Posted at 5 p.m. March 7, 2017

Education’s final frontier

The technology used in education today was only a dream when Laramie County Community College first opened in 1968. The technology in today’s education has given way to greater opportunities and easier access to resources for students.

Before the Internet, distance education classes were done over the phone on an intercom system or via video tapes and the distance was usually no farther than the next town. Today, with the help of the video technology, distance classes are done online and sometimes across the world.

Jeff Powell, former University of Wyoming professor emeritus, PhD, Certified Range Management Consultant, said he observed a general trend toward decreased literacy during his career, such as reading, writing, and math comprehension among college students. However, with the computer technology available, there was a significant increase in easy and less expensive access to knowledge. Powell, for example, was able to write up lecture notes for three different courses he teaches and posted the material required to a website so students could download and read them online with ease.

On the other hand, Powell also said there appears to be a decrease in general education due to the increased dependency on the media and information at students’ fingertips.

Rachelle Anderson, a 2003 graduate from UW with a bachelor’s of science in civil engineering, said, “I’ve noticed, at least in Engineering school, that things have gotten a lot more hands-on since I was there 14 years ago.” From VHS tapes and the long journey of mailing in assignments at the turn of the century to the interactive classrooms of today, time will only tell how advancements will change in the not-so-distant future.

Anderson says that there were very few people doing college online when she was a student and the non-traditional student was much less common than in today’s colleges. “I feel like expectations are already much higher for hands-on work than when I was in school, and I don’t think that will change,” Anderson said.

Anderson’s prediction for the future of college is that there will be more non-traditional students who have tried to get real experience in their chosen career field and more students graduating high school with completed college credits – if not a complete associate degree based on technological advances in an effort to get ahead of the competition.

On the note of the future of education, Josh Petersen, communication instructor at LCCC, said he thinks there will “always be a need for higher education, but as we continue to see the economy and the needs of our communities evolve, we will most likely see change in how we partake in the college experience.”

While Petersen believes testing will remain mostly the same, he would like to see competency-based testing as opposed to test-taking ability. Even with the current problems with tuition, Petersen said he does not think colleges will ever go away from some form of tuition, and that students should be involved with their tuition. With the ever-changing ways of technology, Petersen said he does not believe it will impact colleges to the point of all courses being online.

“The more students engage in online learning, the more I think they realize that quality online instruction is just as difficult if not more difficult than residential classes,” Petersen said.

We’ve heard from the past, now, let’s look to the future. We asked six Laramie County Community College students what they thought college was going to be like in 2030. These are the questions…

  1. How will technology affect college, and will all of the courses be online rather than in the classroom?
  2. What do you think tuition will look like?
  3. Do you think that the curriculum will stay the same, or will they get rid of the two semester structure?
  4. What do you think will be the primary tool for testing?
  5. Will college even be necessary?

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Students were asked five questions about the future of education