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GRCC seeks to simplify technology to accommodate for all age groups

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By Austin Metz
Editor in Chief

As classrooms at Grand Rapids Community College continue to evolve and incorporate Facebook, Twitter and Blackboard into a student’s everyday life, the college has made it a priority to allow easy use for students of all backgrounds.

“There are two different kinds of people when it comes to technology,” said Raul Alvarez, director of communications at Grand Rapids Community College. “You have the technology natives who have grown up around it and the technology immigrants who are not as familiar with it.”

Joann Ferrell started as a GRCC student in 2009 and would fall into the technology immigrant category.

“When I returned to school, I had to update what I knew,” said Ferrell, who graduated from high school in 1977. “You can imagine what technology was like back when I graduated, so I had to take the Introduction to College course which teaches students how to use the tools needed in today’s classroom.”

The class offered by the college was helpful to Ferrell, but she still felt that immersing herself in the technology was vital.

“It’s about continuous practicing and using the technology over and over,” she said. “Students also need to talk to their advisers to make sure they have the tools they need to succeed.”

While technology has changed the scope of education, there are still those who find there are advantages to old techniques.

“Sometimes I feel that technology has taken some of the critical thinking out of the classroom,” said Ferrell. “Everything is a click away from students but what happens when a computer goes down? Then what do students do?”

Eric Kunnen, director of Distance Learning and Instructional Technologies (DLIT), explained that the best way for the college to provide comfort to students is to have integrated technology that simplifies the tasks students and faculty will be asked to do.

“One of the challenges for us is to bridge the digital divide,” Kunnen said. “Things happen so quickly and making people aware of that is important. Students can now take the classroom on the go with the use of smart phones. It’s the informal learning that happens in between classes for students that is important.”

Simplicity and ease of use are two ways the college is making technology easier to use.

“We are looking for ways to cut four clicks down to one click for students and staff,” Kunnen said. “Also, with one log in, people should be able to access many different pieces of technology.”

The technology Kunnen is referring to includes e-mail and Blackboard to name a couple.

With the continuing evolution of technology, enrollment for online classes has also increased at the college.

According to Kunnen, online enrollment at GRCC is up 20 percent from the winter semester, with nearly 5,000 students taking online classes.

“The ultimate goal is to improve student success and enhance teaching and learning by leveraging technological resources,” Kunnen said. “DLIT is focused on equipping faculty and students with the knowledge, training, and information needed to effectively use the technology in delivering instruction and in coursework.”

Kunnen also mentioned that the college is always looking for feedback on ways to improve what the college has in place.

“We want more dialogue,” Kunnen said. “We want to know how we can best use the technology we have and also how we can make it better.”

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