How might technology influence a college student in the future, and what can we expect from our learning institutions in regards to advancements? In which type of environment will students find themselves learning in 10, 15 or even 20 years from now?
Technology in its current form serves to provide a sense of ease in school life. In its present form students can enrol in courses, send and receive assignments, view grades and even view uploaded lecture audio/video or notes. Technology has also emerged as the best research platform available; it is able to present a vast expanse of information while allowing for the content to be the latest and most accurate. Without technology providing the ease of use it does in these areas, more student time would have to be allocated to the monotonous tasks and less time to the important tasks such as studying for that upcoming exam or proofreading that all important essay.
The future will prove to simplify things even more. I predict that laptops will have progressed to the point where a professor may interact with all machines present in his/her classroom from their own, sending us documents, PowerPoint presentations, videos, etc. near instantly. Perhaps a device similar to the Microsoft Surface will be available at every desk, and the students would be able to login with a Windows Live ID and have access to their entire student profiles, homework and all. The future of technology will serve to keep us more connected to school, even when we aren't currently there.
The desktop as we currently know it will have been revolutionized and serve to be more than a "space for icons and wallpaper". The desktop will be extremely interactive through the use of widgets, real-time news updates, etc. It will also be cloud-based so that one may carry their desktop with them no matter to which device or where they are connected. Students who are not able to attend class for whichever reason will be able to connect via their desktop to a live feed of their lectures, and furthermore even participate in the discussions either through type or voice conferencing.
As computing makes the shift from static to dynamic (or cloud) computing the need to stay connected and updated regardless of device is paramount.. No longer will you arrive at class realizing you forgot to print out your essay and that you only have it on your home PC. Within a few clicks, you would have access to all your files. We are already seeing the beginnings of this with Windows Live Mesh and the future looks bright. I can already imagine walking into a Library on campus that is fully equipped with Surface PC's that allow me to compute as if I were in my own living room.
Office will be completely cloud-based and store all preferences via a Windows Live login, allowing for trans-machine accessibility. The hallmark programs of the Office line will still be in use, but perhaps not in their separate forms. We may see one Office applications with the potential to do what the separate applications have done and to save or publish in one universal file format. OneNote perhaps will be able to intelligently listen to a lecture video and extract key terms based on nuances in the human voice that stress importance; this will serve to add a new dimension to student note-taking and increase student efficiency.
Smartphones in the future will serve as laptops now; imagine wirelessly transmitting a PowerPoint presentation from your mobile device to a projector. The ease of sharing documents by means of instant transfer between devices similar to the present day Zune's ability to share music between Zune-to-Zune will make group collaboration seamless.
Many of the present extracurricular activities will be dominant in the future, yet there may be an influx of political and economical involvement by students seeing as within the last ten years the improvements in technology have connected student existence to that of the real world issues, this will only become more evident as the technology improves. The ability to have your say regardless of where you are located and have that voice be heard will be something students strive toward. The course load may become increased seeing as the forecast for technology suggests a student's life will be easier, or the load may not change at all but the rigor of the individual courses may increase as students are able to do more, faster. The completion and submission of homework will be an entirely online thing, perhaps the ability to have an essay updated as a draft form while you are writing it will garner input from a professor even before the piece is complete. We will see more interconnectivity with our assigned work, both with our peers and our teachers.
Arriving at class, stepping out of ecologically friendly vehicles students will enter a classroom that is no longer setup lecture style, but forum based and focused towards a holographic projector that will enable discussions to be had by members of academic communities that reside in other countries, as easily as if they were in the same room. With this technology, it's possible to have the best professors in the world teaching at schools around the world simultaneously. Given the present-day focus on the environment, future schools will "carry on the torch" in terms of environmental education and activism in order to certify that the academic investments made therein are not made futile by the destruction of our planet.
The impact technology has on the present day is evident, to speculate about the future provides a feeling of awe and excitement. I may not be a student when this all happens, but maybe I'll go back for a couple of courses just to experience the new environment.