As technology advances, the modern scholar is finding it easier and easier to access astounding advancements in information technology. While clearly this advantages today’s college students, Oklahoma’s institutions of higher learning are employing a more cautious approach to keeping pace with technological applications.
Adoption of new technology certainly affords universities many opportunities to connect with students through such avenues as iPhone applications, YouTube channels or school-sponsored Twitter feeds.
The University of Oklahoma, for example, has done well to remain on the forefront of development, with products such as its pair of iPhone applications, OU2GO and OU4YOU. The first program, released two years ago, provides several features to students, such as a campus map, a news feed, media on the school and archives of campus traditions. OU4YOU allows students to access more personalized features, such as grades and course information, a method for renewing library books and real-time updates on the campus’ rapid transit system.
“Both apps are free to download for iPhone and iPod and will soon be optimized for the iPad,” says Catherine Bishop, OU’s vice president of public affairs. She says that the school is also working to expand the program for non-Apple devices.
OU also plans for its new architecture library to have iPads and portable e-book readers – items that are immensely popular among college students – available for checkout by students.
This growth in usage has not gone unnoticed by university administrators in Oklahoma, but colleges appear to be cautious when it comes to rushing into what might end up being gap technologies.
“There certainly is plenty of conversation about the pros and cons of new tech devices, particularly the more mobile devices such as iPads and e-readers,” says Rick Shipley, the director of information services for the University of Tulsa’s student association.
“But the general consensus I have heard is that students are not ready to completely switch from textbooks to electronic devices.”
Though the benefits of a portable library of books are many, Shipley says that textbooks in an academic environment are not practical in electronic form.
One reason schools may be slow to adopt new technologies immediately is new platform stability.
“When a new product comes out, it will inevitably have plenty of bugs that need to be worked out,” says Shipley. “So it doesn’t make sense to purchase a new product immediately after it’s released.”
Another major issue is cost. While a $600-plus iPad purchase for a college student is certainly sizable, it is nothing compared to the price a university would pay to purchase, test and develop applications for such products in bulk.
Cost, says Shipley, is the primary roadblock keeping colleges from remaining in perfect symmetry with its student body. Optimizing a campus for wireless service, even a small one such as TU, he says would cost “millions” – and it is an expenditure that is exceedingly risky to take with the newest and most untested technologies.
“Simply put, there is no good time to buy new technology, because it will be obsolete in a matter of years,” Shipley says.