Computer technology shaping university learning

Technology — By on May 31, 2013 2:53 PM

By HANNAH WEIR

Students of 2013 face a very different study experience to those of 20 years ago and it’s all thanks to one particularly handy invention.

Computer technology has come a long way at the University of South Australia over the past two decades, vastly improving the learning experience of students.

Previous UniSA applied science student Karina Mercer graduated in 1994, but she still remembers an interesting semester of classes on computer use and programming.

“Some people didn’t even know how to use a mouse, so there’s probably a good chance that they didn’t have a computer at home,” Ms Mercer said.

Nowadays students can access course content, research essays and submit assignments all online.

UniSA program director of software and engineering Dr Grant Wigley attended the Mawson Lakes campus in 1995 and recalls the shortage of computer facilities.

“In those days we had a few computer rooms with 20 PCs in each, the internet was extremely new and that was a big attraction,” Dr Wigley said.

These days the UniSA campuses are home to over 1200 computers in classrooms, computers barns and the library.

“When I studied you either wrote down the notes very quickly or some staff photocopied them and put them in the library to borrow.

“It’s helpful to have it now in one location,” says Dr Wigley.

The introduction of the internet and websites like ‘Google’ has changed the way students find information.

“When I was studying if you needed to know something you either asked a friend, lecturer or went to the library.”

“There was no such thing as ‘Google’ it.”

These days with the click of a button students have access to thousands of academic journals, books and images all in the one place.

UniSA School of Information Technology and Mathematical Sciences lecturer Kirstin Wahlstrom was a mature-aged student at UniSA in 1993, and said her study experience was very different then as services weren’t available around the clock.

“If I wanted to use the UniSA computer pools I had to be on campus during the day because they were locked up for the night.”

“I didn’t have internet at home, so it’s not like I could log in from home and do my work.”

Ms Wahlstrom believes computer technology has provided more freedom for students to set their own schedules.

“I think the widespread uptake of the internet has enabled students to be less organised and more flexible in their learning, [but] I’m not sure if this is a good thing.

“Organisational skills are important in the workplace.”

UniSA student Emily Erickson, 20, can’t imagine doing her university course without a computer or regular access to the internet.

“The technology is so efficient today and it’s hard to believe how university students 20 years ago managed without it,” Ms Erickson said.

Despite its efficiency, 21-year-old UniSA student Amelia Dawkins believes it has contributed to less face-to-face interaction at university.

“I think it has reduced face to face interaction but it’s also made learning so much more convenient,” Ms Dawkins said.

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