The Power of Technology Access in Education
Archange Umugabe turned her curiosity about computers and technology into a career, first studying Computer Electronics in high school before getting a degree in Information Systems from Akilah, the women’s Institute at Davis College. Archange parlayed that passion for technology into a Salesforce Administrator role for Davis College, where she hopes her path can help inspire young students to explore technology.
Growing up in Rwanda, Archange and her peers had limited access to computers, technology and the internet. But that didn’t put a stop to her curiosity. Once given the opportunity, Archange started working with computers and exploring the capabilities of technology.
“It’s not common here that we get familiar with computers at an early age. So I was curious,” she said. “I was so curious that I went to study it in high school and fell in love with it. I started to wonder, ‘How can I start coding to provide technical solutions to real life problems?’”
That curiosity led her to a career in technology, with a current focus on supporting ed tech at her alma mater. During her time as a student and now as a young professional, Archange has seen the importance access to technology can play in the lives of students.
Critical Access to Technology for Students
Access to technology is a hot topic in higher education as campus shutdowns shone a bright light on the disparate access to technology students face. But outside of the United States, higher education institutions have been addressing this concern for some time. Forward-looking institutions like Davis College make it a point to provide students with access to technology that they may not have had when they were younger.
As a student, Archange saw first hand the power of providing students with a technology-enabled education.
“Speaking from personal experience, I’m grateful for Davis College because it’s doing a great job of introducing technology to students and empowering students with the ability to interact with technology and use technology throughout their education.”
The college provides students with personal devices to use throughout their education, something that Archange notes isn’t always available for students at other institutions in Rwanda. Access to technology isn’t the only hurdle for students though. Once devices are in their hands, they also have to learn how to use them and become digitally savvy. This is another area where smart, student-focused institutions can play a major role.
“On top of giving us devices that helped us throughout our education, we did a bridge program that introduced us to basic technology, like using emails,” Archange explained. “It might sound funny, but we did not get to be familiar with using emails or even using Google products to connect and interact with each other outside of school. So through that bridge program we got introduced to technology — how we could use it to interact with each other, how we can use it to properly research and to make sure we’re secure online.”
For students who haven’t had regular access to computers or the internet, these tools can be life changing, offering a way to connect, a path to new career opportunities and providing general life skills like internet literacy.
COVID Pushes Tech to the Forefront
COVID-19 forced schools around the globe to embrace ed tech solutions and speed up digital transformation initiatives. Like everywhere else, Archange noted that Davis College had no choice but to move everything online. But she sees this as a positive shift. While Davis College students had been exposed to technology in an educational setting, the pandemic forced other schools to also embrace technology, a change Archange hopes sticks around. Having personally experienced the power of technology, Archange wants more students to have the ability to interact and further their educational experience, regardless of their school.
“I’m very happy to see colleges and universities launching systems that help students interact, read academic materials and ask their instructors and teachers about certain points,” she said. “I’m really hoping this is a change for the better. I’m really hoping it’s opening other institution’s eyes to see how technology can really help in such a big way.”
Even at Davis College, Archange saw more students interacting with technology because of the pandemic. The school was lucky that it already had technology solutions in place that students were familiar with, allowing them to stay connected and be engaged in their education while away from campus. But being remote pushed students to dive deeper into tech.
“[Before] students might have relied on notes they took in class, but being remote forced them to check the systems and become interactive online because they couldn’t ask questions or get details in person. It pushed them to learn and explore the systems more.”
The Benefits of a “Virtual” Institution
As things slowly return to normal, Archange still sees the benefits of having comprehensive technology solutions that allow students to interact from anywhere. With online access to classes, course materials and professors, students can take better control of their educational journey. Moving critical communication online helps everyone succeed.
“Students don’t have to wait to be physically together with other students in the same class to ask a question. They know they’ll post it and people can comment, reply, like. A student can share materials or reach out to their instructor or another staff members. Even staff members don’t have to wait for a student to come on campus to tell them, ‘You have to fill out these forms, etc.’ They just have to post it and students become aware of what they needed to do and it really made life easier.”