Preparing For Progress: Digitally Advanced Schools

In 2008, PCMag.com produced an article that found and rated the top 20 “wired” universities in the United States. While slightly dated, it provides an interesting look into which schools had the technological foresight prepare for our current Age of Progress. To determine the overall strength of each school, PCMag.com and The Princeton Review looked at four digital categories:

  • Academics

    • This encompasses the school’s ability to provide courses that specialized in emerging technologies as well as the accessibility of online lectures.

  • Student Resources

    • What digital services do colleges provide? Do they offer their students an e-mail address and access to the school’s network? Do they offer their students software, such as anti-virus? What about hardware?

  • Infrastructure

    • This looks at the ability of the students to access digital resources. This includes wi-fi coverage and the availability of modern computers labs.

  • Tech Support

    • How easy is it for students to get help? Is there online support available, or has the school merely settled for an online FAQ?

With these factors in mind, here are the five schools with the greatest foresight (you might be surprised by the list):

(Photo Source: ilovebutter http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdickert/)

(Photo Source: ilovebutter http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdickert/)

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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(Photo Source: Russell Feldhausen http://www.flickr.com/photos/russfeld/)

Kansas State University

(Photo Source: Edgar Zuniga Jr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/edgarzuniga/)

(Photo Source: Edgar Zuniga Jr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/edgarzuniga/)

University of Utah

(Photo Source: IK's World Trip http://www.flickr.com/photos/ikkoskinen/)

(Photo Source: IK’s World Trip http://www.flickr.com/photos/ikkoskinen/)

Bentley College

(Photo Source: The Marmot http://www.flickr.com/photos/themarmot/)

(Photo Source: The Marmot http://www.flickr.com/photos/themarmot/)

Pomona College

What colleges do you think should be in the top five? Sound off!

Source: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2329359,00.asp

Nathan Repp is a writer for Scholar Hero, Inc.

Leaving the Literary Past Behind

The importance and timelessness of literature is currently being overlooked in some universities. As these schools try to redevelop themselves to fit a modern age, they focus too much on the contemporary and not enough on the classics.

According to Ashley Thorne of The Guardian, this trend is a detriment to the time-honored tradition of the “summer reading assignment.” This practice ensures that the entire student body has something in common to share and discuss.

Rebecca Skloot was one of the “top common reading authors” last year.

The Effect on Students

There is nothing inherently wrong with the use of contemporary literature in universities. However, Thorne believes that the unwillingness of schools to assign literature pre-dating 1990 fails to challenge and engage students beyond their own bubble. In addition, the importance of recent works is often dependent on the knowledge of previous works. Students lose the significance of the social issues being presented when they are unaware of their history.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma is commonly chosen for its “trendy themes.”

The Reason for Modernized Literature

The two prevailing explanation for this trend are accessibility and relevance. Universities seem to think that the subjects in modern literature are better understood by today’s college students. Moreover, the authors are capable of giving on-campus lectures regarding their own works. However, is that enough to abandon the great words of the past?

Universities are in an era where tradition is in a tug-of-war with a new age, further complicated by the explosion of information that students can access through current technologies. Colleges should not abandon tradition in favor of the future. Tradition should be the basis for such visions of progress.

Nathan Repp is a writer for Scholar Hero, Inc.

Of Sight and Sound: How Technology Helps Impaired Students

Technology in universities have an overall positive effect on accessibility, and for some students, that means more than just having fewer books to carry.

  • 1/3 of disabled youth attend some kind of postsecondary school in the United States.

  • People with hearing or visual impairments were more likely to attend college.

  • About 1/4 of disabled students receive no accommodations from their university.

Many technologies respond to the needs of the impaired, offering university textbooks with a variety of tools on common handheld devices. While some books are scanned images of the pages, others are fully digital text with variable font size and text-to-speech capabilities.

