College presidents sending mixed messages about technology

The report finds that presidents' beliefs about the mission of higher education are linked to their views on online learning.

Most college presidents say they use technology every day, yet only half say online courses are comparable to traditional courses—and nearly all say plagiarism has increased as a result of technology, according to a recent survey. However, college presidents also believe online courses and technology are the keys to higher education’s future.

These are the results from a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, in association with the Chronicle of Higher Education, in which 1,055 presidents from two-year and four-year private, public, and for-profit colleges and universities were surveyed online about technology use in higher education.

The results seem a bit contradictory: Though only half (51 percent) of the college presidents surveyed say online courses provide the same value as traditional courses, more than 77 percent say their institutions now offer online courses. Fifty percent also say that 10 years from now, most students will take online classes.

And though 55 percent of college presidents said plagiarism in students’ papers has increased over the past 10 years, and 89 percent said computers and the internet have played a major role in this phenomenon, 62 percent anticipate that 10 years from now, more than half of the textbooks used by their undergraduate students will be entirely digital. Also, only 2 percent of those surveyed said the use of personal technology by students is prohibited in their institution’s classrooms.

College presidents might seem ambivalent about technology use in higher education, but most have embraced it on a personal level: 87 percent use a smart phone daily, 83 percent use a desktop computer, and 65 percent use a laptop. Almost half use an iPad or tablet computer, and almost half also use an eReader.

Though the report doesn’t delve into why college presidents believe what they do, other findings from the report might shed light on why some results seem contradictory.

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