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Hi-Tech Hi-Touch

13 Dec Posted by in Academics, Business | Comments Off on Hi-Tech Hi-Touch
Hi-Tech Hi-Touch

There’s an intriguing dilemma as we think about next steps in higher education, that is too rarely recognized in planning documents (partly because it risks being too complicated).

We all know that students today are more tech-savvy than ever, and their expectations about technology infrastructure mount apace. Educational planners, for their part, eagerly point to the need to exploit teaching technologies. They don’t always point in the same directions as student expectations, for the planners often hope for significant cost savings through technology (as well as reaching students who can’t easily or regularly make it to a classroom), whereas students mostly just want more. But at least there’s a potentially coherent discussion around what the next steps in teaching with technology should involve.

But — and here’s the dilemma part — many of our highest achieving students, at least among undergraduates, also want increasing levels of personal contact as part of their college experience. They are in some measurable ways needier than their counterparts in previous generations. They want (or at least they think they want) more active advising, more contact with faculty outside the classroom. Some of them, at least, reflect a generation of helicopter parenting, in wanting lots of personal assurances about all sorts of things. And some, of course, also need new levels of counseling, because of various difficulties and prior levels of prescribed medications.

It’s going to be hard to square the circle on some of this. To be sure, some web-based instruction does allow personal contacts of a certain type, as in frequent e-mail or Facebook exchanges, and this clearly will be part of the pedagogical mix of the future. But I doubt this will entirely meet the current levels of personal need.

Colleges will have to help resolve or at least reduce the dilemma, which is not entirely new but seems newly acute. But it would help if planners would at least acknowledge that a certain tension exists. And down the line, parents and schools could pitch in by encouraging some greater self-reliance even prior to college — but that’s a complex issue and I long ago resolved never to become a geriatric complainer about the regressions of the younger generation. So let me end by saying we have lots of terrific students, even if they do sometimes want a bit of attention as well as technology resources.