no matter where they are in the world. Online college or university portals, course websites, electronic libraries, and such technological affordances enable the students to access school resources, such as libraries, and attend classes through a unique online blackboard or discussion system. (Lynch, 2002; Palloff & Pratt, 2007) Gunawardena and McIsaac (2004) said, “Due to the rapid development of technology, courses using a variety of media are being delivered to students in various locations in an effort to serve the educational needs of growing populations.”
Aside from the development of virtual higher education institutions, colleges and universities take advantage of the contributions and advantages of technology by infusing it into the school’s facilities and physical resources. Colleges and universities allocate part of the school funds for the purpose of adding, maintaining, or improving their technological facilities. Perhaps the most common digital tool utilized in colleges and universities is the computer. For instance, the University of Texas in Austin, Utah relies on its Faculty Computing Committee (FCC) to create and implement a plan that covers the “development and funding of campus-wide academic computing facilities and services.” (Decker, Schulman, & Blandy, 2000) In this particular project, the University was able to develop one department called the Center for Instructional Technologies or CIT that was tasked to select technological tools that would develop the University’s higher education programs. At present, the utilization of computers as a dominant medium of instruction at the university is prevalent. (Decker, Schulman, & Blandy, 2000)
Perhaps the most difficult challenge for higher education institutions, as compared with the obtainment of technological tools and digitization of academic facilities, is the selection or design of technology and its equivalence with instructional objectives. Of course, the purpose of education shall only be achieved if the necessary knowledge or information, skills or competencies, and such, are conveyed or passed on to learners.
Thus, higher education institutions are arranging a unique instructional design as compared with the primary and secondary education institutions, in order to accomplish its numerous goals and objectives. The greatest challenge is retorting to the inquiry of how technology shall be used positively and constructively to match the instructional design of higher education and not otherwise. The question of whether technology positively or negatively influences higher education remains to be significant.
By and large, despite the many uses and contributions of technology to higher education, the primary motivation or objective of colleges and universities in fusing technology with the entirety of the Academe is the perceived product of improving the design of pedagogy and enhance learning opportunities. Consequently, higher education institutions believe this shall be able to pave way for their full realization of their ultimate educational goals, objectives, aims, principles, philosophies, mission, vision, and so on. However, what we need to find out, as previously discussed, are the answers to inquiries regarding the real contributions of technology to higher education.
We need to determine what the genuine or actual benefits and advantages of technology are including its weaknesses and disadvantages. In doing so, we shall not only be able to identify the effects of technology but also answer, in the process, whether the benefits and advantages of technology outweigh the risks and disadvantages that come along with its integration to higher education. Through this, we shall be able to fully realize the impact of technology to higher education and consequently grasp its value or significance, and even insignificance to tertiary learning.
Numerous research studies conducted throughout the years have looked into various angles of technology and higher education. Some research studies aimed to identify the kind of technological tools utilized in higher education institutions, while others sought to determine the impact of technology to higher education. Other objectives of research studies covered the relevance or irrelevance of learning styles, instructional objectives, etc. to the efficiency of applying technology in higher learning. The primary objectives of these research studies, as well as their results, shall be discussed in the remainder of this discussion with the central focus on the influence of various learning styles to the results of integrating technology to higher education.
Apart from this objective, this discussion shall also cover the history of technology from its association with higher education and its contribution through all those years until today. Discussion about technology shall also include the narration of the various kinds of tools, gadgets, or devices being utilized in higher education institutions and the identification of their contributions, benefits, advantages, disadvantages, and weaknesses.
In order to expand the scope of this discussion and accomplish the true nature of its purpose, the largest part shall be committed to the discussion of the various learning styles and learning processes inherent in students and the underlying principles or philosophies that define them. This information shall be utilized to determine whether the design of technological tools and devices utilized in higher education institutions match the learning styles of students. Through this, we shall understand whether learning styles and processes affect the efficiency of technology.
