Research: Faculty and IT Administrator Views of Tech in Higher Ed, Part 1

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Inside Higher Ed recently released its fifth annual Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology. Conducted by Gallup, the survey is designed to better understand perceptions among faculty members and academic IT leaders about online learning and other technology-related issues in higher education. The survey findings represent the views of professionals from private, public and for-profit institutions, including two-year and four-year colleges.

The past year has been one of innovation for educational technology as new vendors and tools have entered the market, promising to improve teaching and research. However, longstanding concerns about the effectiveness of online learning remain. Some question whether the tools are worth the price, while others believe technology makes it possible to improve engagement and access among a more diverse set of students.

In this post, we’ll dig into survey data related to faculty use of technology, as well as assessments and cybersecurity.

Faculty Use of Technology

For what purposes are faculty members using their institution’s learning management system (LMS)? Most (85 percent) use the LMS for sharing syllabus information with students, while 71 percent use it to record grades and 69 percent use it to communicate with students.

Half of respondents use the LMS to provide learning materials to students. A much smaller group of respondents said they use the LMS to track student attendance (39 percent), identify students who need extra help (35 percent) and integrate lecture capture (25 percent).

Instructors with online teaching experience are more likely to use the LMS on a regular basis than those without such experience. In some areas, such as recording grades, tracking attendance and communicating with students, the disparity between experienced and inexperienced online instructors is significant.

Assessments

More and more colleges and universities are relying on data gathered by various types of technology to determine if objectives are being met and identify problem areas. Many assessments are internal, but some are required by government agencies that distribute funding to schools.

This year’s study revealed widespread skepticism about the motivation and the impact of these assessments. Nearly two-thirds of surveyed faculty agree or strongly agree that assessments seem primarily focused on satisfying accreditors and politicians. Data is constantly being collected, but many respondents question how that data is being used.

Just 27 percent of faculty agree or strongly agree that assessments have resulted in a higher quality of learning, and 25 percent agree or strongly agree that degree completion rates have improved. Fifty-four percent disagree or strongly disagree with the notion that assessment data helps faculty improve teaching.

Cybersecurity

Cybercriminals don’t just target large brands and government agencies. Higher education institutions and their mountains of financial and personally identifiable information are highly sought after by hackers. IT administrators (76 percent) have more confidence than faculty (58 percent) in their institution’s ability to protect data. IT administrators (83 percent) and faculty members (64 percent) are not worried much or at all that security policies could infringe on user privacy.

In the next post, we’ll discuss online learning and related topics, including outcomes, quality and support.