To promote the success of students, higher education must consider evolving to create a more student centered culture (Perna, 2009). This requires administrators, staff and faculty to be open to practices which foster such a community through an implementation of a variety of means to impact both the internal and external influences on the students. Although both internal and external factors modify the culture, King (2010) revealed that internal factors can have a greater influence. Additionally, educators can be “the single most important factor in a student’s success” (Tracey, 2007).
To encourage students to be successful in their educational quest and into their career, educators must know their students by name and to consistently interact with them. “What students wanted 20 or 30 years ago and still want today is for instructors to interact with them. Even with all the modern day technology in teaching tools, nothing can replace face-to-face contact” (Iordanov, 2010, p 1).
To make themselves more available to students, variations of a traditional office hour concept is being used by educators. Many professors make themselves more available to their students through technology. The traditional office hours of faculty are not being used as they were previously. Therefore, many educators are modifying the outdated mode of office hours to virtual office hours. These professionals are using new advances in technology to open video conferencing sessions with students through the use of programs such as Sykpe or Web 2.0 (Li & Pitts, 2009).
There are many advantages to virtual office hours. Students do not have to face common fears of finding an office as they trek across an unfamiliar section of campus. They also do not experience as much fear in approaching a professor with what may seem a stupid question (Haupt, 2010).
Many supporters of traditional on-campus education over online education use the discussion of office hours as a foundational argument. There is a lasting belief that the face-to-face interaction with a professor and the utilization of office hours is an essential component to every educational experience. Yet, with the gradual addition of virtual office hours, researchers are seeing little difference between the modes of communication for students and instructors. With the increased improvement of technology, virtual office hours are even making a mark on campuses. Many educators are leaning toward this venue of communication as they are addressing issues with their students (Myers, Bishop, Rajamon & Kelly, 2010). Virtual office hours can also take the form of instant messaging or chatting.
Other means of communication between teacher and students is the use of texting. Professor McDonald at Georgia State University encourages his students to text their questions to him during the lectures. Students will then see their questions flash across the screen at the front of the classroom to be addressed (Inskeep, 2010). He used technology to increase the personal contact between professor and student within a large lecture medium. Other professors use texting to remind students of big projects, assignments, exams or simply to make themselves available to students (Novicki, 2010).
Blogs have also shown greater influence in the field of education. In classrooms, discussion time can be limited. Setting up a blog encourages students to interact with each other and with the content. They also can have access to the professor who would monitor the entries. “Using blogging in the college classroom is a great way for instructors to increase student engagement and to generate discussion that may not otherwise come forth in the formal classroom. Not only does blogging help to stimulate student engagement, but it also helps to cultivate job skills for future positions following graduation” (Anderson, 2010, p 1). Through these methods, educators are able to effectively learn more of their students and mold their instruction to meet their students’ needs.
However, the most influential skill needed to change the lives of students is the professor’s personal passion for learning. Through this passion for learning, professors also express their expertise in their field. Without this desire to be a lifelong learner, the content can be nearly irrelevant (University of Alberta, 2010). Professors have the ability to convey their interest and passion of their field and learning through the varying contacts with their students.
All of this technology requires a new set of skills for the instructor and the amount of information required for a teacher to possess is increasing daily. Yet, educators are not left floundering alone. Professional development seminars and online education are available to the educator. Many institutions also provide training and support for educators. The Southern Regional Education Board (2003) admits that an effective technical support center with knowledgable staff is a requirement for a successful program.
As technology continues to develop and evolve, many of the barriers between students and instructors are being eroded through its use. Technology has become an effective medium to connect students and teachers and thereby fostering a stronger student centered environment.
Anderson, A. (2010). Using blogs to teach college students. Retrieved December 10, 2010 from www.suite101.com/content/using-blogging-to-teach-college-students-a262399
Haupt, A. (2010). Professors help students virtually. Retrieved December 10, 2010 from www.usatoday.com/tech/webguide/internetlife/2008-01-07-virtual-office-hours_N.htm
Inskeep, S. (2010). Professor encourages texting in class. Retrieved December 10, 2010 from www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126299162
Iodanov, R. (2010). Technology and modern methods can’t replace student-teacher interaction. Retrieved December 11, 2010 from www.ur.umich.edu/0506/Jul10_06/17.shtml
King, J. (2010). Internal and external influences on program-level curriculum development in higher education fashion merchandising program. Retrieved December 13, 2010 from gradworks.umi.com/34/08/3408636.html
Li, L. & Pitts, J. (2009). Does It Really matter? Using Virtual Office Hours to Enhance Student-Faculty Interaction. Journal of Information Systems Education Retrieved December 10, 2010 from findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa4041/is_200907/ ai_n32128810/pg_17/?tag=content;col1
Myers, S., Bishop, D., Rajamon, S. & Kelly, J. (2010). Virtual office hours. Retrieved December 12, 2010 from www.oln.org/conferences/OCDE2004/papers/Virtual_Office_Hours.pdf
Novicki, A. (2010). Texting your students. Retrieved December 10, 2010 from cit.duke.edu/blog/2010/02/25/texting-your-students/
Perna, L. (2009). Fostering student success. The Journal of Higher Education, (80)2, 238-240.
Southern Regional Educational Board. (2003). Essential principles of quality online teaching. Retrieved December 10, 2010 from info.sreb.org/programs/EdTech/pubs/PDF/ Essential_Principles.pdf
Tracey, B. (2007). What is different about online teaching? Retrieved December 10, 2010 from dtechleaders.org/documents/teachingonline.doc
University of Alberta. (2010). Igniting a passion for learning. Retrieved December 10, 2010 from www.ualberta.ca/ALUMNI/history/peoplep-z/9495winpassion.htm
By Tracy Atkinson
Tracy Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education and a master’s in higher education. Her passion is researching, studying and investigating the attributes related to self-directed learners. She has published several titles, including The Art of Learning Journals, Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Lemosa: The Annals of the Hidden, Book Two, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.