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Incoming student panel offers insight about technology practices and expectations

College and university councils across the nation meet regularly to predict and prepare for educational technology trends. Nationwide surveys and reports about the latest systems inform these seasoned professionals as they discuss the expectations and abilities of high school students, said Scott Krajewski. And as Augsburg’s director of information technology, he would know. Krajewski oversees the campus’ digital needs and helps guide—you guessed it—the college’s IT Advisory Council, charged with assessing IT dilemmas integrating new tools and approaches into the Augsburg experience.

The 17-member council has been around for six years, driving innovations including Augsburg’s embrace of Google apps. This spring, members decided take a step back from national surveys to directly engage with incoming students. In April, the council hosted the first Future Auggie Technology Expectations Panel to dialogue with first-year students about their familiarity with technology and expectations for its use on campus.

“We were constantly reviewing surveys and research with a macro view of trends and best practices, which are certainly important, but we were largely assuming students’ need and capabilities,” Krajewski said. “Each university population is different, so we felt it was important to dig in and have a conversation with our students, to fully understand what they expect and experience.”

An open, inclusive discussion

Krajewski and his IT team worked with Admissions to gather three representative first-year students to talk about their exposure to technology and their hopes for interacting with it at Augsburg. The council invited the campus community to attend the nearly two-hour panel, which was moderated by a sophomore student worker in the IT department. Krajewski said several interesting themes emerged:

Give them options to achieve intended outcomes. The students spoke about wanting freedom to satisfy an assignment through various means, rather than being forced into one structure. For instance, if the goal of an assignment is to demonstrate an understanding of Greek mythology, consider allowing students to create a video or PowerPoint presentation rather than requiring them all to write a paper.

Present content in a visual, diverse way. “Please, please,” the students said, “don’t lecture at us every day.” Incoming students desire a more engaging, interactive learning environment, and they prefer visualizing content whenever possible.

Continue to email. Krajewski said many professors claim “students don’t check email anymore,” opting to communicate exclusively on social media platforms and via text. The panel’s response: not true. The students said they check email about twice a day, reiterating that it remains a viable communication channel.

Embrace digital but maintain tactile experiences. The students expressed a bit of a contradiction, Krajewski said. They like e-books for the ease of virtual highlighting and searchability, but they still enjoy reading physical books. Each of the students seemed extremely comfortable jumping from one mode to another, suggesting that a hybrid approach is the best.

Provide regular online access to grades. Students like to view grades online, and they like to check in throughout the semester to assess their performance. The students also indicated they prefer receiving feedback about specific projects and assignments online.

Keep computer labs. Krajewski said his team was interested in whether students see a value in computer labs. The students admitted they hadn’t thought much about it, but the sophomore moderator chimed in. He said computer labs provided a focused space for him to work and a change of scenery, similar to motivational benefits of going to a gym rather than always trying to work out at home.

Another panel next spring

Krajewski said the council is eager to continue the panel each spring, as the talk informed the campus community and reinforced that Augsburg is “on the right track” in its use of technology to enhance experiential learning and to deepen curriculum to prepare students to excel in today’s workforce.

But in coming years, the council intends to invite more students to ensure a broader representation of Augsburg’s campus community. Krajewski said he wants to include students who have not taken college courses, as all three of the students on the panel had earned college credit through Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO), which allow high school juniors and seniors to take college courses for both high school and college credit.

“We want to make sure we are gathering feedback and perspective from a broad range of students, particularly those who have had no exposure to college courses and hybrid or online structures,” he said. “Student insight is key to ensuring Augsburg’s approach to technology remains relevant and agile.”

Krajewski said he looks forward to robust panel discussions as more faculty and administers learn about the opportunity it provides for honest discourse and reflection about digital practices.

Part of a larger effort

The advisory council’s efforts are part of Augsburg’s multidimensional approach to advance technology on campus and to provide support to students, faculty, and staff. Krajewski said the IT department remains engaged with the campus community through annual surveys to gather feedback about everything from printing services to technology in the classroom.

Dimension 3, Goal 8, Strategy 8: Organize Augsburg for new levels of collaboration, efficiency, and effectiveness.

—By Kate H. Elliott