Technology: seeing the good and the worrisome
In many ways I feel like technology has been seen as a savior for higher education. It has created a new and rapidly increasing sector of distance education. Technology has lead to upgrades in the campus safety allowing students to have access to up-to-date information in a matter of minutes. It has provided administrators with effective and budget friendly tools to communicate with colleagues allowing for greater and easier sharing of ideas and creating a world-wide learning community.
Technology has made it easier to communicate with students and provided a vastly quicker mechanism for them to find the services and people they need to succeed. Social networking sites and blogs allow admissions and new student program departments to maintain closer connections with perspective and incoming students. Online assessments have become a standard form of practice, allowing for more accurate date collection and lower costs. Podcasts, webcasts, and instant messages allow students to learn about important polices, procedures, dates, etc. from the comfort of their own residence halls, homes, or simply walking to class. It is absolutely essential for incoming student affairs professionals to be well aware and familiar with these technologies in order to ensure that they can utilize them to best help their students succeed.
With that being said, it is also important that student affairs professionals do not get into the habit of using technology simply for technology’s sake. The threat of technology overload is real and must be recognized. It is becoming hard to reach students by email and online surveys because their inboxes are flooded with mostly “Delete before reading” university emails. While it is great to have online directories and websites for every possible university office, it often takes a face-to-face meeting before any real support or services can be provided- therefore interpersonal skills will always be necessary to balance out technological tools. Webinars, list serves, online journals, etc. are wonderful tools, but professional communities will never be strong without opportunities for professionals to meet and discuss issues, challenges, and victories together. [Not to mention the eye damage from starring at the computer screen reading all those articles!]
It is also important to remember that technology creates divides among our student population. While some students are incredibly technology savvy and have access to high speed Internet, I-pods, blackberries, etc. others have neither the knowledge nor accessories to fully take advantage of these new mediums of communication. It is important that colleges recognize this disparity and make every effort to provide alternative options that allow all students to access such features or afford all students with the technology necessary to access the newest advances.