20 Innovations That Have Radically Changed The College Experience

Written by Ryan

red bull energy drinkThe college experience is fundamentally different today in comparison to even just twenty years ago, thanks to the mass adoption of revolutionary technological developments such as the Internet and cell phones. College students have many more ways to use their time now (should I play Halo 3 with a buddy in Japan, browse Digg’s popular tech stories, Skype my girlfriend, look at Internet porn, watch a bittorrent movie, or search the ‘net for the perfect term paper?due tomorrow)?

Whether used for good or bad, technological innovations have radically shaped the way college life is lived and the way education is done. From taking classes online to texting your friends during a boring lecture, this ain’t your grandfather’s pencil and paper education.

So without further ado, here are 19 technological innovations that we believe have radically changed the college experience. While you’re reading through, take a moment and consider what college life would be without them!

  1. Cell phones. Call up a friend from practically anywhere – including the college library – if you’re having trouble studying, or simply need a sympathetic ear about how you bombed that major test. Of course there’s also the dreaded scolding from a professor when your phone goes off during a lecture;-)
  2. MMPORGs. Massively-MultiPlayer Online Roleplaying Games (MMPORGs) such as World of Warcraft, and even Second Life in a sense no doubt take up many hours for some students – allowing them to chill out that pent up rage from compulsory Chemistry midterm they bombed on.
  3. Digital Video Compression- Whatever your favorite format, digital video downloading is one of the most popular pastimes for college students these days. Compression technologies made digital video downloads possible in a reasonable amount of time. In addition to movies and tv shows, students can also download and consume class audio or video, lecture recordings, etc.
  4. VoIP. Spent all your money partying it up and can’t afford long distance calls home? With VoIP, you can sometimes call free or very cheap. Skype is the most popular free VoIP technology, and there are many good paying options like Vonage. Some systems allow you to take a local phone number with you on the road. That way mom doesn’t have to pay a long distance bill.
  5. Google/Search. If you need to find information for a term paper fast, Google is a good place to start searching, especially Google Scholar. Whether we like it or not, a large number of term papers are now “derived” from already existing online work. For this reason, Google also serves as a way to check for exact phrase plagiarism.
  6. The Internet. Most professors or their assistants now publish lecture notes, assignments, and info about additional reading material on their class website. There are also many library and study resources online. [On the entertainment side, the Internet’s obviously useful for finding music (U.S. only) and video to relax with. And beyond these two uses (study, entertainment), there’s the chance of earning money online in the blogosphere.]
  7. Textbook DVD/ CDs. Many college textbooks now come searchable on disc, making it that much easier to find that obscure information the professor mumbled about at the end of the lecture. Ideal for reducing study time.
  8. The iPod – There was a time when you could count on the majority of students wearing jeans to class. Now you can count on the majority of students wearing iPods to class. iPods and other digital media players also provide the opportunity to listen to lectures for reinforcement.
  9. File Sharing Applications – Napster became huge because of college students. Then it got shut down and resurrected as a paid service. No worries. Plenty of alternatives have popped up and file sharing (illegal and legal) continues at a rampant pace, though the record companies are fighting back with futility.
  10. Laptops. Laptops make it possible for everyone to have a mobile office. Papers can be started in your dorm room and finished in the library, all on the same computer. Plus, if you type fast, you can actually take legible notes in class. No more scrawled notes, and it’s easy to pass them on to friends. Or, plug in an external microphone and record class. Sure there are lots of makes to choose from, but we like our Alienware laptops?what’s college without some hard core gaming anyway?
  11. Printers. Affordable, good quality printers have made many a student happy, not having to trudge over to the local Stinko’s, or worse, the college library (waiting for some labor union employee to fix the jammed laser printer). While ink cartridges are now often more than the printers (some are free after rebate) total cost per page is a lot less. Perfect for when you have to write a term paper.
  12. SMS texting. Don’t want to make a racket in the college library but need a friend’s help? Send them a query via SMS and get an answer fast, without looking around sheepishly when your phone rings.
  13. Touch Screens. Both PDAs and Tablet Computers are increasingly popular technologies for taking class notes digitally. Rather than scribble notes on paper, or type frantically at the keyboard, touch screens enable natural hand writing, which is converted to digital text. Adoption of these touch screen systems seems to be rising amongst college students.
  14. Virtual learning environments. E.g. web applications such as Blackboard and Moodle have not only helped make learning easier but have also enabled brand new educational opportunities such as distance learning and Internet bulletin board discussions.
  15. Web applications. There’s a huge list of categories that students can benefit from. Here are a few:
    1. Web word processors such as Zoho Writer or Google Docs.
    2. Calendaring, To-do, and organiztion tools such as Google Calendar, Neptune and Backpack.
    3. Project management tools such as Basecamp or Mercury Grove‘s free Web Groups – both of which can be used to manage team term projects, even if someone goes away for the weekend.
    4. Always-on web chat clients or chat rooms, such as AIM and Campfire, for easy access to a friendly chat or coordinating with all the team members on a project. These days recreational instant messaging is a mainstay of college life, and for many students, it is a comforting distraction. Sometimes too distracting!

    All of them offer easy access to files and project info from wherever you can get an Internet connection.

  16. Wi-fi. Wireless internet access in the college library means being able to walk around with your laptop and work from any cubbyhole you can find – especially important during exam time.
  17. Mini coffee brewing machine. Not just a coffee pot, but a full blown mini brewing machine, grinders, etc., for banishing that mental phantom zone around exam time.
  18. Energy Drinks. Speaking of coffee. Now you can get a full dose of caffeine plus other energy enhancing ingredients in drinks like Red Bull. These have become the staple of late night studying.
  19. Myspace and Facebook. If you can find a college student who doesn’t use Myspace or Facebook then you deserve a prize. These two social networks have revolutionized the way people interact and meet each other online.
  20. Time and Location shifting TV. With busy schedules, many college students can’t watch their favorite shows at the time of broadcast. But that doesn’t mean they miss their favorite shows. There are several methods for students can use for watching shows when they want.
    1. Record To A Computer Hard Drive: Set up your home computer with a TV capture card. Program it to record TV shows at specific times to a high-capacity external hard drive. Then watch shows when you go home on weekends.
    2. Subscribe to a Service: TIVO is the most popular way of watching shows when you want.
    3. Location-shifting: Technologies like Slingbox and Orb allow you to catch your favorite sports team from back home, even when you are hundreds of miles out of the area.

Reader Suggestions Prize:
Photocopier (now why didn’t we think of that!)

Reader Suggestions Prize 2:
The Taser – “taking down students with ballz, one tase at a time”

6 thoughts on “20 Innovations That Have Radically Changed The College Experience

  1. Mitch

    As for web-apps, I want to add one of my faves. It’s called Wrike http://www.wrike.com/. It multifunctional, depends on what you want it to be. It can be a tool for your productivity, or you can use it as a collaboration tool, it’s a great planning tool or it can be everything at a time.

  2. Steve

    VoIP? American colleges students hardly use it. MMORPGS? Yeah right. The few people that play them now could play some other game. The only difference between a MMORPG and an RPG is the intelligence of your opponents/comrades.

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