Do Faculty Fear Technology?

Moodle Guide for Teachers
Moodle Guide for Teachers (st0nemas0nry)
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It’s embarrassing to admit this, but there are times when classroom technology just defeats me.

I know I’m not the only faculty member who has felt the deep burning shame of inadequacy when a student has had to come to my rescue in front of all my students by fiddling a bit with some buttons and once again restoring 21st century audio-visual wizardry to my class, while I stand by helplessly.

I never get used to that, because there’s probably nothing worse than appearing incompetent in front of students who seem to have been born with smartphones growing from their palms.

That fact that I’m not the only professor in this situation is small comfort, especially now that online teaching has presented faculty with new learning challenges. In today’s higher education world, even the most experienced educators become students struggling to develop new skills.

This process has engendered all the angst and hesitance you would expect when teaching old dogs new tricks. In fact, the second half of the Inside Higher Ed and Babson College Survey on Professors and Technology shows that most higher ed faculty members are ambivalent at best and resistant at worst to adopting new digital technologies.

Here are the four main points of the survey’s Executive Summary. Faculty members are:
  1. generally “more pessimistic than optimistic about online learning,” in sharp contrast to administrators who are overwhelmingly positive about online learning.
  2. deeply concerned about quality and “believe that the learning outcomes for an online course are inferior or somewhat inferior to those for a comparable face-to-face course.”
  3. more positive about online learning when they have some experience with it and “faculty with direct online teaching experience have, by far, the most positive views towards online education.”
  4. convinced that college administrators are “pushing too much instruction online” and do not have the institutional resources to support such programs and provide faculty support.
Interestingly, the majority of professors (60%) recommend online courses when advising students. That figure grows to 80% when they have experience teaching online. In other words, despite concerns about course quality, they still suggest online courses to their students.

This discrepancy in viewpoint is probably due to the survey’s discovery that professors are, in general, “excited about various technology-driven trends in higher education, including the growth of e-textbooks and digital library collections, the increased use of data monitoring as a way to track student performance along with their own, and the increasingly popular idea of ‘flipping the classroom.’”

Clearly, college instructors walk the line when it comes to new technology: excited about the possibilities, but largely worried about quality.

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