A Brief History of Technology in Higher Education
According to Farmer (2005), “In the late 1960s and 1970s computer-based training (CBT) appeared to provide new alternatives for meeting public policy goals of universal access to higher education, equal opportunity for success, and sharply lower unit costs of instructions.” Ever since the invention of the computer, inventors, scientists, and other great thinkers from various fields of knowledge have continually thought about how this technology may be able to contribute to various aspects of human life, including the transfer of knowledge and higher education. The educational system has truly evolved since the dawn of the age of technology as it opened up various avenues in which learning takes place. The landscape of education broadened and the educational philosophies were adjusted in order to accommodate the attributes and challenges that technology poses to the perceived results or outcomes of learning.
As Losco and Fife (2000) precisely defined, “It is a truism in organizational studies that changing technology affects various and contingent changes in the organization and in the conduct of work within the organization,” being that ‘organization’ refers to the institution of higher education. In addition, Duderstadt, Atkins, and Van Houweling (2002) said that “To members of today’s university faculties, the extraordinary pace of evolution of this technology has more personal significance since their careers, indeed, their lives have both spanned and been shaped by the history of this technology.”
Of course, the association of technology and higher education, or the entirety of education for that matter, began when the Academe realized the potential of technology in enhancing the Pedagogical Process, specifically Information Technology or IT. Apparently, the Academic Institution saw that IT was an “agent” or medium for change. Proctor (2009) said that “Information Technology’s place in history as a change agent is well documented, as its impact on society, change, and is evident in the increased use, acceptance, and integration in today’s education system.”
However, we should remember that technology is the product of learning or education. It may be assumed that technology began when educated people learned about its mechanisms in universities. In fact, it has been noted that in 1946, several universities were actively involved in the development of computers that were made from vacuum tubes. The technology continued to evolve throughout the years until it was considered unqualified for use in the field of education. It was in the 1960’s when government efforts were directed to the obtainment of funds for purchases and donations of computers to schools, colleges, and universities. (California State University, Long Beach, N.D.)
Microcomputers, an innovation from mainframe computers, were adapted in education for the purpose of launching computer-assisted instruction (CAI). As the term implies, microcomputers were used only to assist the learners in terms of helping them master their skills and competencies. The inability of microcomputers to facilitate directly the transfer of knowledge to the students was a known fact. (Schifter, 2008)
During the 1980’s, schools were using the LOGO and the BASIC, computer programs that diversified learning by making it exciting and interactive. The primary objective in the classroom use of LOGO and BASIC was based on the belief that the learners needed to be taught how to operate the computer. The learning process was only secondary. Through AppleWorks, programs and applications available in computers were varied because the Academe saw that computers should also contribute to the learning successes of the students. Thus, “AppleWorks integrated suite of applications… provided classrooms with word processing, spreadsheet, database, paint, and draw applications all integrated for seamless transfer between options.” (Schifter, 2008)
The continued capitalization of funding, research studies, designs, and experiment, from both public and private sectors, on the development of technology consequently led to the conception of the Internet, web education tools, communication devices, computer programs and applications, and such, which are fit for teaching and learning. Schools, colleges, and universities eventually adapted them, not only to advance their learning programs, facilities, etc. for the benefit of the students and stakeholders, but also to provide contemporary education in order to compete with other academic institutions. (Mishra, Koehler, & Zhao, 2007; Goldin & Katz, 2008; Schifter, 2008)
Kinds of Technology Utilized in Higher Education and their Attributes
Perhaps one of the most valuable technologies in colleges or universities that appeals to the goal of providing accessible education or equal learning opportunities for all is Assistive Technology (AT). ATs are most important in allowing the disadvantaged, disabled or handicapped, to earn higher education degrees. “The emergence of Free Software extends to assistive technologies themselves; we now have open source screen-readers, on screen keyboards, and other accessibility utilities.” (Craddock, 2003)
The accessibility of ATs benefits learners with various disabilities or handicaps. For instance, school facilities in libraries, audio-visual, and multimedia rooms with ATs may have screen readers or audio description technology (Adams & Brown, 2006) that magnify texts and images or translate text into sounds respectively, for the benefit with learners experiencing sight impairments. On the other hand, “Text alternatives of spoken and important non-spoken sound information” (Adams & Brown, 2006) help convey knowledge to learners with hearing impairments.
