Faculty: Here’s what we really do with technology

The recently released 2013-2014 HERI Faculty Survey offers unique insight into faculty feelings on online courses and teaching practices

HERI-survey-teachersThough most faculty members have still not fully embraced teaching exclusively online courses, many are using technology in an attempt to enhance student-centered instruction, according to the results of a new survey conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA.

These findings are among some of the most interesting insights provided by the 2013-2014 HERI Undergraduate Teaching Faculty Survey, which is based on responses from over 16,000 full-time undergraduate teaching faculty members at 269 four-year colleges and universities.

In addition to new questions for faculty about their perceptions of campus climate and their sexual orientation and gender identity, the study also focused on assessing experiences with academic advising and the commitment of teachers to the spiritual development of students. Also, the study featured a module that was specifically aimed at teachers in STEM fields.

Overall, the results represent an expansive view of the current relationship between teaching and technology. Though faculty seem willing to embrace change to some degree and use new technology to enhance their existing practices, they are less keen on relying on fully online formats.

But just how stark are the actual statistics?

(Next Page: See the statistics and learn more about what’s inside the HERI survey)

According to the survey, the percentage of teachers who have taught at least one exclusively online course has not risen dramatically since the last survey, which was conducted in 2012, rising from 14 percent to only 17.4 percent.

However, among that 17.4 percent, there is a split between teachers from public vs. private institutions. At four-year public colleges, 27.2 percent of undergraduate faculty reported that they have taught an exclusively online course, whereas only 8.5 percent of teachers at private universities have done the same.

Faculty are also using technology, such as YouTube and other videos in the classroom. 50 percent of all faculty said they incorporate it ‘occasionally,’ and 36 percent of professors do so ‘frequently.’ About 16 percent of professors ‘frequently’ ask their students to contribute to online discussion boards, while 34 percent ‘occasionally’ do.

However, access to resources is restricted for adjuncts, notes the survey: Across institutions, just 40 percent have access to a personal computer, and 36 percent to an official phone or voicemail. Most (95 percent) do have a university email account. Yet, just 14 percent have access to professional development funds.

Other major findings reveal that, overall, teachers are embracing new teaching and learning methods, many of which can be supported by use of technology.

For example, many teachers say they placing great emphasis on the individual student in their classrooms [personalized learning], a trend which has been continually rising for the last 25 years. Teachers are shifting their styles to “promote critical thinking skills by providing collaborative learning environments, opportunities for reflection, self-evaluation, and student-driven selection of coursework.”

Faculty are also beginning to embrace peer evaluation for course work, a trend that has tippled from 10 percent in 1989-1990 to 28 percent in this year’s survey. Additionally, faculty reliance on group projects and cooperative learning are the highest they’ve ever been, at 45.5 percent and 60.7 percent respectively.

Conversely, faculty use of lecturing has dropped by more than 5 percent since 1989. Now, only 50.6 percent of faculty lecture regularly, which represents a major shift towards faculty trying out new approaches in order to keep students engaged.

For more information on the survey, as well as data on diversity concerns, adjunct resources, and faculty-administration relations, read the full report here.

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