The Future of Learning
By Greg Schaber
Kandi Stinson is anything but a fortuneteller. Her roomy Schmidt Hall office reflects her position as the University’s interim associate academic vice president—a sizable desk, a neat row of filing cabinets and a large window overlooking a small courtyard. There isn’t a crystal ball in sight. Nevertheless, on this gray winter morning, Stinson is looking into the future, first with a direct nod to the not-so-distant past.
“When I was in the faculty, I had shelves with books and books,” Stinson says. “And it was relatively common for a student to look around and say ‘Have you read all these books?’ And I’d say ‘Well, yeah, plus some.’ And to them it’s really amazing that somebody could actually sit and read these books.”
Books, she says—at least those in the three-dimensional sense—are slipping quietly into the background, and not just in her office, but across campus. Stinson’s job is, in part, to look ahead and make sure Xavier stays at the front of higher education’s learning curve, and today that curve is paved with technology. Quantum leaps in the quality and accessibility of techno-tools and -toys are creating a high-speed generation of learners who read, write and research online. Dubbed the “millennials,” they are weaned on and shaped by around-the-clock stimulation and access. And it’s creating change.
At Xavier and campuses across the nation, the impact of these developments is altering the way learners learn, the way instructors teach, the way classrooms look and, yes, even traditional ideas about colleges and universities. Responses are ranging from the creation of online campuses to supplying traditional students with computers or iPods on which they can download and turn in their assignments. Traditional means of teaching are giving way to methods that are collaborative, interdisciplinary, sound bite oriented, and, yes, perhaps even flashy and entertaining. All of which, Stinson says, is light years removed from the days not too very long ago when it was a major classroom production to wheel out a cranky movie projector to show reels of even crankier film.
“When I started here about 17 years ago, a computer assignment for students was unheard of,” Stinson says. “Now it’s not unusual to walk into a classroom and see students working on computers during classes.”
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