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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Student life in a world powered by tech


Learning never stops, as students eagerly take notes from an online lecture to enhance their knowledge. Photo by Saichand Chowdary (He/Him) / Mass Media Contributor. 

The internet has transformed the way we live. As Pew Research Center found in 2021, “85 percent of Americans say they go online on a daily basis”[1]. For teens and young adults, it has become an unavoidable resource. Fifty four percent of teens feel that it would be hard to give up social media[2]. It’s not just content that alters our social lives, as the internet has transformed our academic interactions too. 

Students rely on the internet for every aspect of their learning. The emergence of eBooks and ePubs have often replaced buying traditional books. At UMass Boston, we use Blackboard for all course information like the syllabus, materials and assignments. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this internet reliance drastically, shifting our in-person classes to online learning programs. 

There has been a surge in the usage of apps for video conferencing such as Zoom, language apps such as Duolingo, and web-based virtual learning softwarlike Blackboard since COVID-19 hit [3]. In this ever-changing online sphere, new age technologies—such as artificial intelligence—are leading to the development of more advanced tools of interaction. Last week there was a lot of chatter about Google’s experimental, conversational AI, posed as a rival to ChatGPT.  We know many students are beginning to utilize such programs to write homework assignments, essays, et cetera [4]. 

The overall market for online education is projected to reach $350 Billion by 2025 [3]. This will undoubtedly develop into a higher level of technological adoption by learning institutions. It has become impossible to imagine student life without the internet. I think of a quote, often misattributed to Albert Einstein, when considering how pervasive the internet has become in our lives“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity”[11]. These words from Steward Brand bring up a good point. Is our technology benefiting us or enslaving us?

Avoiding technology is not an option. As American writeStewart Brand says, “Once a new technology rolls over you, if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road.”[12] As students, we do not want to be left behind. Online education can help us in many ways. 

Online learning allows learners to access educational content at their own pace and at their own convenience. Students can study and complete assignments at any time of the day, making it easier to balance work, family and other obligations. It is interactive, and learners can collaborate with instructors and peers through various online tools. Technologies such as alternate reality, virtual reality and artificial intelligence are improving accessibility for students with learning difficulties or disabilities [5]. Online learning also made college education cheaper [6]. 

At the same time, technological approaches have many drawbacksIt disadvantages teens in lower-income households who are less likely to report having a computer [2]. Internet addiction is also an area of concern. Studies have shown that “Internet-addicted students had lower learning satisfaction in online learning environments”[7]. 

Many believe that using chatbots for completing assignments may have a negative impact on our critical thinking abilities. Recentlythe New York education department restricted access to ChatGPT on their devices, citing reasons of accuracy of content and negative impact on student learning [8].   

Security of student data is also a cause of concern. Universities usually have access to complete student information like health and finances in addition to learning outcomes. School districts are primary targets for cyberattacks [9].  

This multitude of factors brings attention to the necessity of thinking deeply about issues regarding internet usage among students. Awareness is the first step in addressing the negative aspects of social media. For instance, late night mobile usage can affect the quality of sleep and has a cross-sectional relation with academic performance [14]. Yet, I think most of us have this habit.  

When we accept technology while being aware of its drawbacks and limits, technology will fit perfectly into our life. It is not a substitute for our thoughts and critical thinking; rather, it is a tool to enhance our learning and improve educational outcomes. As Christian Lous Lange stated, “Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master”[13].

[1] 85 percent Americans use it on a daily basis-  

[2] Teens say it is hard to give up internet, computer ownership among lower income groups- 

[3] Surge in online learning apps and increase in investments in ed-tech 

[4]Over 89 percent of students have used ChatGPT to help with a homework assignment–   

[6] Has made college education cheaper- 

[7] Internet addiction and Online learning- 

[8] NYC education department banning ChatGPT 

[9] Cyber-attacks on school districts- 

[10] Steward Brand – The quote comes from Brand’s book “The Media Lab: Inventing the Future at MIT,” which was published in 1987. The exact quote appears on page 214 of the book 

[12] The quote “Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master” is attributed to Christian Lous Lange, a Norwegian historian, politician, and Nobel Peace Prize recipient. The quote is in his book “The Loom of History,” originally published in 1922. 

About the Contributor
Charan Reddy, Opinions Writer