Are you a digital native?

The definition of a digital native is:

a person born or brought up during the age of digital technology and so familiar with computers and the Internet from an early age”.

Despite this definition I am often referred to as a digital native, especially when it comes to education. Many people believe that current university students are digital natives and enjoy the use of technology as part of their degree.

I however am not a digital native!

As a soon to be 21-year-old I feel that I have just missed being a digital native. I still remember the days when MSN was the primary source of communicating with your friends. More to the point I remember when the first iPhone was launched…

However, what do you do when you’re not a digital native in an environment where technology is forced upon you?

With each year of university I see more and more incorporation of technology rather than tangible resources. In all of my modules I am advised to use the e-textbooks over hardcopies as they’re “easier to use” and “make notes in”. This is definitely up for debate seeing as the majority of my ebooks are a nightmare to read due to the website not seeming to “fit” on my laptop screen no matter how much I zoom out.

Physical lectures are being removed for some modules and being replaced by online lectures. These are great if you have an interesting module or have a busy timetable and rejoice at the thought of not having to add another thing to your timetable. However, are you really going to watch the lectures? Of course not! You will leave them all until it comes to revision and skim through the powerpoint slides, so you can prepare for seminars.

There are two sides to everything

There are both positives and negatives to the switch of a digital education system. However, I think for most students this is not the way forward.

A common complaint among students is not having enough textbooks in the library, to which the response is that everyone has been given an e-textbook. Then comes the long list of various complaints on why they do not like e-textbooks. Most include that they don’t load properly, students can’t focus on the text and that they would rather have a free physical textbook.

Similarly, with online lectures, there were many complaints. Not many people came to seminars due to not preparing in advance because they didn’t watch the lecture. Students also found there was little motivation to watch the lecture, at least if there’s a physical lecture timetabled you would feel bad when you didn’t attend.

Yet, many students are thankful they don’t have to spend money they don’t have on textbooks. They also don’t have to carry around the physical weight of two or three books and can access them at any time on most devices. Online lectures have their advantages as well!

They are easily accessible to everyone, especially people with disabilities, as you can access them at a time that suits you! This could 8am or 2am if you’re a night owl like me. You can play them at the speed you want and pause them to take down notes so you literally cant fall behind in a lecture.

But what happens when technology fails us?

Part of the digitization of education is having multiple choice exams which are called “tests” to be completed online within a certain time frame. I have had many of these tests and I can tell you that they are the most frustrating exam to complete ever! First of all, in my first year we had over 300 students taking these weekly tests for a module and every week the server would crash. This would automatically deduct the time frame in which you have to complete it and more importantly if you had started your test it would deduct the actual time of your test which means you could end up “completing” it before the servers came back on.

This is very stressful for everyone involved. – Lecturers receive hundreds of emails, IT support struggle to get it to work and students both taking the test and not are affected by StudyDirect (our student portal) being down.

Where the university places so much emphasis on using the online student portal holding all module materials, lecture catch-ups and e-submissions, when StudyDirect goes down there is chaos! Students cannot access anything to help them do their work and more importantly cant upload their work to be marked!

By now you would have thought there would be better systems in place or more hard-copy submissions right? No… Instead I have seen an increase in online submissions and more emphasis on using the forums to ask questions rather than emails. – Which once again can only be accessed through StudyDirect.

As a business student I can see why people are keen to take advantage of all the innovative technology being brought forward but sometimes you can’t go wrong with taking things back to basics and having a simple textbook and face-to-face lectures.

For more about the digitalisation of education check out our post from Talis Insight Europe or watch our keynote presentation here.

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– Aly

One thought on “Are you a digital native?

  1. Thanks Aly, really interesting post!
    You compare books with ebooks, and face-to-face lectures with video lectures, but I was also wondering how you feel the two modes compare more generally i.e. how books compare with video? For example, if there was a new concept you were trying to get to grips with, would you head to the Library or head to YouTube?

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