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Opinion

Electronic advancements further impact the future of academia

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May 3, 2007

Looking back on the past five weeks of the Expectations in Education series, I can’t help but wonder and attempt to predict what the future of academia holds at this institution. While racking my brain, my definitive assumption was that technology will play the most prominent role in shaping the future for UW-River Falls students.

Technological advances will continue to spawn new devices for professors to use in their teaching arsenal.

More professors will begin to utilize interactive classrooms where students participate via the Internet. Similar to the e-Scholar program at UW-Stout, UWRF students will receive laptops at the beginning of their freshman year. These computers will be used in the classroom to take notes and follow along with PowerPoint presentations.

These laptops could also lead to the demise of paper tests and quizzes. I imagine every professor will eventually develop a lab mentality and utilize the technology of computers to their fullest capacity. Some professors at UWRF now already rely on D2L to give quizzes and exams in their classrooms, but it will become more common in the future. In fact, I foresee that this resource will also make Blue Books obsolete. Students will be able to type their essays during class on their laptop and submit them via D2L or Turnitin.com. Since the campus will be entirely wireless in the future, immediate access to Web sites with answers to essay questions may encourage students to hit the Internet browser button. This can be a problem, but professors will be able to monitor the student’s computers via their technology cart.

In reality, the idea of submitting tests and term papers online will become a prominent resource for every professor. Instead of dealing with returning thousands of papers after they are graded, professors can read them on their computer and submit the grades online. Not only will this relieve instructors of the clutter in their offices, but it is also an environmentally-friendly alternative. Since some professors probably prefer to have hard copies to grade, that doesn’t mean programs like D2L and Turnitin.com will be useless to them. They can still have students submit them electronically and print them off to grade and return.

Textbooks will most likely become obsolete as well. No longer will students at UWRF have to trudge to the library at the beginning of every semester and scurry through the Textbook Services shelves. All of the books students need for their classes will be available online. It will be similar to the Interlibrary Loan Service in that it will allow UWRF professors to utilize materials professors at other UW System universities use in their classrooms.

Attendance policies will still be enforced, I’m sure, but they will change a little bit for future students. With the laptops, students may log on from anywhere on campus and “participate” in class. This makes more sense for students who are sick, seeing as how they can sit in their room and read their professors’ presentations from their bed. This may not be the most efficient way for professors to monitor attendance seeing as how students could just log in and then leave their computer, but it will definitely be helpful for those who cannot be in class for reasons other than sleeping in or coping with a hangover. One thing professors may do to encourage their students to participate in class while not actually being present is post the day’s assignment on the D2L page and only make it available for the allotted class period. Those who take the class seriously will actually make the effort to log on and retrieve the assignment.

Jennie Oemig is a student at UW-River Falls.