ERIC Identifier: ED399992
Publication Date: 1996-06-00
Author: McKinney, Kristin
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Community Colleges Los Angeles CA.
Technology in Community Colleges. ERIC Digest.
Computers, sophisticated software, e-mail, and Internet access are the new
tools of business and education in an evolving post-industrial society where
information truly is power. Those who have access to these new technologies have
opportunities to compete in an aggressive marketplace. Information technologies
permeate virtually every field, and skill in using them is essential.
Community colleges are making efforts to keep up with the rapidly changing
technology, but the costs are substantial. This digest will discuss some of the
benefits gained from implementing technology in community colleges, such as
increased instructor creativity, increased student interest and learning, and
greater flexibility of instructional delivery. The monetary costs of
implementation will be addressed as well as the potential negative effects in
areas such as access, and the role of faculty in the information classroom.
Finally, some potential solutions to these problems will be presented.
BENEFITS OF INSTRUCTIONAL TECHNOLOGY
describes two ways technology is being implemented. The first type of
implementation is the use of technology as a simple add-on to enhance current
instructional methods. With multimedia technology, instructors can create
attention-catching lectures and can also generate plans which allow them to
change format based on student understanding and interest (Miketta & Ludford, 1995). Use of computer technology to integrate text material with
sound, photos, full motion video, and graphics can allow the instructor
creativity and freedom in lecture presentation, and engage students in the
The second type of implementation described by Doucette (1994) is the more
complex process of using technology to transform both the teaching and learning
functions. Systems that provide students with access to a multimedia computer
station equipped with programs of course content allow them to work at their own
pace. Students can focus on individual areas of weakness because the course
content comes from computer disks rather than formal lectures. One instructor
claimed that such technology revolutionized his teaching because the computer
presentation of subject matter freed him to interact with individual students,
diagnose their problems, and tailor his style of instruction to each (Scheponik,
1995). Additional benefits include immediate feedback to the student (Brutchin
et al., 1994), better accommodation of student learning styles (Doucette, 1994),
improved retention and understanding of the material (Miketta & Ludford,
1995), increased levels of student participation and interest, and more
opportunities for team learning (Scheponik, 995).
Using computer based technology in a lab-type setting provides flexibility in
instructional delivery for students who have difficult schedules. The Flex Lab
at Santa Fe Community College offers courses which are accessed by computer so
that students can work on assignments at their own pace in a relaxed,
non-competitive learning environment (Ortego & Richards, 1995). The lab is
staffed by trained personnel who can answer questions and provide guidance to
the students. Lab type instructional programming can also increase a college's
potential to provide distance education if programs can be accessed through the
LIMITATIONS OF TECHNOLOGY
Because computer technology is
rapidly changing, one of its most fundamental features is that nothing remains
up-to-date for any substantial length of time. Jacobs (1995) outlined the costs
of system maintenance for the Maricopa County Community College District
(MCCCD). He estimated the following computer replacement and upgrade costs:
* Computers become obsolete approximately six years after purchase, and are
replaced at an average cost of $2,500.
* Computers generally need to be upgraded after three years to maintain their
usefulness, at an average cost of $300.
* If the number of students, staff, or faculty increases, additional systems
must be added to accommodate them.
The costs of computers and other technological supplies are substantial, and
they do not include the costs of training personnel how to use the technology.
Unfortunately most colleges cannot hope to support these technologies under
their current budgetary constraints. Technology as an add-on is not economically
feasible. Some individuals contend that if changes are made to the curriculum
and teaching methods, colleges will be able to financially support the
restructured curricula which utilizes the current technology. In many cases this
means redefining the role of faculty in the educational process and thinning it
out. Doucette (1994) describes the new faculty as one which remains in control
of course content, design, standards and assessment. The students interact with
computers to access these instructional materials while faculty and other
trained technicians use their expertise to assist those having difficulty.
Restructuring efforts raise many concerns for both faculty and students. Many
faculty members are alarmed that they may be replaced by new technologies,
because they see that educational institutions cannot economically support both
a full complement of faculty and a technologically current curriculum. However,
current research indicates that technology is most successful when used
alongside a knowledgeable instructor. As Scheponik (1995) aptly illustrates in
his account of the multimedia classroom, although an instructor's role may
change in light of new innovations to one more focused on giving individual
guidance than large lectures, he or she is no less indispensable. This poses
challenges for colleges in trying to find the right balance of technology and
face to face instruction.
