Our generation struggles to recall a time when computers were not a necessity in daily life. In the academic world, the Internet’s influence has been no different, evolving into an essential tool for research and learning. This movement, though beneficial, is merely masking a larger problem with the definition of community at Georgetown and society at large: Face-to-face interaction is dwindling.
Recently many professors have turned to social networking sites to engage students outside of the classroom. Some professors at Georgetown have started integrating Facebook into classes by requiring students to post homework, questions and blog posts on their walls. The streamlined design of Facebook and its ease of use make it more attractive than its academic counterpart, Blackboard, which has been the subject of many complaints from students and professors alike.
By using virtual tools such as social networking and blogs, professors are able to make academics a more integral part of student life; sharing wall posts, messages and articles from contemporary sources administers a dose of intellectual stimuli to everyday Facebook feeds.
This dependence upon technology, though valuable, is emerging as a remedy to a broader issue. The amount of face time students spend with professors is only a minuscule fraction of a student’s week. In many classes, outside of office hours and without discussion sessions, students are left to fend for themselves with minimal guidance, as if college were a proverbial odyssey.
A university itself is a community of scholars that strives to educate and advance human understanding. Yet most modern-day universities rarely seem to engage with these ideals and with the students they educate. Georgetown has always put a great amount of value on undergraduate education compared with other peer research institutions.
Fr. Ryan Maher, S.J. wrote in a recent column in THE HOYA, “I wish I could describe for you the energy that rises, the glint that comes to the eyes of men.when you ask them, as I have, about their teaching, about their interaction with students in the classroom, about their vocation as teachers.” This one-on=one interaction with students at a place like Georgetown defines the devotion to teaching many here love; without these great dialogues within the walls of the actual classroom, among students in their dorms and in the dining hall, Georgetown is nothing more than any generic online degree program.
As the university moves forward as a “student-centered, international, research university,,” we cannot neglect our past tradition of introducing students to a real dialogue, interacting with one another as students, professors, graduate students and administrators.
The emergence of class blogs and even the use of Facebook as an academic resource is an effective tool to complement and continue this dialogue that undergraduate students, in particular, are excluded from more and more often. Nothing though, not even Facebook as a nexus of social interaction, can substitute the very human experience of living and learning on the Hilltop.