Monday, March 8, 2010

Happy Spring! - What's next in campus technology

This topic is certainly a moving target. Students have acquired many of the tools and gadgets that they seem to need at the moment. Laptops, iPods, digital TVs, gaming systems, cell phones, and maybe even the iTouch. Lately we have been hearing more about tablets, since Apple came out with the iPad. This is an interesting little tool. It's very hard to say whether it will appeal to the college market. My initial thought is no. Tablets computers have been around for years and have never really caught on. Apple has actually made two other attempts at this market. My hunch is that it will be seen as a larger iTouch and even though the starting price ($495) is not bad, the question is "do you really need it". It comes out in April. Time will tell.

A few other things that are happening on campus, or will happen soon, include: class capture software/hardware to record class lectures; collaboration software to work in groups out of class; applications which bring student services software to the mobile phone; and perhaps even doing Flip camera recordings of classes or lessons.

Over the next few years we expect to allow faculty to record there lectures as they are giving them and then making these available on the web. This will allow students to see the lecture again or for students who miss the class to view them later. These will not replace class attendance, but will be a great aid to people like me who could have benefited by listening that lecture again. It has been used in Nursing and Respiratory Therapy for the past two years.

Collaboration software is something that is used in the business world more and more. It saves time and money. I have been using web based video conferencing software for years. This comes in many flavors and can range from a higher end codec system to Skype. There are so many tools to choose from that finding 1-2 for the university to support will be a challenge. WebEx, Adobe Connect, Dim Dim, Go to Meeting, Microsoft Live Meeting and the list goes on. Our faculty are talking about wanting to get students used to using the collaboration tools that they will use in the "real world". We have some of these now, but more is on the way.

Mobile applications for all sorts of academic activities are also on the way. Specifically, we need to be able allow students to use their smart phones to access their class web sites and the campus student information system. At this time, relatively few students own SMART phones, like iPhones or Blackberries, but this will change as these become the entry level models for most cell plans. Students will want to hear or view lectures, drop and add classes, participate in a chat with their teachers or classmates for a particular class or even check their grades.

Flipping your class may just be the next big thing. We already see students using the small digital video cameras to record music lessons and other small group classes. How long before students are recording all of their lectures or research projects. There are other brands out there, but the small digital video camera which produce "YouTube" like quality are handy and can support learning.

The academic environement is certainly changing rapidly. I remember when wireless network access and web registration were cutting edge. That was about seven years ago.

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