// you're reading...


College Then Vs. Now – Evolution of the University Experience in the Past 100 years

Over the past 100 years, the college experience has drastically changed for new university students. The technological trends, amazing innovations, and interesting economic shifts have had a great impact on how one goes about completing their college education and achieving their desired degree. Examining the various trends and technological innovations of higher education over the years is extremely interesting.

1. Handwritten to Personal Computers

College Then vs. Now - Westwood College

When was the last time that you were required to write out your 20-page term paper on 8.5 x 11 inch lined sheets, where whiteout was your best friend, and the “neat” strikethrough was something you tried to “hide,” within your paper that took you 15-plus hours to complete?

I am sure the thought of writing 20 pages on lined paper is something that you would rather not deal with, or even like to think about doing, as it would probably drive you nuts knowing about the pain and agony it would cause your hand. With the dawn of the word processor and personal computer around the 1980s, the thought of writing your paper out by hand was considered “a thing of the past.”



Even though the typewriter did have a massive impact on how students completed their written work from the 1870s to the 1980s, it appears that the word processor and personal computer are here to stay and will become the standard in how students complete their written assignments from this day forward.

How does this trend affect the college education experience? Completing assignments on a personal computer makes it easy for students to edit their work and for professors to grade. This flexibility increases the students’ quality of work.

2.  Written Tests to Online Tests

Students in Class

As a university student, when was the last time you took a test and what format was it in? You were probably given an essay question where you filled out bluebooks with your answer, or were handed a printed test and instructed to write the out the answers.

On occasion, the scantron multiple-choice test was a useful alternative. The scantron test would give the teacher or professor an easier time grading tests, and give them the flexibility to hand out different versions of the test to ensure that students didn’t cheat while taking it.



3. Blackboard to Virtual Classrooms and Classroom Podcasts



The classroom environment has evolved significantly. For years, teachers used chalk on a blackboard and then classrooms began using transparencies on an overhead projector.  Now universities around the country are utilizing new and innovative whiteboards.

As the online revolution continues, more options for achieving a degree are revealed. The dawn of the virtual classroom has taken off. Professors can now record lectures in real time. By doing so, students can sit in front of their computer and watch webcasts of the lecture being given anywhere in the world.

Student on Computer

There are even cases where professors themselves are technologically advanced enough to create podcasts of their lectures to help students who miss class. One such example is professor Hubert Dreyfus, who is a Philosophy Professor at UC Berkeley. His philosophy podcast can be listened to by anyone in the world.

How does this trend affect the college education experience? Students and teachers are now using innovative ways to package and deliver content. As long as the classroom environment continues to evolve with new and innovative technology, the student will continue to excel.

4. Computers to the Connected Web

The dawn of the computer changed the way students consumed information, and even more so changed the way they completed their written papers. As the internet came barreling into the limelight, everything changed for the better as colleges, universities, and the attending students became more connected than ever before.

World Wide Web

The connection that students and teachers have using the internet is extremely powerful. College professors now have the freedom to place any and all of their course work, syllabus, assignments and class notes onto the net for their students to access and download at their leisure. Students have instant access to all coursework materials and can connect with their teachers through e-mail if any issues occur.

How does this trend affect the college education experience? The internet-learning environment creates flexibility for the student and teacher. Students can study from the comfort of their own home and teachers are able to leverage it effectively to accomplish the goals for each semester.

5. Private Universities to Online Colleges

Back in the early days of higher education, only the wealthy were granted the right to attend the most prestigious universities around the country. Most of the individuals attending these schools came from “old money” and always were a step above the rest of those in society.

As time moved forward, the creation of public universities and community colleges brought opportunity. The dawn of the internet and online colleges created an entirely new industry. Attending an expensive prestigious university may be fun to think about, but realizing that there are other options is the first step to accomplishing everything you want out of life.

Venn Diagram

Currently, earning a degree isn’t as hard as people make it out to be. There are many options for the prospective student. For most, the online college route is extremely convenient, and allows the teacher and student flexibility and achievement. Before choosing online college, make sure that the online college is accredited and has everything you are looking for!

How does this trend affect the college education experience? Having the freedom to get a degree from an online college really levels the playing field for someone who doesn’t have the time or resources to attend a traditional college. Giving individuals the freedom to choose is the best of both worlds, for the market and the individual welfare of those who choose to go down this path.

As new technological advances continue to spread through our national and worldly culture, every single change will forever transform the experiences that university students have during their four-year undergrad college experience.  Although its exciting to think about the effects global technology has on the education system, we can’t forget where we have come from as we progress forward.

David Borofsky
Provost and Chief Academic Officer
Westwood College

The Westwood 100

Meet 100 of our graduates and take a look at their stories of hope, determination and dedication. Meet the 100.

The Westwood 100