Saturday, September 4, 2010

Campus goes virtual

According to a recent survey in the USA 95% of all campus students today own at least one computer, mostly laptops. I imagine 100% have mobile devices of some sort. This means that students expect their courses to be online and accessible. They need to be able to access their course work wherever they are and not be tied to one location. This means that the traditional computer lab is becoming rapidly obsolete and I doubt if many will mourn its passing (read more in an article on ReadWriteWeb, Virtualizing the University Computer Lab). Few rooms are as soulless as the typical computer lab and they tend to emphasize silent individual study rather than group work.

ES/MS Computer Lab by ACS Amman, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  ACS Amman 

Freed from the confines of the computer labs students are free to work where they want and group work seems increasingly popular. Closing down the computer labs can save the university a lot of money since they will not have to renew the hardware or pay for expensive software licences any more. On the other hand they will need to invest in building new types of study areas where students can work in groups or individually in stimulating environments with flexible furnishing and high speed wireless access.

The need for campus-based technology is also likely to decline as more and more students use the free net-based applications known as cloud computing. This is highlighted in an article in Campus Technology by Trent Batson called Learning Amongst the Riches: Students in the Cloud. Batson sees a clear trend that students are using social media to widen their contact networks and extend the learning process far beyond the limits of the campus. New technology allows them to build their own learning environments that they can build on long after their graduation. The university will no longer need to provide campus-based walled gardens such as learning management systems but will have a vital role in guiding students through the unlimited learning riches that lie beyond.

"The cloud is where new learning conversations and related innovations are happening. Learning itself is becoming virtualized. Universities have a new role, but are as essential as ever: They are guiding learners in the process of learning amongst the riches."

Another useful article on this theme is from Edtech Digest, High expectations for a high-tech campus.

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