Google's app store is adding academic books in addition to their already popular ones. (Photo Source: Wesley Fryer http://www.flickr.com/photos/wfryer/)

Google’s app store to add academic books in addition to their already popular selection of literature. (Photo Source: Wesley Fryer http://www.flickr.com/photos/wfryer/)

In spite of all this technologies, problems of inaccessibility still persist. Recently, a blind student in Louisiana was unable to access the online materials for a course and was forced to withdraw. Fortunately, the Justice Department ruled that universities cannot buy material that is not available to all students.

We at Scholar Hero only hope that both technology and policies continue to move towards total accessibility for all students. Nothing should stand in the way of an equal education for all.

Powerful tools for the disabled student. (Photo Source: Yutaka Tsutano http://www.flickr.com/photos/ivyfield/)

Powerful tools for the disabled student. (Photo Source: Yutaka Tsutano http://www.flickr.com/photos/ivyfield/)

Source: http://techcrunch.com/2013/08/09/google-play-adds-digital-textbooks-for-rent-and-purchase/

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2005/07/29/disabled

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/07/26/settlements-put-colleges-duty-ensure-blind-students-access-materials-under-new

Nathan Repp is a writer for Scholar Hero, Inc.

Broadening Narrow Studies: Interdisciplinarity For University Students

Collaboration solves problems and creates new ideas. However, students are being pushed into overly-specific fields of study. Professor Don Nutbeam, vice-chancellor of the University of Southampton, explores this issue and the benefits of a interdisciplinary research.

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Left: Don Nutbeam. (Photo Source: Foreign and Commonwealth Office http://www.flickr.com/photos/foreignoffice/)

Broader studies are gaining importance as potential employers demand flexibility from graduates. Career fields of the future will likely look very different from the ones today, and these graduates will have to navigate a large network of employment paths. It is the university’s role to provide as many paths for success as possible..

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Southampton University. (Photo Source: John Goode http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnnieb/)

Fortunately, universities are beginning to embrace interdisciplinarity in addition to traditional programs. Professor Nutbeam’s own school started introducing courses developed for adaptability.The University of Manchester created the University College For Interdisciplinary Learning to properly prepare students for less subject-intensive fields.

While a full transition for traditional universities will be difficult, great things usually happen when intellectuals come together.

Nathan Repp is a writer for Scholar Hero, Inc.

An Educational Adventure Into Homebrewing: A Nathan Repp Anecdote

The return of Breaking Bad reminds me of my own personal hobbies involving chemistry. My pastime, however, is a far more innocuous practice: I am a homebrewer.

Chemistry outside of the classroom. (Photo Source: Adam Sharron http://www.flickr.com/photos/atom_ess/)

Chemistry outside of the classroom. (Photo Source: Adam Sharron http://www.flickr.com/photos/atom_ess/)

 The First Sip

We’re in the age of craft brewing and it was a certain Boston brewery that introduced me to my first craft beer. It was deep, complex and delicious. As I broadened my taste profile, I became fascinated by brewing’s intricacies. It all seemed so alchemical and I wanted to try my hand at it.

(Photo Source: Daniel Spiess http://www.flickr.com/photos/deegephotos/)

Differing yeast strains affect the taste and alcohol content of the beer. Most yeast dies at 14% alc/vol. (Photo Source: Daniel Spiess http://www.flickr.com/photos/deegephotos/)

A Brewing Quest

I started primitive: a store bought kit. My first beer tasted good enough but it wasn’t mine. I just poured things into a pail according to instructions.

For my next beer, I invested in a complete setup and the result was bland. I was still combining things without knowing the why and the what for.

So, I turned to books and experts and began to learn. It was frustrating but the acquisition of knowledge always has its rewards. I became a chemistry and biology student in my free time.

I became self-educated on the breakdown of starches in grain (for sweetness and yeast nutrient), the acidic content of hops (producing beer’s bitter or floral qualities), the conditioning of yeast

(Photo Source: zolakoma http://www.flickr.com/photos/zolakoma/)

A calculation of the beer’s gravity before and after fermentation will reveal the alcohol content. (Photo Source: zolakoma http://www.flickr.com/photos/zolakoma/)

Growing Something Great

This past winter, I set out to make a roasted hazelnut brown ale based on my own recipe.

