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ARE TRADITIONAL (NON-DIGITAL) CLASSROOMS A PROBLEM IN HIGHER EDUCATION? A STUDY ABOUT HOW THE PRESENCE (NOT USE) OF COMPUTERS IMPACTS ON STUDENTS

B. Bordel, R. Alcarria, J. Velasco, T. Robles

Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (SPAIN)
During the last years, governments and education institutions have invested a lot of money on digitalization. Computers and digital blackboards are now deployed in classrooms, intelligent devices (such as tablets) have replaced traditional books, etc. However, in Higher Education institutions and facilities, there are still some spaces in their traditional configuration (without digital media). Students must, then, work in both room types. Initially, classes not requiring digital devices are scheduled in non-digital rooms; as computers are not going to be used anyway.

Nevertheless, informal observations show there are important differences depending on the selected room. Even if electronic devices are totally turned off. Specifically, students’ motivation totally disappears when rooms are not provided with computers. Moreover, the percentage of students attending the class goes down and only around 10% attend non-digital classes after some weeks.
These observations, however, may be affected for other secondary exogenous variables, and scientific studies are required to evaluate this. Therefore, in this paper we describe an educational scientific experiment focused on discovering and studying this effect. As main variable was selected the presence (not use) of computers in the room, keeping all other configurations and rooms’ facilities in the same way as usual.

In particular, during the second term of the year 2017/18 in the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, a pilot experience has been conducted. The experience was developed in the context of courses about Social Networks for telecommunications professionals. Specifically, a non-digital room was selected to welcome a course about social networks: in the first edition the room was provided with Personal Computers (PC); during the second edition PCs were undeployed. Students could turn on the computers, but no activities with them were performed in any of the two considered course editions.

During this experience, students in the pilot experience (100% of the total students) were provided with all needed printed documentation to follow the course and develop the scheduled activities. The course consisted of five face-to-face sessions, and a global duration of twenty-five hours. The program includes the following topics: legal issues about social networks; general security issues in social networks; data gathering in social networks; statistical data processing; and commercial tools to study social networks.

Results confirmed the performed informal observations. Students’ motivation goes down when no computers are installed in the room. The so called “boredom” indicator is detected when non-digital rooms are considered for technology-related lessons. This indicator greatly affects the motivation level of students and rapidly spreads over the class.