What stands between faculty and technology adoption? According the the 21st Century Campus Report, there are three challenges that currently face the higher education community.
Faculty lack the necessary tech skills and many training programs are ineffective.
According to faculty, 81 percent of institutions are providing technology-specific professional development. Yet, as previously mentioned, the biggest challenge to campus technology integration is faculty’s lack of technology knowledge. Simply put, existing training programs are failing to properly train instructors.
To improve training, faculty members polled say colleges need to provide training that is discipline specific. Training faculty with a general approach is not as helpful because it doesn’t apply to their disciplines. Faculty also recommend that campuses have tech-savvy faculty teach their peers. The report found that all too often, people who don’t actually use technology in the classroom are training them.
In fact, during the fall 2011 semester, Pepperdine University hosted a one-day technology conference, where faculty discussed their strategies and successes in incorporating technology in their classrooms.
“Having professors teach their peers is the key,” Hoover says. “It’s not just an IT person up there. It’s one of their peers, so it breaks down barriers. The faculty members are not as intimidated and are more open to learning. They think, ‘My colleagues are doing it, so why can’t I do that too?’”
IT staff and college administrators are not on the same page.
Administrators place less importance on key classroom technologies, such as digital content, off-campus network access, virtual learning, and notebook and mobile computing devices. For example, 76 percent of IT staffers say digital content is essential, but only 66 percent of administrators feel the same way.
One way to bridge that gap is to regularly survey the campus community on their technology needs and share those results with administrators. That’s been Pepperdine University’s strategy and it helps tech projects get funded there.
For example, a few years ago, Pepperdine’s students gave the campus Wi-Fi network bad reviews. The IT department presented this data to university administrators and received $850,000 to upgrade wireless access.
“Students tell us exactly what they want and we can go to the administration and say, ‘These are the projects you should prioritize.’ The data collection makes our job easier,” Hoover says.
Digital content utilization is lagging because of cost concerns.
Today, 72 percent of faculty and 66 percent of students say digital content is essential, but only a small percentage of colleges offer it. According to IT staffers polled, 15 percent of schools are using digital content, 13 percent are considering it and 41 percent are considering a combined environment of print textbooks and digital content.
The main barrier to adoption is cost. Students, faculty and IT staff are concerned about the cost of digital textbook devices, such as e-readers and tablets. But they also recognize that once a device is acquired, buying electronic textbooks could be cheaper than purchasing print textbooks.
When asked for a solution to this dilemma, students, faculty and IT staff say campuses should give students the option of purchasing print textbooks or e-readers or tablets, but don’t make one or the other mandatory.