Aron Goldman, an adjunct faculty member of the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus, said the survey’s findings wouldn’t surprise many in higher education who have seen first-hand the divergent views of campus IT officials and instructors.
“Academics can be real curmudgeons,” he said. “Individualistic culture, course repetition, and the length of tenure careers make it pretty challenging for IT folks to win over faculty.”
The push to incorporate evolving technology into college courses, Hyman said, is needed in higher education, but the clash between technology staff members and professors often stems from IT departments’ wide-ranging advocacy for the latest and greatest in online tools.
“The IT people don’t really understand from the inside what it’s like to teach a course,” he said. “They are on board for a broad spectrum of technology, whereas professors and students are making more fine-grained distinctions.”
Ronald Yaros, an assistant journalism professor at the University of Maryland, said IT staffers will always advocate for most technologies that can be used in the classroom, but it’s up to instructors to evaluate each tool and decide if it improves or hinders teaching and course work.
“It takes additional effort to adapt existing course content, then assess the effectiveness of technology to deliver the content interactively,” said Yaros, who was among the earliest adopters of Apple’s iPad when it was released in April. “How does a tool improve learning and why? [This is] a question only professors can answer.”
Tammy Peery, chair of the English Department at Montgomery College’s Germantown, Md. campus, said educators should accept suggestions from IT staff members, but shouldn’t incorporate a new software or online program before they’re sure it will help their students learn more efficiently.
“Teaching with technology isn’t about being flashier or faster or even easier,” said Peery, Maryland’s distance educator of the year in 2009. “If we have those things, but student success suffers, we haven’t improved anything. Faculty want to ensure that the new technology actually improves student learning and that it’s accessible to the majority of students.”
Peery continued: “It makes sense that most faculty would want to make sure that this type of teaching and learning is viable before deciding that it is essential and relearning course design for a new format.”
CDW-G’s report also shows that little has changed in students’ most pressing concerns about how technology is used by their professors. About one-fourth of student respondents said the “biggest impediment” to improved classroom technology is their professors’ inability to use the devices and online programs.
Fourteen percent said professors simply “won’t use” technology that is available to them. Eighteen percent of IT staffers agreed.
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