Magazine article Information Today

Another Academic Year

Magazine article Information Today

Another Academic Year

Article excerpt

Labor Day is a special time for people who ply the academic trade. While most people think of time in terms of the calendar year, the real year for educators and researchers begins with a new academic year. Usually this has been an energetic and positive time in the calendar cycle. But with technology driving all of the changes in publishing, there's some unfinished business lingering from the previous academic cycle (aka last year). In some cases, there are elements in play that may lead to the "perfect storm" of chaos and confusion in the academic world.

For example, there is a less expensive Kindle version available for one of my textbooks, but it doesn't seem likely that our Barnes & Noble-operated campus bookstore is going to broadcast this news. So it becomes one more item on the list for the professor (aka me) to do before classes even begin. I will admit that life was easier in the old print days.

It's not that I am nostalgic for the old print age, although the textbooks then were not the student-political crisis of today. Students are keenly aware of how much their textbooks cost, and if they don't think they are getting their money's worth, it becomes the professor's fault. Indeed, when I ask students how they are doing in one of their particular courses, they often mention the textbook first, usually in the negative. And I understand how they feel. From my side of the equation, we seem to have moved into the realm of merely "making do" with a limited number of options.

So Do Without

Many folks have endured a rough couple of years. But when it comes to education, it's a challenge to ask college students to do without. Circumstances today are putting professors in the role of being "the great apologizer." As libraries slashed their collections, both digital and print, contracts for licensed services were often due in the middle of a semester. Poof, a library-paid-for database vanished, sometimes while a student was in the middle of a research project.

Doing without is one issue, but drowning in apps is another problem these days. We're facing the problem of too many riches, too many extensions, too many apps, and even too many browsers. I never know which technology platform each individual student has been exposed to until I walk into a classroom for the first time. Life was easier when you could send students to the technology laboratory and say, "This is it." But those days have long passed. I now have students who have never stepped into a technology lab, which is akin to students who take pride in having never set foot into the campus library. …

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