Technology, students and universities

Cover of 'The Tyrrany of Email' via AmazonThere are some – related – articles in today’s Irish Independent on themes which have featured on this blog. A report published yesterday by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) shows that the number of students going to college has hit a record high (the Irish Times ran the same story under the headline that there are more students than farmers in Ireland) and that courses in science and computing are now back in favour.

However, technology is not necessarily an uncritically good thing, as is shown by the headline to another story: I’m so addicted to email, Facebook and Twitter, I have to hide it from my wife …. In that piece, reviewing The tyranny of email by John Freeman, James Delingpole owns up to his own addiction to communications technology. Of course, he is not the only person whose life is being ruined by email. Moreover, a similar addiction drives the use of mobile phones and laptops in class as increasingly popular displacement activities.

Finally, and a little more seriously, the print edition – but not, so far as I can see, the online edition (though it may in time be published in the archives of the Education section or, perhaps, of the Technology sections) – has a really interesting piece on distance learning at third level, discussing the Open University and Hibernia College. Online education poses both challenges and opportunities for bricks and mortar universities, and they will have to be faced and embraced if universities are to survive and thrive.

The moral of the stories is, of course, that if the undergraduates who now outnumber farmers can’t tear themselves away from their email and social networking sites, they might decide to eschew traditional universities and study online instead!