Listening to faculty perspectives is critical for successfully integrating technology into higher education. Developed by WGU Labs’ College Innovation Network (CIN), the 2023 EdTech Faculty Survey provides crucial insights into pain points in the faculty experience with the ever-developing instructional device. These insights suggest a need to rethink institutional approaches to edtech to achieve a successful technology-enabled future.
We recommend four actionable strategies informed by the data that institutions and edtech vendors can use to improve the classroom experience for faculty and students.
1. Provide evidence of successful implementations when rolling out new edtech products.
Data from our survey show that while faculty recognize the benefits of edtech in the abstract sense, they do not necessarily trust that the products available are effective. Faculty cited seeing successful implementations in other institutions as the factor that would be most important for increasing their trust.
When evaluating their products, edtech vendors should gather evidence not only on tangible benefits for instruction and learning, but also on the success of the implementation in institutions. This could include data on how effectively a new product was marketed to faculty, whether faculty and students were given effective training and support for learning the product, the timing of the rollout, and how well the product was integrated into existing structures and systems.
It will also be crucial for institutions and vendors to work together to streamline the implementation of new products and reduce possible pain points for students and faculty in this process. This could be accomplished by including students and faculty voices when determining the rollout process, being mindful of the timing of implementation and ensuring that faculty and students are given sufficient support and resources (e.g., access to devices and Wi-Fi, training opportunities, etc.) to learn and engage with new products and establishing effective communication plans for new products.
2. Give faculty and students more of a voice in the decision-making process.
Faculty in our survey perceived that those furthest from the classroom—college administrators, instructional designers and department chairs—had the greatest amount of influence in edtech decision-making processes. Students and faculty, who have more direct experience in the classroom, were perceived as having the most minor influence. This is problematic because students and faculty are typically the most impacted by these institutional decisions.
When considering new products for their institutions, college administrators should give students and faculty a seat at the table in the decision-making process. To do so, institutions could establish student and faculty edtech committees, conduct focus groups with students and faculty to gather input on what they are looking for with new products and regularly survey students and faculty about their experiences with edtech in the institution.
3. Conduct regular edtech audits and reduce redundant or irrelevant tools.
We saw high levels of tech fatigue, burnout and job dissatisfaction among faculty who responded to our survey. Our data also suggest that technology fatigue may contribute to burnout and dissatisfaction.
To address tech fatigue, institutions must be mindful of the quality and quantity of edtech tools faculty are required to learn and use in their teaching. We recommend conducting annual audits to identify and eliminate redundant tools or those that no longer meet faculty needs. When considering whether to bring on new tools, institutions should ensure that the tool will be a value-add for faculty rather than an additional burden.
4. Encourage faculty autonomy and voice in implementing tech-enabled learning.
Proponents argue that tech-enabled learning has the potential to provide a more personalized learning experience for students, streamline communication between students and faculty and better meet the needs of diverse learner groups. Yet, when asked about what the tech-enabled future might look like, faculty predominantly believe it will be less personalized, more standardized and less socially connected for students.
Addressing these concerns by giving faculty autonomy in developing tech-enabled instruction, bringing them in as partners in expanding online courses and programs and highlighting the benefits of tech-enabled learning for the learner experience will be critical for faculty to fully embrace the tech-enabled future. Rather than treating technology as an add-on to or replication of traditional instructional models, institutions should approach tech-enabled instruction as a new learning model that leverages both the capabilities of tech and the expertise of faculty.
Education technology has clearly cemented a role in higher education. Faculty and students not only perceive technology as a fixture in higher education but understand the value it can bring in expanding access, engagement and increasing flexibility. These benefits, however, will rely on robust engagement from faculty to chart the path forward.
The findings from CIN’s 2023 edtech Faculty Survey suggest that a great deal more needs to be done by higher education institutions to engage faculty in the decision-making process, build faculty’s confidence in edtech solutions and the future of tech in learning and provide them with the resources they need to succeed in implementing tech solutions in their classrooms.