Student apathy, along with a lack of communication between faculty and university administrations, remain big obstacles for professors, according to a new survey of higher-ed faculty.

The 2018 Professor Pulse Point Survey, from Top Hat, asked almost 2,000 faculty members to weigh in on higher ed issues ranging from active learning and policy to tuition and compensation.

A common theme emerged when survey participants were asked for thoughts on how to improve the relationship between faculty and the administration: communication. Some say faculty input isn’t much desired, other say they would like more school-wide communication and opportunities to work on interdisciplinary collaborations, and others would like to hire administrators who have previously been faculty.

The survey reveals a number of insights and trends from surveyed faculty:

1. Sixty-one percent of professors think apathy among students has increased in the past decade, and many professors say they want to use technology to not only modernize their courses, but motivate students. Seventy-one percent of all surveyed professors cited making the classroom more engaging as their biggest priority.

2. Most surveyed faculty members (87 percent) think the cost of tuition is too high, and because of that, they question if students are getting their money’s worth. When asked to rank from 1-10 how well the current higher-ed system is preparing students for their careers, the average response clocked in at a 6.7. Textbooks also are deemed too expensive, with 90 percent saying they cost too much. Only 33 percent of educators say their students read the assigned text, and 76 percent incorporate interactive, digital learning materials into their course content.

3. Faculty members are split on whether a post-secondary education is necessary for success in life–51 percent say yes, while 49 percent say no.

4. Three-quarters (74 percent) of educators aren’t happy with how the current federal administration could impact higher ed’s future. They mention access and financial support, the ability to make informed decisions, and the administration’s support of for-profit education as just a few of many concerns.

5. Educators identified a number of issues currently facing their institution:

  • Maintaining or increasing academic standards (41.4 percent)
  • Insufficient funding (60 percent)
  • Graduates not being ready for employment (18 percent)
  • Student retention (33 percent)
  • Decreased enrollment (35 percent)
  • Completion (22.5 percent)
  • Staffing (31.2 percent)

6. Most faculty are primarily motivated by their students–72 percent say their top motivation for continuing a career in higher ed is their desire to teach students. Nineteen percent want to continue research in their field, 4 percent plan to move into higher-ed administration, 2 percent want to reach tenure, and 3 percent identified other motivations.

7. In a perfect world, a work week would focus on teaching (91 percent), meeting with students (61 percent), researching (57 percent), course planning (44 percent), speaking at conferences (20 percent), boosting their institution’s profile (7 percent), administrative tasks (7 percent), and department/committee meetings (6 percent).

8. Student comprehension and success (87 percent), increasing student participation and engagement (72 percent), and preparing students to enter the workforce (54 percent) are the top three things faculty members identified as most important to them as educators.

9. Of faculty using in-class technology to reach students, 76 percent use an LMS such as Blackboard, Canvas, or Moodle; 71 percent use lecture slides (down from 86 percent in 2017), 35 percent use mobile devices, 20 percent use social media (down from 48 percent), 19 percent use attendance tracking tools, 17 percent use polling tools, and 13 percent use clickers.

10. Of professors using technology in the classroom, 85 percent are hoping to improve engagement, 81 percent are targeting active learning, 37 percent are using it to improve assessment, and 32 percent use it for blended learning.

11. Eighty-six percent of faculty allow personal devices in classrooms, and 14 percent say they do not.

12. Sixty-eight percent of faculty make the decision on what technology gets used in their classroom, and cost to students (56 percent), ability to customize course materials (52 percent), and the ability to integrate with existing technology (50 percent) are the top three factors informing their final choice.

13. The biggest challenges to teaching are students not coming to class prepared (69 percent), students not paying attention or participating in class (51 percent), students not comprehending the materials (33 percent), and students not coming to class (30 percent; despite students not coming to class prepared or participating, 73 percent of professors say they think their students care about learning).

14. On a scale of 1 to 10, the average faculty rank regarding career satisfaction is a 7.5.

The survey’s 1,956 respondents currently teach at colleges and universities across North America. Fifty-eight percent are full-time faculty and 31 percent are part-time or adjunct faculty.

About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura

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