Technology has exploded in higher education, as new computers, smartphones, and tablets are released that can provide faculty and students better opportunities to teach content and learn new material.
While technology can potentially improve connections between students and educators, there may still be challenges on the school's end with providing Internet access and support for all.
U.S. News & World Report is highlighting colleges and universities that excel in these areas with its first-ever ranking of the Most Connected Colleges. Questions about online services were included in U.S. News's survey of schools for the 2013 Best Colleges rankings, published in September 2012. Of the 1,471 schools that supplied U.S. News with connectivity data, 278 scored high enough to be numerically ranked.
[Learn how the Most Connected Colleges were ranked.]
Maine's Bowdoin College, a National Liberal Arts College, took the No. 1 spot in the inaugural ranking. The school provides its 1,778 students with discounts for laptops, 24-hour computer labs, wireless access from anywhere on campus, Ethernet access in all dorm rooms, and private cloud storage, among other technology offerings. Earlier this year, the college replaced every wireless access point across campus, encompassing 95 buildings, with Cisco's 3600 series wireless access points--considered the world's fastest wireless technology.
Bowdoin scored 79.9 out of 100 on a "Connectivity Index" that takes into account the school's Internet speed and access for students and faculty, technology resources available on campus, as well as an institution's mobile applications and cloud storage services.
With a smaller student body and leaner financial endowment than other larger colleges and universities, Bowdoin may not be the first school many would think of as the most connected institution in the country. But among the top 25 schools on the Most Connected list, 12 institutions support an undergraduate enrollment of fewer than 5,000 students, and 19 have fewer than 10,000 students.
[Read more about technology in the classroom.]
While Internet access appears to be a standard resource on college campuses, it's not always available to students everywhere at some schools. Among the top 25 schools on the Most Connected list, only three universities do not provide Wi-Fi to 100 percent of all on-campus housing facilities. Northeastern University in Boston, the seventh-ranked university on the list, offers Wi-Fi to just 15 percent of its dormitories and campus housing.
Although it may be easier for a smaller school to provide Internet access for its academic population, some institutions also stand out by equipping students with technology for academic use. Seton Hall University in New Jersey, the fifth-ranked school on the Most Connected list, for example, provides incoming freshmen with laptops and smartphones--a program that Seton Hall started this year.
Geographically, schools in the Northeast did particularly well in the Most Connected rankings. Among the top 25 schools, 13 colleges and universities reside in the Northeast region, including four schools in Pennsylvania and three schools in New York. Six schools reside in the Southeast region, four are located in the West, and one school apiece resides in the Midwest and Southwest regions.
Colleges and universities on the Most Connected list are ranked based on four composite measures, each worth one fourth of the overall Connectivity Index: Internet speed, Internet access, applications, and resources. Schools that scored a 50 or higher in the Index have been ranked.
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