At present, the most common and essential technologies that colleges and universities prevalently use are the Internet and wireless networking within campus grounds. Wireless networking allows students to connect to the World Wide Web inside the campus, allowing them the opportunity to access school resources made available online or third party resources that provide valuable information, perhaps for research purposes, ideas during classroom discussions, and such. In addition, the existence of the Internet in colleges or universities facilitates Internet-based learning and distance education. (Gunawadena & McIsaac, 2004; Hill, Wiley, Nelson, & Han, 2004)
Furthermore, within the university, the students may take advantage of the internet-based learning technology by accessing the virtual classroom, virtual library, course websites, online blackboards for discussions, and such. At present time, most colleges and universities have official online websites wherein portals for students are made available. Students who are enrolled at a college or university are given an online account within the college or university portal that may be accessed anytime. These portals act as an online director or planner of the students’ college or university life because they may contain class schedules, courses taken during the semester including respective professors or instructors, sections for course assignments, projects, instructions, or announcements, reminders for class or organization meetings, extra-curricular activities, and most importantly, online access to the university library. The virtual library allows students to access electronic books. This makes learning and researching more convenient. (Rogers & Howard, 2009; Hanson & Levin, 2003)
According to Hill, Wiley, Nelson, and Han (2004), the core concept of internet-based learning is the necessity of communication in the teaching and learning process, most importantly in distance education. As previously discussed based on the research study of Gunawadena and McIsaac (2004), distance learning is a learning opportunity for individuals around the world who are unable to attend the real college or university. Internet-based learning makes distance education possible because it allows and manages real-time communication, whether synchronous or asynchronous, between the teacher and the learner or the learner to another learner. (Hill, Wiley, Nelson, & Han, 2004)
Other technologies utilized in higher education are considered soft technologies or softwares. Majority of these softwares are instructional in nature. Microworlds is an example of an instructional soft technology. Reiber (2004), from the University of Georgia said that “microworlds is based on… those of invention, play, and discovery. Instead of seeking to give students knowledge passed down from one generation to the next… the aim is to give students resources to build and refine their knowledge in personal and meaningful ways.” Other soft technologies include online games and simulations, programmed instruction, and hyptertexts. On the other hand, hard technologies are tangible tools or devices utilized to facilitate instruction. Common hard technologies include LCD projectors and computers for multimedia presentations, film showing, and such, tablet PCs for student use inside the classroom, etc.
The Integration of Technology in Higher Education (8p)
As previously discussed, determining the influence of technology in higher education necessitates an exploration of the various learning styles and processes. In doing so, we shall be able to determine whether learning styles and processes are external factors or variables that bear weight on how technology affects higher education.
The concept of “individual differences” is the principle behind the variation in student learning styles and processes. This means that human beings have diverse inherent characters or attributes that give them a unique style of learning and understanding information. (Forest & Kinser, 2002) For instance, an individual is more likely to learn through a deductive teaching approach while another understands concepts and principles better when they are taught in reverse. Considering the learning styles of students in terms of how they are to be taught, more specifically through technological means, is a learner-centered approach of transferring knowledge that is most likely to succeed in accomplishing the goals and objectives of education. Clearly put, “Making sure that resources are matched with learning styles can maximize the learning experience for students.” (Bach, Haynes, & Smith, 2006)
Therefore, the adaption of technology as a medium of instruction necessitates an evaluation or assessment of the learning styles and processes that exists within the classroom. This ascertains the efficiency of utilizing technology in transferring knowledge and ensuring that the students fully learn in the process.
Types of Learning Styles and Processes
One of the earliest theories or philosophies concerning learning styles was Lynn Curry’s typology of how human beings learn. According to Curry, there are three factors affecting learning which she called the typology of learning styles. These three factors are personality, information-processing, and instructional preferences. In order to substantiate her assumptions, she utilized several assessment tools including the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Witkin Embedded Figure Test, and Matching Familiar Figure Test to quantify and interpret personality; the Hunt Paragraph Completion Method, Inventory of Learning Processes, and Learning Style Inventory to determine how students learn through information-processing; and the Canfield and Lafetty Learning Styles Inventory, Dunn, Dunn, and Price Learning Style Inventory, Cognitive Style Interest Inventory, and Student Learning Style Scales to ascertain the preferences of human beings when it comes to the method, process, etc. of instruction. (Forest & Kinser, 2002) Curry’s learning styles typology clearly suggest a learning-centered approach in designing the pedagogical process by considering the personal attributes and interests of the students.
