Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Day in a Life of a College Student

Yesterday I sat through a divisional orientation for all of the employees who joined the university in the past 6 months.

The organizers had Gina, one of the Seniors, give us an example of a day in her life - illustrating how our job directly impacts their experience.

I go to my Vietnam War class at 10:40am. Today's topic - the Japanese experience during World War II. The professor has put the PowerPoint slides in Blackboard. I like that he's done that so I can follow along and take notes directly on the slides.

At 2:30pm I go to my Korean War class. We talk about the Japanese experience during World War II. This classroom doesn't have wireless and the professor doesn't use Blackboard, so I enter my notes in Word so I can access them later.

At 4:05pm, I go to my World War II class. This professor doesn't put his slides either - but he does mention some web sites. I am able to bring up the sites he mentions while taking notes in my computer and adding the links. That day's topic....the Japanese during World War II.

I like the way my teachers talk about the same topic.

I last set foot in a university classroom in 2002. I remember seeing maybe 1 student with a laptop during class - though that was usually because the student was about to give a PowerPoint presentation. Most students still took notes with pen and paper.

I asked Gina whether what she described was common practice among her peers.

You see a lot more laptops among the students in the classroom now than 4 years ago. A few still use pen and paper, but most of us find that being able to look at sites as the professor talks about them, take notes on the slides provided in Blackboard, and do some side research during lecture to be incredibly useful. I know I get a lot more out of the class when I have a wireless connection.

As predicted, one of the Senior VPs then asked her how the professor can prevent students from looking at e-mail and non-related sites.

The professors really haven't addressed that. If you don't pay attention, it shows up in your grade. We're adults, so we have to be responsible for our own education.

I know that this is not news to those of you who have worked in universities for awhile - but for those of us new to the university setting (and those who haven't set foot in a classroom for more years than we care to think about), this was a revelation.

These are the people who will be our employees and co-workers.

Are you ready?


DrBob said...

these students are different.. the biggest challenge I have is getting staff to reconsider the lecture format. Student attendance at formal classes drops like a rock once thorough e-learning materials become available online. Whats worse is a vicious cycle starts:
1] student - what's the point in turning up the material is on the net?
2] Staff what's the point of presenting lectureswhen the material is on the net and the students don't turn up?

Certainly in computing and related subjects this is endemic. As the digital natives spawn staff will have to redefine their roles.. welcome to web 2.0..

Wendy said...

Dr. Bob - don't know about the university you work in but at all of the universities I've attended or worked at, huge classes have been the norm. Staff and professors have to come up with creative ways to productively deal with 300+ person classes.

How has your university dealt with this change? Do you have huge classes? What interesting ways have your colleagues addressed the change in student behavior?

DrBob said...

Students arent what they used to be.....

We seem to be seeing what Americ Azevedo at Berkeley saw a few years back - look up his podcast, "Time, technology and disappearing students"

Even highly motivated students in Ivy league institutions make value judgments about the merit of attendance at lectures. Those judgments might cause "lecturers" to redefine themselves

I should have 179 students in my lectures. I am, by some accounts, an OK lecturer; evals are good, unit average is 60% etc.. I even smash mobile phones with a hammer to liven things up!

I teach the internet and I'm "where it's at" - so the material tunes in.
Out of 180 students - I'm lucky to get 30 by mid semester...

Many of my lectures are supplemented (not replaced) by screencasts.. quizzes outside (on a Moodle) check engagement. The notes on the Moodle are digested during the lectures. I require the students to mindmap the ideas I talk through during the lectures. The poor things aren't good with pens...

I talk well, present with energy and enthusiasm and scatter my lectures with personal insight, humor and memorable anecdotes. I even dress well -I like sharp Italian suits)...

Check my Facebook.. they love me..


In truth I don't think the bulk of staff are adapting. The difference between a good unit average and a bad one - is no longer attendance - but the quality of e-learning provision..

These students are different in the way they collect, assimilate and digest information. I challenge you to find an 18 year old who does complain of writers cramp/RSI after having been detached from his keyboard and forced to write out a single page of A4 long hand...;)