Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

Connecting Services to Students: New Technology and Implications for Student Affairs

Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

Connecting Services to Students: New Technology and Implications for Student Affairs

Article excerpt

Technology is affecting how student affairs professionals work with students to deliver traditional programs and services. This article begins with an overview of the characteristics of current students and their experiences and comfort with technology. This understanding leads to the role of student affairs professionals as creators, designers and developers of programs and services using ever-expanding technology. The authors also discuss potential new applications of technology for student affairs programs while identifying ethical issues that student affairs professionals need to discuss when considering the use of new technological tools.

Are student affairs professionals prepared to deal with the complexities and issues associated with the growing development of technology, and the impact it has on the delivery of traditional student affairs services and programs? This article assists student affairs professionals to prepare for addressing these issues. There are five key questions facing student affairs professionals as the pressure and opportunity for technological innovation increase. First, what is the demographic information and what are personal characteristics of the students coming to college over the next few years, and how will their experiences and comfort level with technology shape program and service delivery? second, what is the role that student affairs professionals need to play in managing information technology and the staff responsible for its development? Third, what are some of the new innovations and uses of technology that are already being used to improve or alter the delivery of student affairs services? Fourth, what kind of predictions can be made about the possible directions that technology can take student affairs programs and services? Finally, the article considers the ethical issues associated with technology by examining whether having the ability to do something also means that doing it is in the best interest of the students.

The Millennial Generation

Oblinger (2003) identified three characteristics of millennial students that are particularly relevant to technology. The first characteristic is that millennial students are comfortable with technology in all forms (Oblinger, 2003). Students use computers, cell phones, personal desk assistants, and other technological tools to make their lives easier. Introducing new systems or services that utilize these tools can be both familiar to, and appreciated by, students.

Second, this generation is described as the "connected" generation, often portrayed as being in constant contact with friends and family (Oblinger, 2003). Through email, cell phones, and other products, students are mobile without sacrificing their connections to others. Students are able to send email messages to faculty and staff whenever they wish, and they are not limited to traditional office hours for communication. By using programs such as MySpace(TM) and the Facebook(TM), students are also spending time creating online "communities" that allow real-time communication with others (Barratt, 2000; Schackner, 2004).

The final characteristic of the millennial students which guides the discussion on technology use centers around their high expectations and demand for customer service, both of which impact the delivery of traditional student affairs services (Oblinger, 2003). This generation has grown up with the ability to almost instantaneously gratify their needs through technology. If they want to listen to a song, they do not have to go to the store; they can simply download it directly to their computer. If students want to listen to music, they use a music storage device like the iPod(TM) and select from over 5,000 musical choices that can be carried in the palm of their hand (Apple, 2005). The expectation that they should get immediate answers to questions or requests can provide obstacles for student affairs offices that operate on a slower or more deliberate operating system. …

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