Curry’s model on learning styles serves as a standard that guides how knowledge is to be taught specifically when educational institutions decide to utilize new media such as technology. Employing the assessment tests recommended by Curry in determining personality traits, information-processing, and instructional preferences helps in discovering whether a new medium to facilitate learning shall be accepted by the learners and thus yield desirable results and designing the pedagogical process in order to adapt the new medium of instruction efficiently. The results of the assessment tests on the students shall ascertain whether the new medium of instruction, assuming it is technology, motivates the students with regards to their personality, helps improve information-processing skills of the students, and suit their preferred method or medium of instruction, or otherwise. Ultimately, Curry’s model contributes to the development of a pedagogical process that improves the learning situation of the students.
One of the most popular theories on learning styles is Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences. According to Gardner, there are nine types of learners: the bodily-kinesthetic, existential, interpersonal, intrapersonal, mathematical-logical, musical, naturalistic, verbal-linguistic, and visual-spatial learners. (Davis, 2009) Like Curry’s typology of learners, Gardner’s multiple intelligences make teaching or instruction a difficult task considering the learning styles or preferences of students have become extensive. Again, it supports the concept of individual differences and variations or diversity in instruction. Since accommodating all types of learners in a single method or approach of instruction is difficult, the relevance of resorting to new media of instruction, such as technology, becomes necessary. In fact, technology might be able to contribute to the resolution of this endeavor since it has the ability to accomplish multiple tasks simultaneously and aid the teacher efficiently during instruction.
Another model of learning preference is Kolb’s model of four types of learners. According to Kolb, the students may be categorized into four groups: the convergers or experimental and abstract thinkers, the divergers or the observers and experiential learners, the assimilators or observers and abstract thinkers, and the accommodators or the experiential and experimental learners. Each group is unique such that their interests and the processes by which they learn best are extreme. (Davis, 2009) When we put learning under the context of Kolb’s model, we realize the necessity of employing varied processes or approaches of teaching or instruction. Although there are such things as routine activities and consistency in teaching so as to create a familiar, encouraging, and constructive learning environment, variety and diversity in instruction is required in order to reach out to all the students despite their differences.
The VARK model of learning styles also recommend variety and diversity in instruction, but it also stresses on making instructional processes or approaches ‘multi-dynamic.’ The VARK model categorizes students into visual, aural, read/write, and kinesthetic or active learners. Research studies have proven that individuals “have one pre-dominant style for learning new information, although styles may vary by task and situation.” (Davis, 2009) Therefore, the VARK model encourages a ‘multi-dynamic’ approach in learning, such that instructional processes or materials appeal to the visual, aural, read/write, and kinesthetic learners. I believe that applying the VARK model in designing instruction proves the importance of technology more than ever since it can facilitate learning through the means of multimedia.
If learning styles are attributed mainly to the characteristics of learners, learning processes pertain to how students learn and how learning is facilitated through teaching. For instance, the learning process might be influenced by overall instructional goals or objectives such as literacy competence or the development of social skills, or the results of student evaluation or assessment that determine what each student need to learn or perfect. Consequently, these factors necessitate the employment of various learning processes. One kind of learning process is guided inquiry through observation and personal efforts. (Kuhlthau, Caspari & Maniotes, 2007)
According to Kuhlthau, Caspari, and Maniotes (2007), “Guided inquiry is composed of an inquiry unit that engages students in their own learning, with instruction and guidance at strategic points along the way, in the zone of intervention.” This means that guided inquiry is a learning process in itself. However, since not all learning styles match the process of guided inquiry, which makes it difficult to accomplish instructional goals and objectives, intervention is required before, during, or after the learning process in order to ensure that the primary concepts, information, knowledge, skills, etc. are actually being transmitted to students.
For example, the act of intervening during the learning process of guided inquiry may be through the application of technology. Since “Students are looking for sources of information and advice on how to find useful, relevant, and pertinent sources of facts and ideas” (Kuhlthau, Caspari, and Maniotes 2007) during guided inquiry, this quest for knowledge may be aided by the capacity of technological tools, such as the computer to generate, store, retrieve, and manipulate data efficiently. This scenario proves that efforts of higher education institutions in developing or improving learning processes employed also necessitates the application of new medium of instruction or learning facilitation including technology. These ideas do not stray away from the supposition that the employment of new media of instruction should be based on learning styles and processes and the primary goal of proving the impact of technology on education.