For those interested: I used real hazelnuts, chocolate and crystal malts, and two doses of centennial hops.

When it was finished, it was exactly what I had set out to make because I had already produced it step-by-step in my mind. It tasted like an expression of myself and I could proudly explain the process that I used.

 Write in below and tell me about the educational hobbies that you are passionate about.

Cheers. (Photo Source: Daniel Lobo http://www.flickr.com/photos/daquellamanera/)

Cheers. (Photo Source: Daniel Lobo http://www.flickr.com/photos/daquellamanera/)

 Nathan Repp is a writer for Scholar Hero. The views and opinions expressed of this particular blog belong solely to those of the author and not of Scholar Hero, Inc.

 

Professor Spotlight: The 10 Smartest Super Scholar Heroes in Comics

Some of the of greatest heroes in comics and film are also the smartest. They may have powers that exceed other humans, but their intelligence and wisdom truly defines who excels in their university. Today, we spotlight the brains that propel over the brawn, with emphasis on these top ten.

Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic)

  • PhD in Physics and Electrical Engineering

  • Attended MIT, CalTech, Harvard, Columbia, and “Empire State University”

Charles Xavier (Professor X)

  • PhDs in Genetics, Biophysics, Psychology, Anthropology

  • MD in Psychiatry

  • Attended Oxford, Harvard

  • Adjunct Professor, Columbia

Peter Parker (Spiderman)

  • BS in Biophysics, PhD in biochemistry (incomplete)

  • Attended Empire State University

Tony Stark (Iron Man)

  • MS in Electrical Engineering, Physics

  • Attended MIT

Bruce Wayne (Batman)

  • Law degree (at Gotham)

  • Attended Princeton, Yale

Hank McCoy (Beast)

  • PhD in Genetics, Biochemistry

  • Attended the Xavier Institute

Bruce Banner (Hulk)

  • PhD in Nuclear Physics

  • Attended Desert State, Penn State, CalTech

Property of DC Comics.

Barbara Gordon (Batgirl/Oracle)

  • PhD, summa cum laude

  • Attended Gotham State University

Hank Pym (Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Goliath, Yellowjacket, Wasp)

  • PhD in Nuclear Physics, extensive knowledge of various fields of science

  • Professor at Oxford University

Ray Palmer (Atom)

  • PhD in Nuclear Physics

  • Professor at Ivy University

Sources: http://scottstuart.wordpress.com/2010/05/11/10-smartest-superheroes/

http://www.businessweek.com/stories/2006-05-31/the-smartest-superheroes-businessweek-business-news-stock-market-and-financial-advice

Universities Chosen By Trend: The Problem with Fashionable Enrollment

Are universities more dedicated to the pursuit of prestige over knowledge? One article from the Telegraph thinks students enroll in universities considered “socially significant.”

While elite colleges in the UK such as Oxford, Cambridge Durham, Edinburgh, and Bristol are undoubtedly good schools, much of their attendance may be based largely on trendiness. IIt is  not hard to imagine the American schools such as Columbia, Yale, and Harvard in the same comparative sentence.

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Durham University: one of the “Favoured Few.” (Photo Source: Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier http://www.flickr.com/photos/jepoirrier/)

By focusing on more fashionable schools, incoming students focus on getting admission into the “Favored Few” rather than consider the possibility of getting an even better education elsewhere. This leads to undergraduates who are uninterested, unprepared, and unhappy with their academic life because they picked a school based on the opinions of others and not on their own enthusiasm.

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Seen here: representation of a “fashionable” college student. (Photo Source: D. Sharon Pruitt http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinksherbet/)

This general perspective among college students on academia needs to shift towards a more pragmatic framework. Students must factor in direct variables to their college experience, such as social scene, proximity to family, professors of interest, school resources, even the weather. The sad reality is that many realize far too late into their college tenure that college glory fades, but education is forever.

Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/universityeducation/10187953/Universities-are-hubs-of-academia-not-finishing-schools.html

 Nathan Repp is a writer for Scholar Hero, Inc.