Survey Suggests Campus Technology is Underused
by Dennis Carter, Assistant Editor
Fewer than half of college students responding to a national survey said their professors are using instructional technology, and educators worry that the technology gap between faculty and students might hinder campus learning.
The study also revealed a jump in the percentage of students who use technology to prepare for college classes. Eighty-one percent said they used computers, social networking, and other tools to study, marking an 18-point increase from 2008, according to CDW-G's "21st Century Campus Report," which was released this fall.
The report includes responses from more than 1,000 faculty members, college students, and campus IT staff.
The 2008 survey established a baseline for educational technology on college campuses, and this year's report details how higher-education officials are reacting to students' shifting technology preferences.
Forty-five percent of students said technology was "fully integrated into their curriculum," a 9-percent decrease from last year. Only three out of 10 students and two of 10 faculty members surveyed said colleges and universities were "preparing students to successfully use technology when they enter the workforce."
Russel Stolins, an adjunct faculty member at Santa Fe Community College in New Mexico, said fellow faculty are too often amazed during technology workshops, revealing just how little some professors know about classroom technology.
"Most of my faculty colleagues, I don't consider them necessarily front runner when it comes to using technology," said Stolins, who teaches an online writing course.
Use of instructional technology such as video and audio lecture-capturing systems and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter is often lacking in community colleges, where many professors are adjuncts who don't have time for lengthy professional development meetings and seminars.
"I think they're interested, but they could be intimated by technology," he said, adding that campuses may find faculty workshops unaffordable while most colleges struggle to maintain viable operating budgets. "I think there is the desire to learn, but I don't think schools have the time or the resources to teach it to faculty."
Students are using far more technology tools than their professors, according to the survey. Thirty-one percent of students said they use an iPod for educational purposes, compared to 12 percent of faculty. And 52 percent of students use open-source tools like Google Apps, a site where students can create study guides from different locations, among other uses. Fourteen percent of faculty said they use open-source tools for educational reasons.
Brian Friedlander, an assistant professor at the College of Saint Elizabeth in Morristown, N.J., said that each year, lecture halls are filled with students who expect more technology to be used in everyday lessons. Freshmen today, he said, are far more tech-savvy than first-year students as recently as five years ago.
"Students in our classrooms don't know a time when technology wasn't a major part of their everyday lives," said Friedlander, creator of the DVD, Assistive Technology: Powerful Solutions For Success. "They almost have to downshift now when they enter the classroom."
This year's CDW-G report reflects students' growing expectations. Seventy-six percent of student respondents said it was important for their campus to have a wireless internet network, compared to 50 percent in 2008. More than 60 percent of students said campuses must have computer labs--an 11-percent jump--and 53 percent said their college should have a course management system such as Blackboard, a 22-percent increase from 2008.
Campus IT officials recognize the prevalence of educational technology. More than seven out of 10 IT staff members surveyed said technology was "very important to incoming students." Fifty-eight percent of IT officials agreed with that statement last year.
The survey highlighted divergent views about the devices and strategies that create an effective 21st-century classroom.
While most IT staff and faculty agreed that wireless internet and LCD projectors were keys to a modern classroom, only 41 percent of faculty said interactive whiteboards were an important tool, compared to 73 percent of IT staff members. Six of 10 IT officials said video and voice lecture recordings were critical on campuses, whereas three of 10 faculty members agreed.
K-12 educators said high school teachers get a close-up preview of students' classroom technology expectations. Ignoring online video and web-based interaction with students is no longer an option as teenagers use laptops and mobile devices more in every aspect of their lives, including reviewing, studying, and doing homework, K-12 officials said.
"I believe that educators who become tech-savvy can combine their many years of educational expertise with the new ways kids engage themselves with technology for the best of both worlds," said Michael Smith, superintendent of Oakland Community Unit School District No. 5.
"Many educators don't know what they don't know. They have no idea of the shift that is occurring to the way kids learn through the use of technology."