Research: Faculty and IT Administrator Views of Tech in Higher Ed, Part 2


In Part 1 of this post, we began a presentation of data and takeaways from Inside Higher Ed’s fifth annual Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology. The survey reveals perceptions related to the use and value of technology in higher education based on the responses of both faculty and academic IT leaders from colleges and universities across the country.

The survey found that learning management systems are widely used by faculty, but those who have online teaching experience are more likely to use these tools for a wider range of use cases. Faculty members are very skeptical about the motivation and impact of assessments, as well as the use and value of assessment data. Despite the fact that higher education institutions have become a popular target of hackers, most respondents aren’t worried about their school’s defenses or the potential infringement of user privacy.

Let’s continue our discussion about the Inside Higher Ed survey, focusing on how faculty and IT administrators perceive the quality of online education.

To put it mildly, faculty members and academic IT administrators view online education quality very differently. Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of IT administrators agree or strongly agree that online courses can produce the same student learning outcomes as in-person courses. However, 55 percent of faculty members disagree or strongly disagree with this statement. Not surprisingly, faculty members who have actually taught an online course are more optimistic about such courses than those who haven’t taught online.

Faculty members were asked to compare the quality of online education and in-person instruction in the following 10 categories:

  • Ability to deliver the necessary content to meet learning objectives
  • Ability to answer student questions
  • Interaction with students during class
  • Interaction with students outside of class
  • Grading and communicating about grading
  • Communicating with the college about logistical and other issues
  • Ability to reach “at-risk” students
  • Ability to reach “exceptional” students
  • Ability to rigorously engage students in course material
  • Ability to maintain academic integrity

Faculty members do not believe online education is superior to in-person instruction in any of these areas. In just two areas – grading and communicating about grading, and communicating with the college about logistical and other issues – faculty members believe online and in-person education offer about the same quality. IT administrators believe online and in-person education offer about the same quality in most areas.

While faculty members question the quality of online education, they believe certain factors determine the quality of these courses. The following factors were rated “very important” by the majority of professors:

  • The institution provides meaningful training to instructors prior to teaching an online course (81 percent).
  • The online course is offered by an accredited institution (79 percent).
  • The online course provides meaningful interaction between teachers and students (78 percent).
  • The online course has been independently certified for quality (64 percent).
  • The online course is offered by an institution that also offers in-person instruction (63 percent).
  • The online course leads to academic credit (52 percent).

In the next post, we’ll wrap up this series on the Higher Ed Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology by examining the experience faculty members and IT administrators have with online learning, and how strongly these programs are supported by institutions.