“Technology refers to methods, systems, and devices which are the result of scientific knowledge being used for practical purposes.” – “Definition of ‘Technology’.” Edited by Patrick Hanks and Lawrence Urdang, Collins English Dictionary, Harper Collins, 1979. Technology advancement in classrooms have had many impacts on students’ lives at the University of the Virgin Islands St Thomas Campus. Smart classrooms have changed many students and professors’ lives. Chalkboards have become whiteboards and students are now taking notes with the use of their laptops. In 1925, Thomas Edison said “Books will soon be obsolete in schools.” With the evolution of technology in classrooms, students and professors are exposed to many advantages. Students and professors are now using the internet as an “electronic library”. They can conduct research, research for the definitions and spelling of words and access information while in the classroom. However, with technology comes technological problems.
Interviews were conducted to find out based on students and professors’ experiences, if technological problems have increased at the university. Although twenty percent of the students and professors interviewed said technological problems have not increased, eighty percent of the interviewees (including technicians at UVI) agreed that there has been an increased in technological problems at the University of the Virgin Islands since September 1st, 2017. (Figure 1) The students also agreed that there has been a decreased in smart classrooms at UVI. Experts have confirmed there has been a decreased in smart classrooms at the University of the Virgin Islands St. Thomas Campus. The passage of the hurricanes in September 2017 destroyed at least three smart classrooms. Presently, there are thirteen smart classrooms at the University of the Virgin Islands St. Thomas Campus.
Thirty-seven percent students believed that the increased in this technological problem is because of the lack of equipment, whereas twenty five percent of students thought the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria on September 6th and September 19th, 2017 respectively were also another caused were the main caused for the increased in technological problems at the University of the Virgin Islands. Twenty-five percent of students also listed the lack of funding as one of the causes and 13% listed that there are not enough classrooms available on campus (Figure 2). However, speaking with a technician at the University of the Virgin Islands, he said:
“The first reason would be the inability to video conference between St. Thomas & St. Croix campuses. The second reason would be some Professors/Instructors don’t have the technology knowledge on how to operate and function in this type of environment.”
The passage of the two category-five hurricanes destroyed the School of Business at the university. The School of Business (Business Administration Building) was destroyed during the passage of the hurricanes. As a result, neither students nor professors have access to the building. This has had many negative effects on the students and professors at the University. Other causes for the increased in this technological problem at the University of the Virgin Islands are lack of equipment and the lack of funding. As technology continue to be advanced, the equipment in the classrooms would need upgrading. Because technology is advancing fast, the upgrading of equipment (projectors, speakers, computer system, whiteboard, input devices, cables, etc.) needed for a smart classroom can be very costly for universities.
The limited number of smart classrooms on campus have many effects on the students at the University of the Virgin Islands. Although twenty-five percent of the students said that the limited number of smart classrooms have no major effects on student, twenty-five percent of the students agreed that the increased in this technological problem has caused delays for students in the classroom (Figure 3). The additional 75% of students mentioned that the decreased in smart classrooms at UVI has resulted to online schooling for some courses because students do not have the required space to complete classes (Figure 3). Smart classrooms are interactive as they help students fully engaged and utilize visuals for presentation. Students can now present information on projects by projecting it on the whiteboard for their classmates to see. However, the increased in technological issues that is the decreased in smart classrooms since September 1st, 2017 put students and professors at a disadvantage. This problem creates delays for students and professors. Students are unable to make presentations because necessary equipment are not accessible, and professors will now have to change their presentation style. Professors use smart classrooms to present their lessons using visual display such as graphics, PowerPoints and or PDF files. Smart classrooms provide students with an interactive and enriched learning experience. Professors often post lessons on Blackboard so that students can have access to the information prior the class’ discussion. But, classrooms that are not smart classrooms and lack the necessary equipment needed result in professors having to change their teaching style. Professors would then have to lecture during class session which they may only be able to cover a small amount of information. This can result in professors only being able to teach basic concept instead of going in depth because they do not have the access to a smart classroom. Smart classrooms allow professors to present larger amount of information.
In 2008, a group of students at the Auraria Higher Education Center in Denver which hosts three colleges namely; the University of Colorado at Denver, Metropolitan State College and the Community College of Denver uncovered the technological problems they had experienced using the smart classrooms at the center. Professors at the schools also spoke about how smart classrooms were financially neglected for a while resulting in the classrooms almost being unusable. According to Carl Pletsch, an assistant professor at the education center, “the university has struggled to keep technology up to date that it has been discouraging faulty members from using technology because they cannot predict if it is going to work.” Findings from a survey which were conducted resulted in professors airing their frustrations about the smart classrooms at the center. One of the professor’s comment was “The smart classrooms are now dumb. They have not been upgraded or adequately maintained.” Technology in the classroom can make students and professors productive but the technological problems can be very frustrating for student and professors. At the Auraria Higher Education Center, they have had many difficulties keeping up with the upgrading of the equipment needed for a smart classroom which has negatively impacted the students and professors.
At the State Fair Community College in Sedalia Missouri, there has been an increased in the number of students opting to add an online course to their schedule. Because of online courses, the college spent two years building smart classrooms. “Its 28 new smart classrooms include projectors, computers, document cameras, DVD/VCR combos, videoconferencing units, and ceiling-mounted microphones, allowing for enriched learning experiences for both State Fair’s students and for other four-year institutions in the state that wish to use the distance learning technology for their own students.” (Lorenzetti)
For technological problems to be reduced at universities, they must come up with possible solutions. One solution that the University of the Virgin Islands should put in place to reduce technological problem is to allocate funds for the upgrading of equipment. By allocating funds for equipment needed for a smart classroom, equipment will be able to be upgrading regularly which will be beneficial to the students and professors at the university. Students and professors will no longer have to worry about if classrooms have the necessary equipment needed to be a smart classroom or if the equipment are upgraded for use. A fully equipped smart classrooms enhance students’ learning experience and the way professors teach.
Conclusively, for smart classrooms to be long lasting, the equipment must be updated so that they can be useful. Smart classrooms can serve many purposes to both professors and students at universities. They not only enhance professors teaching skills but also provide many opportunities to the students such as an enriched learning environment. “Technology cannot take the power of education from either educators or the educated. Rather, it must remain a tool to make the deliverance of information easier, quicker, and more interesting.” (Danner). Technology advancement remains vital for students and professors at universities as it has impacted their lives in many ways inside the classroom.