I have recently begun taking an on campus, undergraduate course for the first time since 2005.  At the risk of appearing old, I am amazed at how things have changed.  When I completed my BA laptops were just beginning to make their way into the classroom among Arts students at Waterloo.  Most people were still making notes on paper.  While many of my classmates still do that, every second person has a laptop in front of them. Oddly, none of them seem to be using their computers to make notes or follow the lecture. Instead they play games, chat online, update Facebook, and send emails.  On top of this, everyone now has a cell phone and the people who sit around me send texts throughout class.  In fact, it seems that the students do everything but listen to the lecture.  I guess in the world of online course notes, there isn’t the same drive to be engaged with the material being presented.  I also think the nature of a statistics course is different than say philosophy in terms of the level of concentration and engagement required. Technology has replaced doodling and day dreaming as the distractions of choice.  Sleeping seems to still be popular.

I am still amazed at the changes, over such a short period of time.  University education seems to be moving towards an increasingly online model.  Will there be a day when university campuses are mostly obsolete?  At the University of Waterloo some departments are embracing distance courses, while others, like psychology are now offering fewer courses that way than when I was an undergrad.  If undergraduate students are only partially engaged in class then it make sense to focus on delivering content differently. Many courses are enriched by online exercises and material.  There are even fully online universities like Athabasca in Alberta. Despite this Ontario’s university campuses are expanding their infrastructure.  It seems that they are preparing for increasing student enrollment.

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2 Responses to “Observations”

  1. Dave Fallis Says:

    It seems odd to both expand DE course offerings (where a physical campus is not necessary) and to grow campuses. I see all universities adding tonnes of buildings and putting forth huge growth plans and it makes me wonder if there will be enough students to fill these schools. I could believe it if a few had this ambition but I’ve heard of many schools with very ambitious growth plans (locally there are Laurier, UW and Conestoga).

    Why do those students even bother going to class if they’re just going to text, chat and browse the net and facebook?

  2. ponpilate Says:

    Yeah it seems that every single university and college in the province expects to grow. A very odd plan if enrollment will stay fairly steady. I could see expanding on campus living areas because some cities like Hamilton and Waterloo are moving to eliminate so called “student ghettos.” Giving upper year and graduate students more living options is not a bad idea. I fail to see how every program needs its own building though, and that is the trend.

    The only reason that people show up to my particular class, as far as I can tell, is the participation marks we get for being there. Or maybe they think they learn by being in the room.

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