With the today’s fast technological advancement, people can use many social devices. The Internet has changed everything almost everywhere. Students in higher institutions of learning have not been left behind as the Internet is being used for many social and educational purposes. Unlike in the past few years when one could browse the Web only through a few devices such as laptops and desktop computers, now people can access the Internet from numerous devices such as tablets, mobile phones and other similar gadgets. Therefore, Internet usage in colleges rises as people spend more time in the virtual world than in the real one. One can find things like online subjects and digital libraries in many colleges. With just a click, it is possible for a student to enter a classroom at the comfort of his/her room. With such developments the question remains, does the internet affect students in college? Since many scholars have tried to find out how the Internet effects students through valid researches, a literature review in this area will help in coming up with a conclusive argument.
A background study reveals that Internet usage for educational purposes begun in the 60s, 70s, 80s and the 90s. Internet usage in colleges started with the faculty members in the institutions of higher learning. Later, laboratories, offices, classrooms and student residence buildings were linked to high speed Internet in order to help students and professors in learning and teaching. Apart from using the Internet, college students are known for their role in the development of the Internet in terms of innovations and social networking. In fact, researchers argue that compared to the general population, college students have always been ahead in terms of Internet usage and development (Jones and Camille). Today, college students use the Web more than anybody else. In fact, the study performed by Jones shows that college students use the Internet on a daily basis since Internet devices are part of their daily communication. The same study reveals that most college students started using the Internet when they were 5-8 years old. Most college students also started using the Internet while at home and continued with the habit after entering college. Some of the identified areas of Internet usage include communication in form of mails and browsing for fun. Other areas include music browsing and direct messaging among other activities. Apart from communication purposes, Internet usage among college students is an essential part of their educational experience. This is because educational communication between lecturers and their students is highly reliant on the Internet. Access to digital libraries is also highly dependent on the Internet (Jones and Camille).
Because of such mixed usage of the Internet – for social and educational purposes – many scholars believe that there are both negative and positive impacts. Scherer, according to Anderson, explains that most students think that the Internet positively effects their lives. Only a small percentage says that the Internet affects them negatively (Anderson 22). This is proved by Jones, who explains that almost four fifth of these students think Internet usage has a positive impact on their lives (Jones).
In their academic lives, Internet usage helps students to express ideas to their professors in a way that they would not have done in class (Jones and Camille). Students are also able to discuss their educational results with their professors since doing this in class hours is difficult. Apart from this, students explain that the best way to communicate their absence to their teachers is also through mails.
Some instructors and faculty members also view Internet usage in a positive way. For example, faculty members and teachers agree that the Internet allows students to apply their critical thinking skills (WPI). This is because it allows online discussion boards where students can carefully consider the responses needed. Faculty members also explain that the Internet helps in regular and thoughtful participations, which may be even better than face to face participation. Some students, especially new ones, find face-to face communication more challenging than others. However, online discussions help them overcome such challenges as they reduce anxiety that they experience during face to face interactions. The Internet gives college students more opportunity to interact than they have during classroom learning. Eventually, positive growth is realized as students develop a sense of unity and as they develop trust among fellow students and teachers.
The Internet also provides students with resources and time to perform research on top of class readings. This means that the Web helps students develop active learning skills; such learning is more powerful than inert learning. Eventually, students develop a sense of empowerment, which leads to more interests and motivation in individual and group learning. Professors and faculty members say that online discussion boards are helpful in reducing gender and race inequalities. In most cases, such problems are very common in face to face interactions. However, in online discussion boards, students hide behind their names, which is unlike face to face learning where students are distinguished through their white or black faces. Eventually, students whose learning was once suppressed by race and gender discrimination get a chance to participate more in learning than ever (WPI).
Apart from the digital libraries created by colleges to help students in their learning, the Internet provides other numerous resources. For example, students can view newspapers and journal articles via the Internet. Apart from this, they can access these resources easily and efficiently, meaning that it takes much less time to find the needed information. This is unlike in the past when such resources took time to get because of their location and long indexes that required lengthy searches. With such opportunities, education becomes more efficient as quick searches and numerous resources provide students with more time for self-development and critical thinking.
Although the Internet has many positive effects, some scholars, faculty members and college students believe that the Internet may also negative effect people. For example, Anderson identified areas of negative effects such as pathological computer use, Internet dependence and Internet addiction (Anderson 22). The fact that many college students have free access to the Internet and the fact that most of them are active Internet users provides them with a chance of overusing the Web. In addition, the benefit that comes with the Internet being helpful to students who find it hard to be successful in real life situations can pose a negative effect. By providing such students with an atmosphere full of opportunities where new relationships can be developed means that they do not learn how to form relations in the real life. In addition, the anonymity in virtual relationships provides students with a favorable environment to develop virtual relationships at the expense of real life relationships. As a result, identity formation makes it hard for students to be successful and to reach their real goals and values since they focus more on recreating their sense of self (Ellison, Charles, and Cliff).
Internet usage among college students may also cause other major problems such as academic dismissal (Anderson 22). The fact that some students are heavy users of the Internet does not mean that they spend their time reading or learning. Instead, some of them may take part in activities that worsen their learning, which eventually leads to low grades and total academic failures. Since some learning institutions do not tolerate academic failures, some students end up being dismissed. As seen earlier, Internet usage among college students may suppress their real-life relationships and experiences. Eventually, such behaviors may lead to depression because of poor social life (Anderson 22). Since such behaviors are less fulfilling than real-life behaviors, students may experience depression and other related conditions. In addition, students may develop some negative habits such as cyber-stalking and cyber-bullying. Such behaviors affect both the victims and the perpetrators in many ways such as through depression and academic dismissal, which had been discussed earlier (Walz 22).
In conclusion, Internet usage among college students has both negative and positive effects. For example, Internet usage makes college education and social life within the college setting better and more effective. On the other hand, heavy Internet usage may lead to Internet addiction and other problems such as depression and academic dismissal. Although this is the case, it is clear that the impact of usage is all dependent on the user. The college user has the ability of maximizing the benefits and minimizing the negative effects.
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