Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) of Troy, N.Y., tops a list of the 25 most connected colleges and universities in the United States, according to a survey by The Princeton Review.
The second annual edition of the company’s “25 Most Connected Campuses,” issued Oct. 22, examines the technological capabilities of the nation’s higher education institutions and indicates which campuses employ the most cutting-edge tools to enhance teaching and learning.
“College campuses have always been hotbeds of technological innovation and experimentation,” the survey notes. “But today, as a generation of students raised on the internet take over the classrooms, technology is more important than ever. To be competitive and attract the best students, a school needs to offer the best infrastructure possible. It’s no longer enough to have a high-speed network on campus; you’ve got to have wireless, you’ve got to stream video of classes over the web, or you’ve got to give every new student a brand-new laptop.”
The 25 Most
1. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
RPI topped the list by requiring each student to own a laptop and by supplying the infrastructure necessary to take advantage of “anytime, anywhere learning.”
The school offers its students discounted laptops from IBM Corp., complete with appropriate educational software preloaded on the machines. Students reportedly can get online from anywhere on campus, with ethernet jacks and wireless access points in classrooms, lounges, and labs. Students also can download class notes or watch classes over a streaming video feed from the comfort of their own dorm rooms.
To support the technology, RPI has a full-service IBM repair shop on campus and provides loaner machines to students whenever the computers break down. All software and data can be transferred to the loaner, so that students leave the shop with the same capabilities they came in with.
“We live in a networked world, and if our students are to excel, we must provide them [with] access to sophisticated tools in a highly networked environment,” RPI President Shirley Ann Jackson said in a statement. “We challenge our students to develop the technologies of tomorrow, and to do that they must have the best that is available today.”
Here are the criteria used by editors at The Princeton Review to rank the technological sophistication of the nation’s colleges and universities:
Computers Per Student
Provide Web Pages
Online Administrative Functions
Because every student has a computer, professors can require the use of certain software applications and online learning tools without worrying about who has access to the programs and who doesn’t, said Jim Kolb, RPI’s chief information officer.
The ubiquity of technology on campus–from wireless laptop computers to hands-on design and research labs–gives students and teachers an opportunity to interact and share ideas no matter where they are on campus, Kolb said: “An awful lot of good learning goes on outside the classroom, too.”
Rounding out the top five schools are Bryant University of Smithfield, R.I.; DePauw University of Greencastle, Ind.; Temple University of Philadelphia; and the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. (For the complete roster of Top 25 schools, see accompanying list.)
To determine the rankings for its “Most Connected Campuses” list, The Princeton Review solicited data from 357 top colleges and universities around the country, asking them 20 questions about the technological sophistication of their campuses.
Editors at The Princeton Review assigned point values to each question based on the perceived importance of that aspect of campus life. Some of the more heavily weighted factors included the ratio of computers to students; whether a campus-wide network is in place; whether the school has a wireless network; whether students can register for classes online; and whether the school streams video or audio of courses online. (For the full criteria, see related story.)
To refine its ratings and reflect the importance of emerging technologies, The Princeton Review made several changes to last year’s survey, adding questions ranging from whether a school offers network access in its dorm lounges to whether it has a computer-ethics policy in place.
As a result of these changes, as well as new initiatives under way at the surveyed campuses, the rankings have changed radically since last year. Only four schools in last year’s top 25–Bryant University, UNC-Chapel Hill, the University of South Dakota, and Hofstra University–appear on this year’s list.
The Princeton Review
“America’s Most Connected Campuses”
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute