Futuristic University: A Glance at College in the Years to Come

If you’re a high school student, you might just be one of the first to experience a new kind of college life. Picture yourself in a classroom where a surgical video is casted upon two lecture hall walls in high definition and booming audio effects. Imagine walking  across campus to a day’s worth of classes with nothing but your iPad or Kindle in hand. This is the route some colleges are taking in today’s high-tech culture.

According to an article published in The Chronicles of Higher Education entitled “Colleges Look to Big Screen Research to Stay Relative and Collaborative,” universities are finding themselves competing with online courses.  With the addition of “larger-than-life” multimedia presentations in a theater-like atmosphere, such institutions as Johns Hopkins, Brown, and Duke believe they can get students away from their pajamas and laptop screens and back into a classroom. But the importance of digital media within a lecture expands far beyond the need for getting bodies back onto campus: As you can do anything online today, from running a business to having a conversation with your friends on opposite sides of the world, some universities find an importance in shifting student learning from the book to the web. Many businesses use similar video technology, so getting students adjusted to this medium now, will greatly serve them later. In addition, learning within a book or your own personal computer at home is private learning. There is much more to be gained by creating an environment in which the material can be projected for all students to see and discussions about the material can be had. Imagine casting a diagram you’re confused about from your laptop to the front of the room for the professor to go over. Within seconds, the material is understood.

An article entitled “New Partnership of Barnes and Noble and Microsoft will Promote Digital Textbooks,” outlines the role and perception of e-textbooks on college campuses. According to the article, two-thirds of college students would actually rather have their books in print than on an electronic device such as an iPad, Kindle, or Nook. Despite the statistics, both Microsoft and Apple are both working to convert more textbooks. While today’s college students are not interested in this way of learning, it’s believed today’s middle school and high school students will be used to electronic reading materials and will be expecting their textbooks to be digital upon their arrival on campus.

Electronic Textbook Pros

  • You’ll have a lighter load to carry
  • All of your books will be in one place
  • They’re usually cheaper than the print version
  • It’s better for the environment

Electronic Textbook Cons

  • You can’t sell an e-textbook back at the end of the semester
  • E-textbooks are still more expensive than renting a print book or buying a used copy
  • You can’t look at multiple e-textbooks simultaneously as you could print books
  • E-textbooks don’t offer anything print books don’t have

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  1. Nathan says:

    Actually, you can control-F (⌘-F for mac) inside of e-textbooks. If you are looking for specific information or quotes you can literally find phrases and keywords in seconds with this command. Instead of printing out PDFs I am given for class, I OCR (Optical Character Recognition) scan them (through adobe acrobat pro) so I can control-F them. It makes my readings much more objective and less time consuming.

    Also, e-textbooks already have their text word processed. You can cut and paste the text from the book into your essay instead of spending time tracking down the quotes you want and then manually typing it up yourself.


    This article makes a good point about how the majority of people aren’t “electronically literate.” Obviously, I think e-textbooks have a lot to offer. I’m just a little flabbergasted at the statement “E-textbooks don’t offer anything print books don’t have.” E-textbooks have a lot to offer. People just have to realize what they stand to gain moving from physical to digital textbooks.

    Physical textbooks will probably always be around in one form or another due to the nostalgia and warm fuzzy feelings they give to people. They have serious sentimental value. Digital textbooks, on the other hand, are pragmatic, eco-friendly, compact, impersonal and present a serious learning curve/intimidation factor. Most people will pick sentimental value over a learning curve any day.

    I think the next generation will be much more comfortable with the idea of everything being digital than my generation is. As technology becomes more prevalent people will have to adapt and learn how all the gadgets, gizmos and programs work. I can see why for some this is a disturbing thought. Maybe one day we won’t have libraries at all; they will simply become online catalogs.

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