Diversity and variety in learning styles and processes are inexorable in education due to individual differences, as previously discussed, and a wide-ranging mix of learning processes that differ in structure. This is why the concept of ‘individual differences’ and the identification of various learning styles and processes have been one of the most important considerations in designing instruction and selecting and implementing instructional tools, materials, methods, approaches, and such. For these reasons, when we talk about the utilization or application of new media of instruction, the necessity of accurate evaluation or assessment not only the interests and preferences of the students but also of the media is of great consequence.
By and large, the new medium of instruction shall only be able to accomplish the goals of education and learning if it is able to facilitate efficiently the transfer of knowledge in terms of its reception or acknowledgment from the students. This acceptance or acknowledgement is based on how the medium matches student interests and preferences, as well as how it efficiently contributes to the improvement of learning processes.
In terms of technology, which is the primary focus of this discussion, we may view its significance in education in two ways. First, it should be utilized judiciously since not all learners may favor it as a means to learn and that it does not appeal to all learning styles and processes. Second, educational institutions should value the capacity of technology to accomplish various tasks at once, which is imperative in targeting multiple learning styles or processes at one time increasing success in higher education.
Ultimately, the acknowledgement and identification of the various learning styles and processes should be one of the major considerations of educational institutions. Apparently, this purpose is extremely important in determining learning goals and objectives, designing the curriculum or educational programs, structuring the pedagogical process and instructional approach, the continuing delivery or transfer of knowledge and the decisions made during instruction, and the selection of media of instruction.
The Effects of Technology: Changing the Landscape of Higher Education
Like the majority of conclusions or generalizations on various sorts of issues or matters, technology also has positive and negative implications on how higher education has been changing or evolving since the institution’s adaption of technology as a medium of instruction. Numerous research studies have been conducted in order to prove how technology contributes or destroys higher education.
Since the variance of facts seems to make the matter at hand more complex, I believe that the issue warrants an open mind in order to obtain the best out of it and pave way for the development of higher education. The presentation of the positive and negative attributes of technology provides an opportunity for higher education institutions to develop their systems of learning by determining the setbacks brought about by technology and looking for ways to evade or thwart them, and then finally understanding how technology contributes to learning and taking advantage of these contributions for the purpose of providing a desirable learning environment for human beings.
Higher education institutions are at an advantage when it comes to the utilization of technology if we value how it defies the limitations of education and extends its scope, and efficiently helps in the direct or indirect transfer of knowledge or information. One of the primary problems in higher education that greatly impacts its value to the people and nations is accessibility to educational programs and opportunities. (Martin, 2005) For instance, in developing countries such as Sri Lanka Brazil, Puerto Rico, etc., “All attempts to extend education are dependent on adequate teaching resources.” (Leonard, 2006) Apparently, the lacking number of teachers in higher education institutions have made it impossible in these countries to increase access to education. However, the utilization of technology has helped solved this problem. “Recently, technology has provided alternative teaching resources and been seen as an economic way to increase access to education.” (Leonard, 2006) The teaching-learning process was facilitated through radio broadcasts that “have also offered community education for over half a century.” (Leonard, 2006)
Another strong argument, which contributes to the acknowledgement of the benefits and advantages of technology in increasing access to higher education, was expressed by Heller. According to Heller, “The evolving forms of virtual learning, which use the Internet and personal computers to expand and improve on the more traditional forms of distance education (television, videotape, mail), may hold great potential for expanding access to higher education to those students who cannot make their way to a college campus for any reason – time or schedule commitments, family responsibilities, or geographical or physical barriers.” (Heller, 2001) Technology eliminates challenges, difficulties, and even stress and pressure that aspiring learners might experience that reduces the possibility of their obtainment of a degree in higher or education or discourages them from attending colleges or universities. Under the context of accessible higher education, technology ultimately helps students with major familial obligations, part-time or full time jobs, and disabilities or impairments.
