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How Students Use Technology Outside of the Classroom

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How Students Use Technology Outside of the Classroom

Mobile devices and free Internet tools have changed the way students learn.

posted August 27, 2013

Technology has made it easy for students to use their computers and mobile devices to continue learning outside of traditional classrooms.

The ability to take notes electronically during class results in the conservation of valuable study time. In addition, many students find they are able to use digital notes more effectively than handwritten notes by conducting keyword searches to locate specific information quickly.

Today’s college students are also able to annotate and share notes with study-group participants by using cloud-based tools such as Evernote and Google Drive. Undergraduates at Ithaca College in New York use Google Drive to create, edit, and share course outlines. These powerful tools enhance collaboration by allowing students to access their notes from any device, add comments and track changes.

Google Drive and Evernote are also ideal for collaboration on group projects. MBA students at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., use Google Drive to collaborate on projects and presentations. The students can contribute to the same document without compiling or emailing different versions back and forth. For students concerned about equal contribution of work on a project, Google Drive shows revision updates made by each contributor.

For research, students are using free tools such as Wikipedia, Twitter and Facebook. While Wikipedia is typically not allowed as an official source, it is frequently used to find other resources, since the site tracks footnotes and bibliographies. Students can look up a topic using Wikipedia and then refer to an article's cited works for additional source material.

Social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, are used to poll communities and connect with experts. Social media is used to share ideas, articles and other resources. These networks are also used to hold relevant and meaningful conversations across time and geography. Ithaca College’s course on professional development uses social media to host guest speakers who are unable to travel to campus. Instead, the guest speakers are asked to check the course’s Facebook and Twitter pages during a given week and then respond to students’ questions. These tools are beneficial because discussion can be continued outside of class, thereby opening up a broader learning environment.

Students are also using web-based conferencing tools, such as Google Hangouts, to interview experts about their work. Students in the Master of Arts in Learning Technologies program at Pepperdine University in California collaborate synchronously, or in real time, using Google Hangouts and Google Documents. The students are able to share their dissertation research and provide valuable feedback to one another in real time. Some students, such as those attending Pepperdine University School of Law, are even using this technology to interview for jobs or to work remotely while in school. Web-based conferencing is also a key tool used by students to hold team meetings for group projects. Stevens Institute of Technology management students also use web-based conferencing to present their final projects online and in real time to their instructor and peers.

Today’s learners are actively seeking content and tutorials on topics of interest. Students and non-student learners alike access valuable online content from Khan Academy, TED, YouTube and blogs; they watch and read tutorials created by others; and they learn how to complete specific tasks, such as computing mathematical equations, writing computer-programming languages or using a feature in a software application, all without the guidance of an instructor.

Technology enables learning to take place outside of the classroom and the library. Students use technology to meet, collaborate and create content virtually. In many cases, technology helps students research subjects, share ideas and learn specific skills. Technology also helps students make valuable networking connections with others in their field of study.

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