Technology is becoming a defining factor in the quality of your higher education. With the pace of technological development seemingly accelerating year after year, and with every modern profession requiring some level of tech familiarity, it makes sense that your education experience should be immersed in these new tools and platforms.
But what happens if the university you’re attending is years—or even decades behind on the latest technology? What actionable steps can you take to ensure that you have access to the tech you need for your future?
Why Technology Is So Important
Let’s start by covering some of the reasons why tech is so important in a university setting:
- Differentiated education. Tech provides multiple ways to learn, allowing students to forgo, complement, or enhance traditional education paths.
- Cost-efficiency. It costs a bit of money to upgrade your tech, but it pays off in dividends, ultimately reducing the cost of education if it makes education more efficient.
- Tech familiarity. Using tech as part of your education prepares you with the skills necessary to learn and use new tech in your future career.
- Immediate feedback. Tech-based education tools like online quizzes provide students with immediate feedback so that they can learn actively and responsively.
- Higher engagement. Today’s students have more opportunities to feel engaged, thanks to the one-on-one opportunities that technology provides.
- Thought leadership. Universities equipped with the latest technology can teach skills and provide experiences that other universities can’t, differentiating them and providing more clout to the students who attend.
- Education-focused tech tools offer students more flexibility, sometimes allowing them to choose when they want to attend class or take exams—which is ideal for students with busy schedules.
Evaluating Your University’s Standards
How are you supposed to tell whether the technology used by your university is adequate for your needs?
This answer depends partially on your intended profession and major, but there are several clues you can use to determine how up-to-date your school is. It’s hard to say exactly what the timeline is for tech obsolescence, since tech development is constantly accelerating, but you can look at the publication or update years of the technology you’re using as a decent indication of how attentive your university is to tech updates. If your devices and software are more than five years old, it’s usually a bad sign, and in some cases, even a few years could mean the difference between a technology being the universal standard and belonging in the scrap heap.
If you can, talk to your professors and ideally, people in your intended profession. Do your professors wish they had access to more up-to-date technology? Does your university’s tech seem several years behind what’s being used in the real world?
What to Do to Get Access to Better Tech
If you find that your university’s standards are lacking, you have several options:
- Talk to the CIO. University CIOs are usually the ones responsible for implementing new technologies in various departments, so they should be your first stop. Schedule an appointment with the CIO, or work your way up the administrative ladder, and prepare a handful of talking points about why the tech is lacking and what can be done to fix the problem. The more prepared you are, the better, so make sure you arrive with key examples of how better technology is being employed at other universities, or why you and your fellow students are suffering because of the existing tech.
- Start fundraising. With the high rates of tuition these days, fundraising isn’t going to be your most popularly received option, but it is a chance to pay for new technology for your department without having the explicit budget approval of high-level administrators. Consider crowdfunding, or reaching out to influencers in your field who may be willing to sponsor the acquisition of tech that can improve your education.
- Work outside the university. If you aren’t getting access to the tech you need within the university, consider working outside your university. See if you can get an internship with a company that’s using the latest technology in the field, or see if an external company is willing to partner with the university to lend their tech tools to students.
- Consider switching schools. Transferring colleges isn’t always ideal, and it’s not a choice you should make based on tech access alone. However, if you truly feel like you don’t have the tools or resources necessary to get the education you need for your desired career, there may not be another option. Look at other universities, and get a ground-level view of which technologies they’re using in their programs.
The problem of tech in universities isn’t going away. As rates of technological change continue to accelerate, new students are going to find it even harder to get involved with a school with the latest and greatest in everything. Fortunately, if you’re proactive about identifying when your school’s tech is behind, you can take steps to make sure you get access to the resources you need.