Another contribution of technology to higher education is the improvement of the teaching process. As concisely expressed by Kobayashi (2008) , “It is widely accepted that technology has the potential to improve teaching learning activities… technology possesses many capabilities to perform a variety of teacher training functions, including accessing information from several data bases via the Internet, construct knowledge, conduct efficiently teaching tasks, develop high quality materials and media – print, electronic, digitalized, multimedia, etc. – as well as other functions.”
It is always part of the goals and objectives of pedagogy to continually seek out new opportunities and avenues by which the teaching process is to be improved in order to maximize learning for the students. It will always look out for the interest of the students in the efforts of higher education institutions that they are equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills, competencies, and such to succeed in their future endeavors consequently boosting the success of their family, community, and nation alike. The contributions of technology make these aims possible because it causes the teaching process to be more efficient. For instance, the lecture method may become more interesting with the aid of multimedia presentations that facilitate lectures and discussions, while scientific concepts are better learned with technologies that make simulations possible.
Aside from improving the teaching process, technology also advances its counterpart, which is the learning process, by helping students become independent learners. Apparently, technology encourages self-guided learning. (Maier & Warren, 2000) The availability of numerous data or information in the World Wide Web and the existence of computer programs or applications, tools, gadgets, etc. that serve as guides for learning allow college students to continue learning even without the help of their teachers. In due course, with knowledge of how to utilize technological tools and devices and the sensibleness that comes with age in order to determine truthful or non-truthful information in the Internet, college students obtain the freedom to widen their knowledge and help the higher education institution accomplish its educational goals and objectives.
Apart from technology’s offerings to higher education, it also helps colleges and universities organize or systematize the management of these institutions. Technology minimizes several problems that might arise from certain tasks and activities that need to be accomplished within colleges or universities including the enrollment process, the management (storage, retrieval, etc.) of information, networking, updating databases, controlling and monitoring finances, and so on. The objective to systematize university-related tasks or activities necessitate the employment of a structured technological system. For instance, Oncourse is an enterprise that develops partnerships with colleges or universities for ‘course management portals.’ Oncourse connects with the school’s enrollment database in order to keep track of the students enrolled in colleges and universities including the courses that they take. (Jafari & Sheehan, N.D.)
Oncourse “automatically enables and disables students’ and faculty access to courses and other resources based on the course registration data… offers dynamic services to the entire population of the university through direct connectivity to the university database system providing up-to-date access to relevant course enrollment data.” (Jafari & Sheehan, N.D.) Technology has digitized all pertinent information that keeps higher education institutions manage their technical responsibilities. Gone were the days when the processing of enrollment and course registration took time because it was handled manually through several paper works. The application of technology makes technical responsibilities within colleges or universities less difficult and more efficient due to faster and more accurate computing and processing.
Despite the great offerings of technology to higher education, it has also impacted higher education institutions less constructively. Of course, the many contributions of technology come with a price that has changed the structure and priorities of higher education institutions significantly. We all know that the acquisition of technological systems is expensive. Nevertheless, most colleges and universities nowadays find that they cannot do without the utilization of technology if they are to compete with other educational institutions for support in terms of the student population, state and federal acknowledgement, and assistance and endorsements from stakeholders. For these reasons, the priorities of colleges and universities have shifted from simply improving the quality of education that they provide to the acquisition of financial support from various parties in order to obtain state of the art technological systems.
