Sunday, November 01, 2015

Technology as an Advantage and Disadvantage in Education today

Technology has created opportunities for many which would have been nearly impossible twenty years ago. The ability to juggle family, work and education has availed many of an education today, which they likely would have missed out on, or did miss out on, twenty years ago due to obligations of family and employment.

I’m a prime example of how technology in education has changed my ability to achieve higher education. I graduated high school in 1993. When it came time to start college, I did. Just like every other classmate I graduated with. Much to my mother’s dismay, I feel in love and got married in the first semester of college. Starting a life with my husband was not easy. I had to work full time and try to go to school. Of course, this was back in the day when computers and the internet were not the mainstream. Doing school work for a college in my day required endless hours of study in the library or at school. My husband never saw me and it would eventually strain our marriage. Something had to give. Being the good faithful wife that I was raised to be, I decided to quit college.

Today I am pursuing an AAS degree as a Paralegal. All of my classes are hybrid classes, which means we only meet once a week (except math which is two days per week). Many assignments are given online and it is possible for instructors to list future assignments for those that want to work ahead.  Assignments can be turned in online. Feedback can be given and received online as well. This has allowed me to juggle the demands of my family, a part-time job, and my education.

Twenty years ago research for any thesis paper required countless hours at the library. Part of the time constraint was looking through the old Dewey Decimal system card catalogs to find books that you hoped were on the subject you were investigating. Today if you need statistics, literature, opinions, research data or any other form of information to support your thesis paper, all you have to do is Google it. Research no longer requires the gas to travel to the nearest library in the snow and rain. In a time when gas prices are still high, it’s hard to imagine a college student affording the expenses to travel for their research on top of going to school and work. It is no longer necessary to spend a myriad of hours reading books to find the one line that supports your argument. By using Google, you can navigate through multiple articles using keywords.

Technology and the internet have also opened those seeking higher education to the freedom of pursuing their degree at any time of day and any day of the week. For me, I do most of my research on the weekend.

Above are all the advantages to online learning. However, to every advantage there is always a disadvantage. In my experience, the struggle with online education is the lack of interaction and discussion that a classroom setting brings. I had originally started my education purely online at Kaplan. Within a week, I knew online learning would not work for me. There wasn’t much opportunity for interaction with my peers and questions. By the time, I would type my question or read an answer, five more would pop up on the screen. It was very confusing and not in the least productive. Now that I am going to the local junior college and taking the hybrid classes, I can now balance my life, but still have the in class discussions and interactions that are necessary for a beneficial learning environment. Especially since I am pursuing a degree in law.

I recently did a thesis paper on Citizen Vince by Jess Walter. I had the book on Kindle, which had many advantages. By using the search feature, I was able to go specifically to places in the book with the quotes I wanted to use. If I had tried to do that twenty years ago, I would have spent many hours flipping back and forth between pages frustrated with not remembering where a specific quote that I wanted to use existed.

If obtaining an education today required the time that it did twenty years ago, I cannot imagine going back to school. There is no way I would have been able to take care of my family, the farm animals, work at all, and do well with my education. Today, however, I can juggle it all and still maintain A's and B's in all of my courses. I have a full load of thirteen credits and I am doing very well.

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