There’s a different kind of college freshman on university campuses these days. According to EdWeek’s report on The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2011 survey, today’s freshman bears more of the cost of his or her own education than did past first-year college students, and, as a high school senior, today’s freshman paid more attention to his or her studies than those who came before.
So what does this mean for colleges?
For one, today’s students’ higher academic engagement could translate into demand for more innovative, challenging courses. But with the survey showing more students taking out large student loans as their parents’ unemployment rates remain stagnant, universities cannot raise tuition price tags to hire more faculty to develop new classes. President Obama said as much in his January 24 State of the Union address, mandating that schools use tools like “better technology” to improve their course offerings without raising costs.
Telepresence is one of these technologies. Using telepresence, colleges have already connected their classrooms to others across the state or country or to organizations around the world that—across the high definition screen—expose students to new experiences and material.
Additionally, especially because of the economic hardships these freshmen face, they will need to know they have the necessary skills to obtain jobs post graduation. The issue will not be a dearth of openings: science and technology industries have twice as many jobs available as there are skilled workers to fill them, Obama said. The President spoke of a few colleges that have partnered with corporations to design the necessary courses to train people for this existing science and technology work. Again, telepresence and other collaborative technologies could play a crucial role in proliferating these training curricula: schools everywhere could connect their students to courses taught elsewhere. With telepresence, the students could interact with the professors and other learners as if they sat in the same room.
While universities face new issues, brought on by a different class of students, telepresence offers a viable, sustainable solution to new problems. Have you studied via telepresence? Please share your experience!