Why higher ed should be more like Formula One (and less like NASCAR)

Understanding why ownership of innovation is critical to faculty success with technology.

Copyright: ZRyzner /

As individuals who have taught in higher education classrooms, we know that when it comes to the next generation of innovative technology, professors are looking for two things: effective solutions that allow for meaningful learning experiences, but also tools that allow for their own unique pedagogical strategies.

The challenge comes in identifying the tools that are not only user-friendly, but also provide teachers with the freedom to create a learning experience (presenting material which may be significantly more sophisticated than just text or video clips), deploy it to students, collect information about student use, and analyze that data to inform progress toward learning objectives.

We think about this intersection of professorial preference, tools, and feedback asPedagogical Ownership”: The ability of educators to make a learning experience “their own.”  A more formal definition of the term may be:

The ability to exert influence over the materials, modalities, and methods involved in creating a meaningful learning experience, as well as the flexibility to modify component pieces based on analysis of observational or experiential feedback.     

In the traditional lecture setting, this means determining the lecture content (materials); choosing the demonstrations, anecdotes, or multimedia resources needed to bring the topic to life (modality); utilizing the teaching strategies needed to meet the learning objectives (methods); and reading the audience to gauge their level of understanding and adapting the lecture on the fly if necessary (modifications).

However, this becomes significantly more complex in the digital context.

To have the same level of pedagogical ownership over a digital tool (which students may use outside of class), professors must be able to control all of the same components. The tool most fit to achieve this control must be both powerful and easy to use– developed first and foremost to support professors, and create a synergy similar to that between a race car driver and his or her machine.

(Next page: What we can learn from racing)