The issue of access to technology is a double-edged
sword. In many ways the additional flexibility gained with computer based
instructional delivery creates a situation where more individuals can access it.
New methods of communication such as e-mail allow students who are less likely
to become involved in class discussion, such as women and minorities, to
communicate more privately with instructors rather than having to speak out in
class (Gilbert, 1995). Unfortunately, although traditionally under represented
groups may experience equality through technology in some ways, it may also
serve to create a greater division, a new class distinction between the
techno-rich and the techno-poor.
Students who live in economically depressed areas (many of whom are under
represented students) may not have access to technology because the colleges in
their area may be financially unable to keep up with the costs (Gilbert, 1996).
Thus the schools in more affluent areas provide technology for their students
while the poorer areas suffer, widening the gap between the technology rich and
poor. Also, students who access the technology through distance education
programs cannot benefit from the on-site personnel who assist those fortunate
enough to be in the lab. Finally, students who have never been exposed to
computer technology may be put at a disadvantage when entering a college program
that relies heavily on the use and knowledge of computers.
MCCCD has dealt with technological
issues by creating a committee system in which each committee researches an area
of technological development and reports on whether and how the new innovations
can be instituted to benefit their colleges. For example, the Emerging
Technologies Committee examines how newly developed software, hardware, and
other technologies can be utilized to improve the quality of instruction and
learning (Harper-Marinick, and others, 1994). Committees and roundtable
discussion groups allow the college to take a careful approach to implementation
of technology. Although these networks do not in themselves solve budgetary
problems, they help colleges determine where money can be best spent, avoiding
wasteful spending on useless technology.
A proposed solution to the economic burden is to institute a student
technology fee that would cost between $25-150 per student per year. These fees
would offset the costs of continual upgrading (Gilbert, 1996). Unfortunately,
this additional money often cannot support the large technological
transformations which many colleges desire, and adding fees to the already high
costs of education may drive the price out of reach for many individuals.
It is obvious that technology is rapidly
changing the ways that people conduct business and provide educational
opportunities. Students and faculty must try to remain abreast of the technology
in order to maintain their competitiveness in the job market. If community
colleges fail to provide the opportunity to learn these skills they risk a
decrease in student enrollment as students seek colleges better able to
accommodate them. As computer technology becomes ensconced in our culture, it
behooves colleges to consider the costs and benefits of providing access to
technology and to budget accordingly so that they can continue to provide
necessary services to students.
Brutchin, P., and others. "Using a Networked Mac
Lab to Facilitate Learning in Art, Foreign Languages, and English." Paper
presented at the Annual Meeting of the Conference on Information Technology of
the League for Innovation in the Community College, November, 1994. (ED 376
Doucette, D. "Transforming Teaching and Learning Using Information
Technology: A Report from the Field." Community College Journal, 1994, 65(2),
Gilbert, S. "Making the Most of a Slow Revolution." Change, 1996, 28(2),
mmmmmmmmmm. "Education Technology and Transformation." Community College
Journal, 1995, 66(2), 14-18.
Harper-Marinick, M. (Ed.), and others. Improving Learning Through Technology:
Ocotillo Report 94. Tempe, Ariz.: Maricopa Center for Learning and Instruction,
Maricopa County Community College District, 1994. (ED 381 183).
Jacobs, A. "The Costs of Computer Technology." Community College Journal,
1995, 66(2), 34-37.
Miketta, J., & Ludford, D. "Teaching with Multimedia in the Community
College Classroom." T.H.E. Journal, 1995, 23(1), 61-64.
Ortego, S., & Richards, B. "Contract Training and Computer-Assisted
Instruction at Santa Fe Community College." Paper presented at "Workforce 2000,"
the Annual Conference on Workforce Training for the League for Innovation in the
Community College, February 1995. (ED 381 199).
Scheponik, P. "Interactive Multimedia: Challenge, Change, and Choice."
Community College Journal, 1995, 65(4), 20-25.