Given the climbing cost of college for today’s students, universities as a whole and instructors individually are feeling increasing pressure to offer concrete and practical value for their students. One way to do this is to curate a technology stack that not only facilitates teaching and learning but also prepares students to thrive in the workforce.
The resources below are great additions to a university’s existing tech suite. They can all enhance a student’s learning experience, and they’re all either staples in today’s office places or great ways to manage professional development and overall well being post-graduation.
1. Google Docs (and the G Suite)
Google’s free, cloud-based Microsoft alternative offers word processing, spreadsheets, slideshows, and more. While Microsoft offers a free version of its products to students, Google has the edge here thanks to its headache-free tools for managing group work: automatic version control, automatic edit tracking, and built-in chat within a document.
Using the G Suite can also help students transition to the work environment, especially during the application and interview process. When a job requires work samples, students can easily peruse their college assignments and offer their best. And if students hope to work in the startup world, they will be especially well prepared: while Microsoft still dominates enterprise businesses, smaller companies and startups are increasingly relying on G Suite.
This resource offers a twofold opportunity. Grammarly’s free version, which functions as a plugin for Chrome, Safari, and Firefox browsers, offers punctuation, spelling, and grammar checking tools anywhere a user is typing (docs, social media, email, etc.). The service’s mini-explanations help students get a better grasp on writing basics in real time, as issues arise.
The paid version (including Grammarly EDU, designed for schools), also includes a plagiarism-checking service that has earned high marks from users. Unlike other such services, Grammarly’s is accessible to both students and instructors (when a university has an account). This could prove helpful by letting students see firsthand what is and is not acceptable when writing with outside sources.
As students transition to the workplace, applying for internships and jobs, Grammarly can help ensure their emails, résumés, and applications are as polished and professional as possible.
Trello is a powerful project organization platform. Even better: it’s available free on an unlimited basis. There are two main university-level applications here: first, for instructors to manage class assignments, in lieu of a dedicated class website or blog, and second, for individual students to track and prioritize their work.
Encouraging adoption in the latter context could prove enormously impactful for students’ ability to manage time, juggle multiple projects (read a few job descriptions and you’ll see how important employers consider this skill), and stay on top of deadlines. Equally important is that Trello is a popular project management tool in today’s office spaces (as of 2017, it boasted 25 million users worldwide).
Regardless of individual office adoption, though, students familiar with Trello will enter the workforce with the ability to effectively manage a complex workload.
Slack is a chat platform designed to organize and simplify group conversations (its name stands for “Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge”). Popular in workplaces (including at least 43 percent of Fortune 100 companies), it offers a free version in addition to several paid tiers. While similar tools exist in LMSs, Slack is a lot more powerful, versatile, and user friendly.
Wyzant is an online tutoring marketplace that features more than 80,000 tutors who can teach more than 10,000 topics. Tutors offer their services online, through the platform’s dedicated online tutoring tool, which means getting outside help is hugely convenient, especially for the nation’s three-million-plus students who attend college exclusively online.
Wyzant also offers tutors in a variety of professional skills, so graduates can continue to benefit from the platform once they’ve finished school. This could be particularly useful to those who find work in the growing “gig economy,” where professional development and training are entirely the responsibility of the worker.
TalkSpace offers counseling via smartphone, accessible either by text or phone call. Considering that one in five college students has anxiety or depression and 64 percent of young adults who have left college cite a mental health-related reason to explain their absence, mobile counseling (telepsychiatry) could make a major difference in outcomes, both for individual students and entire communities.
While the service isn’t free, it is less expensive – and more convenient – than traditional counseling alternatives, and enables students to build relationships with counselors that can endure past graduation.
Learning tools that work twice as hard
Incorporating into the university classroom technology that doubles as preparation for life in the professional world can positively impact learning outcomes and give students the sense of getting greater value for their investment. In an era where universities are competing to demonstrate their value–in part by publishing graduate employment numbers–these resources can give institutions an edge.