The Advantages and Disadvantages of the Use of Computers in Tertiary Education

The ability to utilise information technology at the tertiary level has many disadvantages, but on the other hand the drawbacks could leave many persons asking if society benefits? Education is a very suitable medium for social mobility as on transcends the various classes, strata and levels of education. This is one option in order to achieve some measure of financial freedom. This statement implies that anyone must embrace, straddle and overcome the establish levels in an education system.That is from the informal learning one experience from birth to the formal early childhood to the elementary level then secondary and eventually the tertiary level.

In this twenty-first century of many technological advances, it is absolutely essential that consideration be given to the acquisition, implementation, utilisation, and function of information technology through the use of computers at the tertiary level of education. This development of computers provided tertiary educators and students with a new dimension to challenge their capabilities, explore new horizons in learning and exploit the system that existed.Both constituents met their requirements and demands of tertiary level studies in the form of output in producing documents for presentation, preparing papers for submission, acquiring information for research, keeping of records and just knowledge for development with just a click. The advantages that present themselves to the student signals “Studying…. made in heaven”, easy access to reliable information, no note taking, implying full attention on the lecture or activity. Storage of information is not bulky.As students embraced the technological age, presenting their coursework papers in a legible manner, with little grammatical and spelling errors, lecturers who were not computer savvy were scrambling to acquire the necessary skills to match the students.

Note taking and reading of textbooks, even the buying of textbooks are becoming rare, all information is read off a screen. The acts of carrying around bulky textbooks are a thing of the past. Flash drives, CD’s, small hand held devices have taken over. Slowly traditions are being broken and the computer is becoming the students learning tool.They are buying memory sticks instead of books. Lecturers on the other hand utilise the technology to make presentations to class, keep records, communicate with students via e-mails, receive and give assignments and information through the computer. This made students feel that attendance at lectures was not a necessity as they could get the lecture on the Internet any time.

One of the main advantages pertains to the effective use of limited resources available in tertiary institutions. Any lecturer would agree that the contact time with students is the least time involved in a course.In a learning environment undergoing rapid transformation, it is not surprising that teaching methods have also been changing. Lecturers have to get with the times. As a part of the process of adapting to changing student demands, lecturers have had to consider new ways of delivering course content. A very practical example of this is the close relationship, technologically, that the lecturer and student develops. Course content and lecturers are sent directly to each student via e-mail or made available on a website.

The disadvantages of this intensive mode of teaching signal the observer that there is a significant loss of social skills, study skills and data. No longer do students sit together in the same room, they could be miles apart but communicating through teleconferencing or videoconferencing. Data could be loss in the blink of an eye or the flick of a switch. A conscious effort must be made to back up and save information already acquired. The integrity of exams and one’s information could be questioned as all information can be so easily shared.It also found that the assumption that Academic Staff make, that students already have computer literacy skills, is often erroneous. We must take into consideration the student who suffers from technological anxiety, most times they are in the older age bracket and are not computer literate.

Then there are the students who are economically challenged and find it difficult to access a computer. The prolonged use of computers pose serious health risks in repetitive eyestrain, lower back pain and computer vision syndrome.The user must take frequent breaks and purchase equipment to deal with correct posture. Despite the stated disadvantages, the use of computers in tertiary level studies is here to stay. Lecturers can track students, disburse information, keep records, recycle course content, store exams and revision exercises, communicate with students at any time of the day, not only during class contact time, with just a click. While students use this flexibility to maximise their study and personal time.

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