Why leaders need to work with faculty to embrace technology

Professor preference of digital course materials is rising, but not quick enough, report says

A low majority of faculty prefer using digital course material technology in college classrooms and that number is only slowly increasing, according to a report by OnCampus Research, the research arm of the National Association of College Stores. Meanwhile, many professors do not know how to use their course materials.

The report identified attitudes and behaviors of faculty toward course materials at 21 higher ed institutions. Most notably, authors found that nearly half (49%) of professors prefer print materials.

“It’s important for professors to embrace more technology because students are digital natives now. That’s what they understand,” says Jason Webb of Syracuse University, who is leading two sessions in the instructional technology track at UB Tech® 2020. “People are wary of course materials because their prices are getting higher as the number of manufacturers continues to shrink, but the accessibility of learning management systems should be making this easier,” adds Webb, an instructional analyst who creates teaching strategies using technology by helping faculty create video content for online, flipped and hybrid classes.

Increasing technology in college classrooms

In the last three years, Syracuse University in New York has overhauled instructional technology accessibility issues to address student learning styles. “We have a studio where we help faculty become better storytellers and make their classes more engaging than just a voice over a Powerpoint that lasts 40 minutes,” says Webb. “We came up with a pathway similar to gamification where you can use multiple options for students to learn and engage with.”

The process of obtaining faculty buy-in of digital learning in higher education can be a slow process. This includes identifying what technologies students are using and gaining feedback from professors. “We had a faculty member who was moving his class online and thought it would be a piece of cake,” says Webb. “He planned on throwing up some Powerpoints, a few discussion boards and maybe one or two short papers.” Webb helped the professor add more digital technology to his course. “The professor found out he was working a lot harder than an in-person class,” says Webb. “We asked how he felt about that and he said, ‘I would do it all again, a thousand times more.’”

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