Technology has been present in education for many years, manifesting in many different forms. During earlier years (1980’s), education technology was hailed as a miracle learning tool that would immediately boost learning abilities with its mere presence. Behind the hype, these technologies were largely lackluster software programs with tools created by developers who were far removed from the educational process. This resulted in clunky, often ineffective installations which never really grabbed the attention of students.
Fortunately, as institutions have become more receptive to the possibilities brought by technology in the classroom, they have taken a more proactive, integrative approach. Recent advancements have made noticeable changes in academic efforts, specifically in the realms of interaction and collaboration. The development of web platforms which facilitate both of these actions has grown considerably, with tools like Blackboard (including the Virtual Classroom software), the Google Drive suite, Piazza, ChatWithAdmissions (CWA), Lynda, edX and many others gaining massive popularity. While software development companies are still creating these tools, educators and learners alike have become the source of demand, helping to sculpt the end product.
CWA, developed by Various Things Live, a Chicago website design and development company, is one such tool, crafted to fit the needs of students who are unable to explore an institution in person. Programs like ChatWithAdmissions allow in-depth contact with institutional representatives using only an internet-connected device.
CWA allows admissions staff to create a host virtual events where prospective students can register and speak to an officer during a selected time. The software is web based, which provides admissions staff the flexibility of hosting an open house event from the comfort of their own home, or from anywhere in the world.
In a broader perspective, communicating through this medium also accommodates a new generation of learners. Students of the current generation have likely been absorbing information through online sources since the beginning of their educational careers, so a process such as CWA provides a seamless transition into the academic advising procedure. This is something which resonates through academia as a whole, as students constantly bemoan the inability to effectively connect with staff as well as the luddite stereotype of the average academic institution. In this, utilizing a program such as CWA shows that the institution is forward thinking, integrating modern technology that facilitates academic advising in a way which students are receptive and responsive. This will undoubtedly create a positive perception from the student’s viewpoint, enhancing the brand value of the institution.
The ability to communicate with advisors in an environment which is constantly available in a comfortable and accessible environment facilitates the sharing of information. This level of communication was previously unobtainable for many prospective students. By lowering of entry barriers in this manner, CWA breaks new ground for academic advising.
These new and exciting approaches are being seen all across educational technology, with programs becoming embedded into the fundamental processes of education instead of being a supplementary tool, but, “…according to Pew research 60 percent of students say their technology expectations are still not being met. Still, it is clear that today's students have more options than ever, with virtual schools, open education initiatives and massive open online courses, and online classes and programs…” (U.S. News). Technology is finally tipping the balance within education (as well as many other industries). As adoption increases, the power to drive real change in education will lie with the learner, not the institution.