3 reasons administrators are stalling on upgrading edtech

Over two-thirds of administrators reported that their institution has yet to enact policies on ChatGPT and other AI tools.

Education and how professors, administrators and their institutions can deliver content are bristling with innovation thanks to cutting-edge technology. However, a lack of understanding around edtech, which in turn is fueling decision paralysis, may be forestalling the future, according to an unsettling survey by the College Innovation Network (CIN).

CIN, an affiliate of WGU Labs, contacted over 200 administrators in August 2023 to better gauge their understanding of edtech, such as their learning management system (LMS), the products that could potentially integrate into it and the advent of generative AI. Unfortunately for higher education, college administrators still seem ill-prepared for the disruption such technologies are bound to generate.

“When administrators make poor decisions, students and faculty often suffer the consequences—and this can impact administrators’ ability to implement future initiatives due to lack of utilization by key stakeholders,” the report reads.

The following are three troubling signs from the report.

Lack of confidence about which edtech products are most effective

Over half of administrators aren’t confident about choosing effective edtech products for their department or institution. Of this group, 16% had little to no confidence whatsoever. A big reason they may lack any conviction is that they are uninformed about what their institution needs: Less than half (48%) work at an institution that conducts technology audits less than once a year; 14% don’t conduct audits at all.

They say confidence comes from a belief in one’s ability to apply knowledge. As a result, administrators who are not up to speed on student and faculty feedback on an institution’s technologies will not know how to navigate the ship.

Administrators are distrustful of edtech products on the market

And perhaps rightfully so. Nearly half (48%) of all administrators want to see evidence of successful implementation at another institution; at the very least, 28% want to see research that affirms its effectiveness. However, only 7% of edtech companies conduct randomized controlled trials to find evidence of their impact, and less than a fifth use a third-party certification or engage in academic studies, according to the 2023 UNESCO GEM report.

This habit of erring on the side of caution may prevent start-up edtech companies with smaller budgets unable to fund control trials from being swept under the rug for the status quo. Institutions itching to turn around the public perception of higher education should take a chance on more cutting-edge solutions rather than settle, the report suggests.

AI inaction

Administrators are still polarized by AI’s potential, which resulted in a lack of general direction on how it will integrate into education. When asked which areas AI will bring the most value, four responses gained almost equal footing. Twenty to 22% said it would best connect students with support services or provide a more personalized learning experience, and about 19% think it’s the ability to offer self-service chatbots or identify students in need of academic support.

As a result, policy is falling far behind. Over two-thirds reported that their institution has yet to enact policies on ChatGPT and other AI tools.

Whether it’s the fact that institutional leaders are overwhelmed or apathetic, responses suggest severe inaction. Nearly a third (30%) don’t believe AI will positively or negatively affect education, and about 76% say their institution neither encourages nor prohibits faculty from using it.

“[W]ithout defined guidelines, students and faculty may lack a structured framework for responsible and ethical use of AI,” the report reads.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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