Reminiscing about campus life, we wax poetic on practices long gone or on their way out

campus-practices-studentsLast year, we published a throw-back piece on technology in the K-12 classroom that was either on its way out or long gone—ranging from technology like floppy disks to The Oregon Trail. But higher education, though known to practice traditions longer, has also changed dramatically over the last few decades.

With ages ranging from early 60s to our interns who are literally still in college, eCampus News decided to compile a list of practices and traditions we either remembered when going to college that no longer exist or are quickly becoming extinct in its current form.

Have any practices or traditions you remember that aren’t on campus today? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Be sure to leave your comments in the section provided below, email me at mstansbury@ecampusnews.com, or find me @eSN_Meris on Twitter.

(Next page: Campus practices of the past)

[Listed in alphabetical order]

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1. Handwriting.

Once a medium taught in grade school and later turned into shorthand for collegiate note-taking, typing has replaced ‘the art of handwriting’ thanks to laptops and tablets. Even the New York Times recently questioned its existence.

During class, a sea of laptops often surrounds students, with most trying to type every word that their professor says—and some experts believe that this prevents the material from really sinking in.  Yet, students also argue that in some classes, professors still ban the use of laptops, leaving students to deal with the fear of not being able to get everything down on paper in a timely fashion.

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2. Library card catalogs.

First appearing in the late 19th century as a way to store and organize information, students relied on card catalogs until the dawn of the internet and the eventual creation of the online public access catalog (OPAC).

I was on spring vacation with my family, touring colleges in New England. One day we arrived at Yale University and walked into its Sterling Memorial Library. As I took pictures of the architecture, I heard my mom gasp. I turned and saw her facing a wooden structure with tiny drawers. When I asked what it was, she couldn’t believe I didn’t know. As she explained to me what library catalogs were, she opened up a drawer so that I could see the collection of alphabetized cards inside. But the box was empty. All of them were. Panicked, my mom ended up asking a library worker why there were no cards in the card catalog. We discovered that the catalog was there ‘just for show.’ My mom looked heartbroken. Perhaps that’s the only use for library catalogs nowadays: to create a moment of nostalgia for parents and puzzlement for their children.” – Molly Schulson, intern at eCampus News and current student at Brown University.

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3. Orientation (traditional).

One of the most recent practices to undergo major change is traditional orientation. With so many digital tools available to colleges, and more students with access to the internet, the tradition of standing in long lines at various locations across campus in the hot August sun to hand in paperwork and receive instructions is becoming obsolete (thankfully).

“Nothing was automated back when I started college in the 70s. So much time was spent, usually up to two days, just going to different parts of campus to register for things. Looking back, it was so antiquated because I took one of the first computer classes, where you had to use computer cards for commands. Nowadays, everything is online. My daughter, who just went through her orientation at James Madison University, created a personal account with the college to access her acceptance status. All paperwork for orientation is automated now. And it’s the same for parents! Billing goes through online tools, and my daughter even has to go into her account to allow me access to her student information. It’s convenient, intuitive for today’s students, and so much easier than even a decade ago.” – Rob Morrow, CEO of eSchool Media and graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University.

(Next page: 4-5)

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4. Physical course catalogs.

Again, thanks to the proliferation of online digital tools available through easy-interface and low-cost software, student course options are now available on campus websites. But that wasn’t always the norm.

“Prior to the first semester of my freshman year of college, my dad came home from work one day with a very large stack of paper. It was hundreds of pages thick and it looked like it had killed a forest. When he handed me the papers, I looked down to see that it was my school’s course catalog. Didn’t he realize that I could access all of this online without wasting a single sheet of paper? With everything digitized, students can access all of the next semesters’ classes with a click of a button. Syllabi are usually posted online as well as a copy of books they will be reading, with links on how to purchase them. Not only that, but students can also access websites that rate and review particular professors and classes. It’s awesome.” –Schulson.

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5. Tours (traditional).

Thanks to recent advances in video technology, as well as digital signage, student-hosted campus tours and question-and-answer sessions—formerly constrained to how chatty the tour leader felt that day–are starting to become less of a necessity thanks to campus virtual tours and online social networks (Twitter, Facebook and campus community forums).

“One of the things I dreaded most about my college search experience was the physical tour. I hated that all the other students already going to that college knew I was still in high school. I was extremely shy, and what compounded that shyness was the fact that my dad was not shy. He insisted on going with me on the tours and would whip out his video camera, shouting to ‘stand by the coffee shop, kiddo!’ and ‘Hey, stinker! Ask the guide if they have any good bars!’ I was mortified. There was no Facebook yet, no Twitter, no virtual tours available to me and my crippling shyness. I hear that some universities now intentionally separate out parents from student orientation, specifically because they don’t want the ‘helicopter parent’ thing happening. Man…sounds nice!” – Meris Stansbury, Managing Editor of eCampus News, graduate of Kenyon College, and recovering victim of Parental Embarrassment Syndrome (PES).


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