Institutions shift to digital

By Jacob Bowers – [email protected] – Contributor | April 1, 2015 |
Many educational institutions move toward technology, leaving pen and paper behind. UNC Asheville is among these institutions, administrators said.
“In my mind, I think that it’s less that any company has designed technology to be, for education,” said Matt Warren, Apple systems administrator for UNCA. “I think that education has adapted to the proliferation of technology in all facets of life.”
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2009, some 97 percent of teachers had one or more computers present in their classroom, and the ratio of students to computers in the classroom was 5.3 to 1.
Warren said the biggest technological change, in his eyes, is access to the Internet.
The same 2009 NCES study showed that Internet access was available for 93 percent of classroom computers. Part of a separate study by the United States Census Bureau showed 68.7 percent of Americans had home Net access.
“The actual availability and amount available of information has skyrocketed,” Warren said.
Mackenzie Sanders, a freshman psychology student from Charlotte, said technology makes everything more accessible and simple.
“If I miss a class, it’s really easy to get online and check what I missed,” Sanders said.
A specific example of classroom technology integration is the local branch of the UNC Chapel Hill Eshelman School of Pharmacy.
The UNCA branch is a 4-year joint degree program resulting in a doctoral degree. For the first three years, all of the material is taught on campus, with the fourth year spent in the field, said David Mitchell, director of operations for the school.
“Without the technology, there’s no way our program could exist,” Mitchell said. One of the technologies used is video teleconferencing, he said.
“If you’re at the distance campus, say if you’re in Asheville, information is coming from Chapel Hill and you’ll have screens all around the room,” Mitchell said. “On one screen you’ll have the instructor and you’ll have another screen for any content they want to share.”
Mitchell said the school often uses a flipped classroom format, where lectures are uploaded to the Net and students watch and take notes prior to class.
“Almost all of my classes are technology friendly,” Sanders said. “It’s really well-integrated.”
Warren, Sanders and Mitchell all said UNCA is at a point where it is utilizing and integrating technology well, but there is always more to do, as technology is constantly expanding and growing.