The change in the goals and objectives of some higher education institutions have gained negative responses from various stakeholders. Many of them say that higher education has succumbed to commercialization and capitalism. “In times of shrinking public funds for higher education,” which limits the possibility of acquiring technological systems, “institutions have been called upon to operate on a business model by applying accounting principles and aiming for cost control and maximum revenues.” (Finkelstein & Sholz, 2000) The thing is, colleges and universities need to invest in technology not only for the benefit of the students but also to look out for the advancement of their institutions. Colleges and universities are not only educational institutions but also organizations. As organizations, their successes are not only measured with their accomplishment of educational mission, vision, and philosophies but also development in terms of expansion, population, support, and endorsements from stakeholders. (Finkelstein & Sholz, 2000)
Consequently, “With the high costs of IT investments, many institutions see new needs for commercial ventures, on their own and in partnership with private companies.” (Finkelstein & Sholz, 2000) Thus, “The need for money has driven higher education in this direction.” (Finkelstein & Sholz, 2000) These are the very reasons why colleges and universities take advantage of the necessity of technology in academics. They strongly support reform through technology and utilize it mainly for research purposes and capitalize on new inventions and discoveries by obtaining patents for them and selling them to the highest bidder, whether private or public. (Schiller, 2000; Boyle, 2005)
Due to the inclination of colleges and universities to resort to commercialization and capitalization as developmental strategies, many people have questioned their intentions and have doubted whether higher education institutions nowadays are still committed to provide quality education or are mainly concerned with financial growth. Not only do they spend large amounts of money to fund technological systems or facilities for their colleges or universities but they might also be merely looking out for their interests in emerging as capitalist organizations. (Schiller, 2000)
Due to the integration of technology the system of higher education, colleges and universities are faced with the challenge or difficulty of restructuring their organizations. Applying technology is not as simple as it may seem because it necessitates these colleges or universities to undergo several steps or procedures in preparation for the full integration of technology to these schools. According to Keeton, et. al. (2002), “effective pedagogy,” in terms of technology, “requires an infrastructure of staffing that includes instructional designers, graphics and media specialists, Web designers, and trainers.” In addition, the continuous application of technology necessitates regular maintenance and proper management from individuals or groups that possess the technical knowledge, skills, and competencies to do so.
For the said reasons, colleges and universities need to allocate funds or resources and time to equip college or university staff, including the teachers, with the proper and sufficient knowledge and skills on how to utilize various technological tools or devices that shall be adapted in the school system. This objective shall be accomplished through training programs and activities. Moreover, colleges or universities should also hire new staff members who shall oversee the maintenance and management of said technological tools and devices. (Petrides, 2000; Barber, 2006)
The Digital Divide, which refers to the wall or barrier that categorizes people or nations into two in terms of technology, also impact higher education. As previously mentioned, the adaption of technology within colleges or universities is extremely costly and not all higher education institutions are capable of pooling their resources in order to acquire such implement into their system. Thus, under the context of educational advancement through technology, all colleges and universities are divided into two groups: institutions that have available funds to finance educational technologies and those that succumb to a less contemporary system of education without the most recent state-of-the art technologies. On the outset, the digital divide in colleges or universities may sound unproblematic but the situation does set forth serious implications.
The issue of equal access or opportunities to quality education arises in this situation. At present time, despite the many challenges and difficulties that come along with technology, we all realize that it bears great benefits and contributions to higher education since it facilitates learning and contributes to the generation of limitless information and knowledge that human beings need to succeed later on in life. (Duderstadt, Atkins, & Van Houweling, 2002; Primary Research Group & Fick, 2006)
So what does this mean then for students who attend colleges or universities that do not have enough funds to purchase educational technologies? Does this mean that the quality of education that they receive is less as compared to those who attend affluent colleges or universities? Perhaps of all the issues and impacts of technology to higher education, this is the most critical since technology bears weight on the kind of education that people shall be receiving from higher education institutions these days. These causes or effects of technology on higher education, including the several others previously mentioned make the system of higher education more complex.
In this discussion, we have comprehensively covered many issues related to technology and learning in the higher education system. We have established the fact that with the continuing growth and development of technology and its impact to various areas of life, it has become an invaluable part of education. It has suddenly become a necessity in colleges and universities transforming the system of higher education in the process.
Of course, there are many factors and issues that higher education institutions should consider when it comes to endeavors regarding the integration of technology to higher learning. As a new medium of instruction, technological tools and devices should be carefully assessed in order to determine whether they match the learning styles and process of teachers and students unique to a school. This is important in ensuring that the employment of technology is a surefire way of improving the quality of education and accomplishing the goals and objectives of these colleges and universities in ascertaining that the students learn necessary knowledge, skills, and competencies relevant to their lives.
Furthermore, colleges and universities, being academic institutions should be able to go through all the issues that go in hand with technology. As previously discussed, technology poses both positive and negative impacts to higher education, some even putting the future of the students at risks due to the detrimental influences of technology to higher education. Therefore, the main concern of colleges and universities should be on how they are to minimize the risks and disadvantages involved in the integration of technology to higher education in order to ensure that the changes it will entail to learning will be constructive and beneficial and not the opposite.
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