Teaching the iGeneration

Community colleges are facing the iGeneration, writes Community College Week. Wired students expect to learn online just as they do everything else online.

Community colleges must respond to the new learners, said Pamela K. Quinn, provost of the LeCroy Center for Educational Telecommunications, the online arm of the Dallas County Community College District.

They must identify, hire and train distance educators who are comfortable with new technologies. Colleges must demonstrate the capability to respond quickly to students who move through a connected world at warp speed and expect instant responses to their text messages.They must monitor, assess and improve the quality of online courses and resist the temptation to use technology for technology’s sake.

And they must begin in earnest to address connectivity and technical issues in their long-term strategic plans and annual spending plans.

In 2008, 4.6 million students — about one quarter of community college enrollment — were enrolled in at least one online course, a Sloan Consortium  report found. Distance education is growing rapidly at community colleges, up by 22 percent just in 2008-09.

At many community colleges, all the enrollment growth is coming in online classes, concludes an Instructional Technology Council study. Colleges are struggling to recruit faculty with online teaching skills.  Other trends:

  • Blended/hybrid classes and Web-assisted classes represent some of the sharpest increases in distance education.
  • The most difficult courses for students include lab-based science, speech, fine arts, nursing, math and foreign languages.
  • The gap between course completion rates for distance learning (72 percent) and face-to-face courses (76 percent) is narrowing.

Young, tech-oriented students learn by trial and error, says Fred Lokken, ITC chair and associate dean for teaching technologies at Truckee Meadows Community College. “”The whole educational system is predicated on the notion that failure is a bad thing. But failure means nothing to them.”

“It’s not about the distance. It’s about the education,” said Jean M. Runyon, dean of the Virtual Campus at Anne Arundel Community College. “A good teacher is a good teacher. What we have to understand is that technology can be used to support what we are doing in the classroom, and what we need to do. We have access to the bells and whistles, but we need to use them purposefully.”

Education Sector looks at how colleges are using technology — or failing to use it —  in The Course of Innovation. “Even those colleges that have used technology to successfully transform some of their courses have left most of their other classes alone,” writes Ben Miller. “Colleges have yet to decide, en masse, that adopting a proven method to produce better student learning outcomes for less money is the kind of thing they should naturally do on their own.”

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Why is it that schools must accomodate what these students want? Perhaps they should learn to adapt to the expectations of the people in charge.

If that doesn’t work, the market would ensure that schools adapted because students wouldn’t attend “old fashioned” colleges. But to state a priori that schools must change and adapt is just silly.

david foster

“students who move through a connected world at warp speed and expect instant responses to their text messages”..are they going to expect their bosses and co-workers to respond to their text messages “instantly?” Or are they going to face the reality that people have lots of things going on, work/research is sometimes required to respond to a message, and in real organizations, things don’t happen instantly?

Neither the cause of education nor the cause of economic productivity served by this constant “technology..it’s so amazing…warp speed…connected world…global…generation of digital natives” blather. People who actually know something about technology and think seriously about its uses don’t talk that way.

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