As the Internet becomes more integrated in the classroom, you might begin to find that traditional education has begun to change. In a world where everyone seems to have smartphones and tablets, it’s only natural that classrooms would also adapt to these technologies, becoming less traditional and more futuristic in nature. Although it might seem daunting at first, most of these changes have been made with user-friendliness in mind, making it simpler for everyone from the millennial generation to people who are returning to college to easily find their footing.
Web-based education on the rise
Going from the basics of pen and paper to a Web-based word processing software, such as Google Docs, might seem complicated, but once you understand how these new tools are helping to simplify education, the transition might seem less drastic.
Files that are saved to a digital storage space have more staying power, after all, and help to keep you organized. Not only that, but if you’re diligently saving your work in this way, rather than stuffing manila folders full of stapled papers and hand-written notes, you’ll have less to carry around with you throughout the day. As classes become harder, being able to reduce the number of things you’re carrying around with you will seem like a blessing.
Educators know this, too. According to Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)[i], the Internet has become so integral to your classes that entire courses are being deployed online, making it even easier for you to adapt to doing a majority of your work with a Web-based word processing software. Without an in-person equivalent, the need for paper is moot.
Why are we going online?
The reason for this isn’t entirely due to cost-efficiency, which is typically – and reasonably – one of the primary reasons why the benefits of an online education are touted. Even more important than saving money, P21[ii] suggested that it’s important for you to prepare now for a world that seems to becoming more digitally inclined with each passing day. If you’re introduced to some of these changes now, in a safe, controlled educational setting, you’ll likely have an easier time of adapting to what might still be on the horizon.
If you think about it, the world has already seen an evolution in the way that people send and receive information. People who commonly use Facebook, for example, might be astounded by how many times informational articles make their way through the news feed. These are not prescribed readings by college professors or postsecondary teachers, either – they’re materials that your friends and family are sharing with you, all in an effort to provide you with new and interesting information.
While these sources might not always be the most credible, they’re still giving you ideas that you can then look up in your school’s online databases. This is excellent practice for the ways in which educational information is gathered now. Just by flipping open your laptop, you have access to troves of data from online journalism sites, such as The New York Times, and Web-based databases, the kinds of which depend solely on your institution’s subscriptions.
The simplicity of the Web
Simplicity, as well, is one of the driving factors in an online education. With websites like Blackboard[iii] -- a multimedia Web-hosting resource for students and educators that provides more customization than Google, making the transition from traditional learning much simpler -- it’s becoming second nature for students to incorporate other educational technologies.
For instance, with the use of video and audio tools, such as the built-in capabilities of a laptop, you can interact with your professor from afar, effectively joining a virtual classroom of people without having to travel. In the spirit of simplicity, students can also use applications like Dragon Dictation[iv] to transcribe spoken words directly into a word processor, effectively freeing up their hands to perform other tasks. Do you do a majority of your work in a lab, for example? Just imagine how much simpler it would be to use an application like this one to speak your notes, rather than pausing to type them out.
Refining new standards
Developing these skills is the goal of P21. Now that a majority of these techniques have outgrown their infancy, it’s important for students, at all levels and age groups, to know how to harness the Web to its full potential. That way, when you come across something new in the world of digital academia, you’ll have a knowledge base to build from and likely the confidence to move deeper into electronic media.
This push for universal standards in new classroom technologies has become central to the Common Core State Standards, which is headed by an organization that aims to provide educators and students with certain educational goals to reach. Its website[v] listed mathematics and English language arts as its focal points, and now that digital options, like the ones listed above, have become so mainstream, a lot of these skills are considered assumed knowledge when you reach higher education.
Although it is not yet clear how digital education will evolve in the future, one thing is for certain – it is here to stay. Preparing for these changes now will only serve to help you as you make your way back to academia.
[i] p21.org/storage/documents/1.__p21_framework_2-pager.pdf [ii] p21.org/about-us/p21-framework/350 [iii] blackboard.com/About-Bb/Overview.aspx [iv] dragonmobileapps.com/ [v] corestandards.org/the-standards