Technology is, without a doubt, convenient. From MP3s to smart phones or satellite radio to Google Earth, people never have had so many options to stay connected. Universities are using new programs in an attempt to make learning from home more engaging and convenient.
The advancement of technology through school-based learning has enabled students to stay connected outside of the classroom. With Internet programs such as ANGEL, Infinity and Pierce e-mail instant messenger, students are not only able to keep in touch with their professor but interact with one another as well.
Perhaps the most familiar website to Pierce students is the ANGEL network. It’s used by many of the college’s professors and is often the main site of learning for online students.
The ANGEL website helps professors manage classes, and allows students and professors to collaborate and communicate.
Some of the benefits of using ANGEL are the ability to access current grades, view a readily available syllabus, browse through lessons and resources from any class as well as view course announcements and e-mail professors or classmates.
ANGEL is the choice network for professors instructing online classes at Pierce, such as Leon Khalsa, who says that programs such as ANGEL and Tegrity “can empower students as well as instructors.”
Pierce College student Lauren Adler, who is currently taking online courses with the ANGEL program, is a fan.
“If you are disciplined and can keep up with the demand and understand that it’s independent learning, it’s a great alternative to spending four to six hours or more a day on campus,” she says.
ANGEL also sponsors programs like Tegrity, which allow instructors to record their lectures from campus and upload them online. Students log on to the Angel website and click on the Tegrity logo, which automatically pulls up available lectures to view. Therefore, if a student misses a class on campus one day, he or she can access the lecture at any later date from home.
A benefit for college students, lectures from programs such as Tegrity allow streaming and downloading to the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch at any time for potential on-the-go viewing.
Another tool that has been put in place not only on ANGEL but on all Pierce College e-mail accounts as well is the chat messenger option. This messenger, not unlike the messengers found on Facebook, MSN, Yahoo or AOL, allows any student to chat with professors or any Pierce associate the student has previously associated with in e-mail. Again, this only works if the students and their person of interest happen to be online at the same time, but it’s definitely a step forward from the time consuming process of exchanging e-mails.
While programs such as ANGEL, Tegrity and basic instant messengers are relevant due to being readily sponsored by Pierce, there are also many other stimulating online tools that may be significant toward any college student’s success.
Take for instance, iTunes U, or rather, iTunes University. iTunes U is described on the Apple website as being “home to more than 250,000 lectures, presentations, videos, readings and podcasts from all over the world.” It proclaims it’s “the easiest way to get content into the hands of students.”
Judging by how many people now own some form of an Apple product, the iTunes U is undeniably beneficial in terms of giving a student any educational supplementation from the comfort of their home. These podcast lectures are (seemingly) all free, allowing students unlimited access to lectures on everything from beginners’ Spanish to the effects of stress on the brain to organic chemistry.
Perhaps even more exciting than the fact that students don’t need to worry about spending any money is that many of these lectures are from widely renowned and Ivy League colleges. If quality control is a worry, fear no more.
Another product available to students that is genuinely useful for finding solid information is the ProQuest program. Sponsored not only by the Pierce College library but by other public libraries as well, ProQuest pulls up reputable articles of information from current to prior times in history, enabling students to have access to some of the utmost quality material online.
However, with the addition of any technology-based programs in schools, there is the possibility of disadvantages towards using some of these products, especially as an online student.
While Khalsa uses programs such as ANGEL and Tegrity, he says there are too many disadvantages to list.
The main disadvantage?
“The human brain has evolved to deal with social interactions, not technological interactions. Most Pierce College students are still learning self-management skills and frequently forget to do assignments when they are due. In many cases, technology makes learning more convenient but also much more remote and therefore less compelling.
Bottom line, my online students consistently achieve lower grades and much higher dropout or failure to complete rates than my campus-based students,” he said.
There are also the potential issues of online test-based cheating, where students pair up to take tests together or look up answers in order to achieve higher scores, lack of access to a computer at home, and over-reliance of programs such as Tegrity as an excuse to miss on-campus class. However, many teachers that do use Tegrity also enforce attendance points in order to avoid this.
Adler, however, wishes that more instructors would start using these programs.
Still, Adler sees more positives than negatives in online-based educational tools.
“Some people want to further their education but they can’t because they need to work and make a support system for themselves, but I think these programs are a great alternative and helps these people have an avenue to get it.”
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning student news of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2017. Twitter/Instagram @puyalluppost