There are a plethora of discussion around student affairs and technology use. Some people struggle conceptualizing what this looks like. I want to highlight current and potential applications of technology for student affairs professionals to enhance learning. This list is not comprehensive, but hopefully by presenting examples and ideas this article will spark ideas that student affairs departments can develop.
Collaborative applications focus on communicative knowledge building and idea exploration. These applications allow a group of individuals to develop knowledge by editing and evaluating material at their own pace. Examples of these applications are Wiki Spaces, Microsoft Groove (newly renamed Sharepoint), and Google Documents. A current student affairs application comes from Duke University staff members (http://www.studentaffairs.duke.edu/ra/programs-services/wiki-instructions), who are using wiki-spaces to archive document development, as well as collaborate on job searches with campus-wide committees within the student affairs division. Another example for collaborative application would be developing a wiki-space for student leaders to respond to a case study. Students can re-evaluate their solution by applying the knowledge gained in the training session and reviewing others’ perspectives on the case.
Online forums serve as an effective means of sharing thoughts and opinions on different topics and issues. Users post their questions, ideas, or opinions, communicating their thoughts in a coherent and understandable form, allowing for transparency of mega-cognitive processes. Examples of online forums are blogs, vlogs, Blackboard, Sakai, Word Press, and Twitter. A wonderful online forum that is providing excellent professional development for student affairs professionals is our own Student Affairs Collaborative (http://thesabloggers.org/). There are several components of this online forum: WordPress allows contributors to post on various topics, such as staff training and development, political discussions on higher education, and conference reactions; additionally, using the medium of Twitter, a weekly #sachat occurs to provide student affairs professionals an opportunity to share their knowledge and contribute to the online community of learners. Another example for online forums to engage students would be developing an online forum after inviting an engaging speaker on-campus. Reflective questions could be posted about the event, and students could in turn post their thoughts about the event and/or ask each other questions, continuing the learning process after the event has ended.
Social Networking Sites
Social networking sites offer an online environment that feels less “academic” and more open to students freely expressing themselves. Within this environment, students may feel more comfortable asking questions, sharing experiences, and generating new ideas. Examples of social network sites are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Second Life. Penn State World Campus (http://www.worldcampus.psu.edu) and Texas Woman’s University (http://www.twu.edu) are utilizing different online forums to develop a sense of community and belonging to online students. Delivered either through Facebook or a website, both institutions provide online academic advising sessions, chat rooms, and resources for students to explore at their own pace. Another possible use of a social network site would be to create a Twitter account for a Student Affairs division to not only promote campus events and resources, but also post questions, polls, or recruit students for focus groups or other leadership opportunities.
Pod- and Video-casting allows the facilitator to record information (in video or audio form) that can be shared and accessed at any time. This allows the student to review the information at their own pace and provides an opportunity for audio/visual learners to more fully engage in the learning process. ITunes, ITunesU, RSS Feeds, Blogs, and YouTube are excellent examples of pod/video-casting. The Ohio State University recently promoted the opening of their new student union through videos posted on YouTube. Not only did they highlight the beautiful LEED construction of this facility, but a flash mob was organized to promote excitement and interest from OSU students and other constituencies. A possible student affairs application would be developing an i-pod quiz or videos using Snagit or Jing to train student employees on a routine task. Tags, or notes, can be added to the video to enhance the content.
I have provided some examples of current student affairs application of free open-source software available on the web. If you have examples to share, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org , or follow me at twitter.com/lbarrueco. There are many great innovative and creative methods of using technology today to enhance students’ college experiences. Let us not be restrained by our old practices, but rather re-invent them in a manner that transforms our student affairs profession.