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How is Technology Revolutionizing the College Experience?

Reporter Standup: “Good morning, and welcome to our Sense of Community series on College Life in the Ozarks. I’m Jennifer Moore, and this morning, we’re going to be looking at how technology is revolutionizing the college experience for students here.I’ve come down to Park Central Square, where I’m going to head into Missouri State University’s media center to learn about what opportunities exist in the virtual world for college kids.”

[Sound: door creaking open, footsteps, “Hi...are you Brad?”]

“A lot of students at Missouri State, they’re enrolled in an online course, so this is how they get all their lectures. And they do the whole course this way,” says Brad Mitchell.

He’s the administrator of iTunesU at Missouri State. That’s a free program which Apple provides to eligible universities. It allows professors to upload audio and video to the web.

And MSU’s iTunesU is actually open to the public.

“Say it’s a video course. It’s a video of every single lecture, so there may be 30 or 40 videos. Often it’s an instructor standing in front of a whiteboard. And then, a lot of them—like for instance, I’ve been posting a new math course—it was edited so you have the professor speaking to you. And then it also cuts to, you know, pictures of graphs and equations and all that stuff,” he said.

[Sound: Typing]

Mitchell pulls up the iTunesU page on his computer.

“This is actually a psychology podcast that an instructor put together…”

[Sound: Music, “This podcast is an introduction to the field of psychology…If you are unfamiliar with psychology…”]

One criticism of online courses has been that they are missing the element of human interaction. Mitchell says that might be true to an extent, but he feels it’s far outweighed by the convenience, especially for non-traditional students who have families, or for students who commute to Springfield.

[Sound: Typing, talking into microphone, “Drury faculty, are you guys ready?”]

Over at Drury University, a group of “techies” would agree.

[Sound: “You need to hit the play button…”]

On this day, Steve Hynds and Tessa Melancon are just getting ready to conduct a faculty meeting…in Second Life—that’s an online 3D world that requires participants to take on an “Avatar” so they can interact with one another.

And Drury actually offers college courses through Second Life.

“We run about five classes a semester. We’ve got five on the fall schecule: an introduction course that Tessa and I both teach. It teaches people how to interact in virtual worlds, in Second Life. Then we have Astronomy, Arab-Israeli conflict, Social Psychology and History of Christianity,” Hynds said.

Hynds’ avatar is named Skyhook Inglewood.

Hynds: “Instead of driving to a campus, they just check in through their computer in Second Life.”Moore: “For credit?”Hynds: “For credit, yes.”

Malancon: “What you have to do right now is, you see it just says ‘stand?’Moore: “Yes.”Malancon: “So all you have to do is left mouse click on ‘stand.’

To show me how it works, they invite me to attend a mock-class on the Drury Second Life “island,” which resembles Drury’s actual campus in Springfield…except this one is surrounded by crystal blue waters, and there’s a black, 3D panther roaming the grounds.

Malancon assigns me an avatar—the avatar is wearing a long, formal gown and stiletto heels.

Malancon: “And then you see now, you can fly.”Moore: “Fly, okay.”Malancon: “So now, she’s flying and all you have to do is go ‘Page Up.’ We’ve got a little bit of a lag. And that’s pretty typical. So…we’re heading to Schumaker Gates, Steve?”Hynds: “Yes.”

My avatar flies with a couple of others to the class meeting point, where the instructor greets me and the others by name.

The instructor is at his computer somewhere in Springfield.

Another one of the downsides is technical difficulties…person “A” is having trouble hearing person “B,” for example.

But this may be where future is.

One author, Ray Kurzwell, has gone so far as to predict that students will soon be learning from holograms of Benjamin Franklin and others speaking directly to them.

The only “Blackboard” today’s students know is on online program, and today’s college generation can hardly remember life without the Internet. Many of them only take notes on their laptops, and their textbooks are often electronic.

But with the new technology also come new ways to cheat and plagiarize—a trend that today’s professors have to keep ahead of.

Ironically, just as students are using the internet to steal other people’s work, universities are also using technology to fight back by using websites like www.turnitin.com. That’s a site that uses algorithms to check a student’s term paper, for example, against billions of websites to see whether parts of it—even specific phrases—were taken from somewhere else.

Join us this afternoon as we continue our Sense of Community Series on College Life in the Ozarks. We’ll be looking at how “Going Green” has become part of the college culture here, and across America.

I’m Jennifer Moore.

At a Drury University faculty meeting, members meet in KSMU's Jennifer Moore listens to the instructor in a mock-class on Arab-Israeli Conflict;  the instructor is able to give his Power Point presentation through the 3D world Participants sit in on a mock-class on Arab-Israeli Conflit given through Drury Unviersity's Second Life program. Class members in the mock session are able to speak to each other and hold a class discussion through the 3D world Second Life.