The old days of education technology service partnerships, where acquisition and implementation challenges were the biggest hurdle to what would be deemed ‘success,’ are just that — days of old. The new imperative is to improve learner outcomes through faculty efficiency with education technology.
To be sure, implementation roadblocks will inevitably arise in any technology-related project. But it is 2014, and technology departments have come a long way since the early days of online education. Implementation challenges aren’t the millstone they used to be and many of the kinks have been worked out. Now, the biggest challenge is getting the technology adopted once it’s up and running, and it’s no longer good enough to have 10 percent of faculty on board. That’s because technology usage for teaching and learning has become an institutional priority, a shift due to four primary trends:
1. The Growth of Digital Learners
Their world is without boundaries; it is immediate and accessible from anywhere, anytime, and that is how they want to learn. Students also want to make sure their school is technologically adept and can prepare them for jobs of the future. Basic demands, such as convenient access to technology, well-designed student tools and support availability 24/7 are no longer sufficient. Students expect all of their professors to actively use the latest technology in the classroom and increasingly expect digital content to be available, both in the classroom and online, for all courses. If an institution cannot deliver on the promise of technology use, students will consider other options that support their needs.
2. The Rise of the Non-Traditional Learner
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 85 percent of students in higher education today are considered non-traditional, usually defined as adults, part-time and/or working students. While higher education as a whole is increasingly moving to mobile (it’s predicted that 91 percent of college students will be using a smartphone by 2016), non-traditional students have an especially high need for mobility — from accessing course content on mobile devices to collaborating with peers with Web conferencing — to get their work done. If instructors aren’t leveraging technology to make it easy to access course content and interact with classmates, these students will struggle.
3. Increased Recognition of Student Engagement as Central
Student engagement has become urgent for institutional leaders to address major educational issues such as retention, and technology can help. For example, technology exists that enables schools to identify students at the first sign of trouble in courses and in student life, and even flag students at risk of failing before the course begins. This capability has become mission-critical and will become even more important as the transition to outcomes-based state funding models continues.
4. Data Becoming King
Lastly, we’ve all heard about the need for big data in education. Student activity online, individual rubric scores and test question alignment to program standards are just a few examples of data that could be collected and used for institutional benefit. Broad technology adoption across the learning lifecycle is necessary to drive the deep sets of data that can be acted on to inform institutional decisions, identify trends or even predict success. Institutions are missing out on big data’s potential if faculty and students aren’t using the technology that creates the data to begin with.
Five Tips to Increase Faculty Effectiveness
These trends create a new imperative for deep usage of technology in teaching and learning, but the ever-growing set of uses for technology creates a dynamic and complex landscape for institutions to navigate. Here are a few tips to get started:
1) Lower adoption barriers to faculty who aren’t yet comfortable with the technology, but make sure the tech-savvy folks are satisfied. Choose technology that is easy to use, but also has the deep functionality today’s digital natives expect.
2) Recruit champions and convert the laggards. Empower the technology champions to sway their peers, but also find a faculty member or two who are the primary voice of resistance and meet with them. Discuss how greater adoption of technology can aid in student success and help meet student expectations to help convert them to advocates.
3) Look for quick wins that positively impact the learner experience. Introduce a technology that directly affects students and show faculty how it helps students succeed and improves workflow. Use data to prove the case.
4) Partner for best practices. Engage or consult with a team that understands the use of technology throughout the student lifecycle and that can help you enhance faculty effectiveness. A high level of faculty support through good training and consulting at the onset helps schools increase adoption in the long run.
5) Make expectations for faculty technology usage consistent so the learner experience is engaging regardless of department, course or professor. Allow for academic freedom within courses, but make effective practice templates available. Set “minimum guidelines” for navigation and other key student experience items you want to be consistent across the institution.
It is a positive development that the new imperative in education technology service partnerships is faculty usage and efficiency and student-focused outcomes. It means we’re getting closer to a future where technology fulfills its potential to enable the transformation of education.
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