Students on campus, no matter their age, increasingly expect technology to be seamlessly woven into instruction–making it all the more important that higher-ed leaders work to support and increase faculty tech use.
There are a number of reasons to increase faculty tech use on campus, according to a new Barnes & Noble College report, including lowered costs for students as a result of using digital course materials like OER; digital courseware boosting academic achievement with increased engagement; and preparing students for the future workforce by exposing them to the technologies and tools they’ll encounter after graduation.
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“Digital courseware allows us to provide today’s students with learning tools that fit their lifestyle. This digitally native generation expects resources that parallel their interactions with other areas of their lives, including social communication and commerce,” says Kanuj Malhotra, president of digital student solutions at Barnes & Noble Education. “They are looking for seamlessly integrated, easily accessible solutions. Enhanced classroom technology ensures content is available to students whenever and wherever, increasing the opportunity to drive their engagement in the class and subject matter.”
The challenge lies in striking a balance between the academic freedom faculty crave and the imperative to increase faculty tech use for the benefit of the institution and its students.
Faculty tech use does show some promise–30 percent of faculty reported they had taught an online course in 2013, while 41 percent reported the same in 2018. Seventy-two percent of those who taught online courses said it improved their teaching.
Still, the outlook isn’t entirely rosy, which highlights the need for targeted efforts to boost faculty tech use: one-third of teachers have used digital courseware before, but 43 percent of those teachers say digital assessment data did nothing to improve their teaching, and 59 percent says they believe campus initiatives with digital assessment were done primarily to please “outside parties.”
Higher-ed leaders can look to faculty early-adopters in three specific areas to have a positive influence on increasing overall faculty tech use.
1. Enhanced OER: Campuses generally face two obstacles in maximizing the potential of OER, including the time and effort involved in finding relevant work and making sure students have high-quality, peer-reviewed materials. Still, companies are working to make OER adoption easier by developing OER products in collaboration with educators, along with using peer-reviewed OER textbooks as a starting point for courseware development. This all leads to what’s called enhanced OER.
“When faculty incorporate enhanced OER into their classrooms, they accomplish several goals at once. They significantly reduce student course material costs. They build on established ways of learning digital natives bring to the classroom, and they can easily complement their written and verbal feedback with numeric grades or percentages, creating the combination that students say helps them learn the best,” according to the report.
2. Inclusive access: Inclusive access course material programs help students attain affordable texts before classes begin, which, in turn, facilitates academic achievement. Sales are guaranteed, leading publishers to drastically cut prices–giving students financial relief.
“A faculty early-adopter makes an excellent candidate for someone to lead the evolution from traditional course material fulfillment to inclusive access. As these faculty influencers adopt inclusive access and report their successes to committees and peers, an increasing number of faculty will want their courses considered for inclusive access. They will not only trust the process, but possibly seek out ways to become involved,” the authors write.
3. Faculty-focused adoption tools: The right faculty course material adoption tool can ensure faculty have greater awareness of OER and inclusive access. It can also ensure that faculty learn about new materials and technologies from people they trust: their peer group.
“The implementation of such a digital adoption tool lays the groundwork for a vast improvement in the campus technological culture,” the authors assert. “It can advance administrative initiatives in the best possible way: by inspiring faculty to initiate change themselves.”