Jr. colleges outpace 4-year schools in tech use

Most community colleges cannot match the budgets and endowments that are typical of four-year colleges and universities. But that doesn’t mean they are lagging in terms of educational technology: In a recent survey on technology integration in higher education, community colleges actually scored slightly higher than four-year institutions.

Overall, U.S. colleges and universities are only half way to fulfilling their potential for 21st-century teaching and learning, according to CDW-G’s "21st-Century Campus" report. Only a third of professors said technology is fully integrated into the higher-educational experience, and although 63 percent of students said they use technology to prepare for their classes, just 24 percent said they use it during class.

"We really found that technology matters in the classroom, and that came through loud and clear," said Josh Roberts, senior sales manager for CDW-G’s higher-education business. "Students said they wanted it, and faculty said they wanted it. But we also found a disconnect in terms of how often technology is being used in teaching and learning."

College faculty and IT staff agreed that a lack of technology know-how among professors is the biggest barrier to technology integration on campus. Although 85 percent of faculty members said their institutions provide some kind of technology training, 44 percent nevertheless said their biggest challenge is knowing how to use technology in their teaching.

Despite often having fewer resources, community colleges performed slightly higher in CDW-G’s index, with an average score of 48.47 out of 100 possible points–compared with an average overall score of 46.08 for all colleges and universities (including community colleges).

This suggests that technology integration depends more on the culture of an institution than on the size of its budget or endowment, Roberts said.

Community colleges, which tend to serve a larger percentage of commuters and adult professionals, scored especially high in supporting the use of podcasting and distance education to deliver instruction. According to the survey, 94 percent of community colleges offer online-learning opportunities, compared with 74 percent of institutions overall.

But community colleges also lag in certain areas, the index suggests–including using social-networking tools to enhance faculty-student interaction and giving students access to their computer networks off campus.

Only 44 percent of community colleges give their students off-campus network access, compared with 62 percent of institutions overall. That’s an area where community colleges could look to improve, Roberts said.

Regardless of their majors, students indicated that campus technology played a key role in their selection of a college or university. That gives higher-education officials a powerful testimonial to the importance of IT investments on campus, Roberts said.

Students said their No. 1 desired technology was the ability to hold online chats with professors, which was requested by 39 percent of student respondents. Yet only 23 percent of IT staffers said their institutions offer this.

Another key finding: Having "smart" classrooms appears to encourage technology use. Forty-three percent of faculty members who teach in "smart" classrooms–those equipped with devices such as digital projectors, interactive whiteboards, and lecture-capturing systems–said they use technology during every class, compared with 28 percent of faculty members who don’t teach in "smart" classrooms.

CDW-G offered four recommendations for integrating technology more effectively in higher education:

1. Monitor. What’s relevant after graduation? Identify technologies that students will use in their professional careers, by major, and give students training in and exposure to these technologies.

2. Assess. What’s happening on campus? Survey incoming students on their technology needs and expectations; conduct an annual technology assessment that identifies how faculty members use technology in class; and identify challenges, best practices, and key opportunities.

3. Develop. What do professors need? Survey faculty members to learn what they want and need to learn; ensure that professional development accommodates professors’ schedules; identify useful ed-tech case studies and publish them to the faculty community.

4. Connect. How should you use Web 2.0 technologies? Leverage chat, blogs, and social media tools to connect students and faculty members; build a sense of community within and beyond campus; and keep an eye on technology trends to remain competitive.

To help institutions with its second recommendation, CDW-G is making available a technology assessment template that colleges and universities can download free of charge at www.21stcenturycampusindex.com. Campus leaders can complete the assessment, then enter the data on this web site to find out how they stack up against comparable institutions.

CDW-G’s higher-education technology index is based on a survey of 671 students, faculty, and IT executives at colleges and universities nationwide. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.


CDW-G report: "The 21st-Century Campus"

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