Ever since the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, technology has been used to disrupt, advance, and transform the education sector. In recent years, an entire industry has developed around ed tech, with dozens of conferences and events around the world each year. The pace of innovation is accelerating, and universities are now presented with a dizzying array of software platforms, devices, and applications that promise to guarantee student and faculty success.
In the face of such abundance, it’s important for university leaders to think critically about how specific technologies will be used, and how faculty will be incentivized to embrace them. Such as: what do you want the new technology to accomplish? Will it advance your institution’s mission? And do you have enough support from faculty and staff to implement the technology effectively?
To help university leaders navigate this challenging process, a working group of faculty from six USU institutions came together to identify strategies for advancing the use of technology on campus. In a leadership brief, the faculty working group presented three recommendations for stepping up adoption of new classroom technologies.
Recommendation 1: Incentivize Faculty
The working group found that providing a range of incentives such as awards, stipends, and free access to events encouraged faculty to explore new technologies and fostered a culture of change. Addressing barriers to technology adoption helped motivate faculty as well. For example, providing extra technical support and streamlining approaches for ease of use helped faculty get involved.
Recommendation 2: Engage Faculty in the Technology Decision-Making Process
Every university has its own technology governance structure, but only some of the institutions represented by members of the working group had formal processes in place to gather feedback from faculty. Developing clearly-defined roles, responsibilities, and structures for shared governance may help to engage faculty in making technology-related decisions that will affect their work.
Recommendation 3: Ensure Appropriate Policies and Practices are in Place
It is clear that implementing a new technology in a haphazard way, without sufficient resources invested in the right places, is a recipe for disaster. Institutions that were most successful at promoting technology usage had clear resource commitments and transparent policies for allocating those resources. Questions to consider include:
- Is there a centralized policy and set of guidelines for technology usage on campus?
- Is staff support available to help faculty develop online courses?
- Does the university have a technology mission statement in place that emphasizes commitment to using technology to advance teaching and knowledge creation?
As an example of successful technology implementation, the working group highlighted Florida International University’s (FIU) Mastery Math Gateways project. The FIU College of Arts and Sciences re-designed college algebra courses to be more “high tech & high touch,” requiring students to use computers to work through math problems but supplementing the technology with peer mentoring support. The results were dramatic: the face-to-face algebra class increased its pass rate from 33% in 2010-2011 to 64% in 2013-2014, and the online algebra course increased its pass rate from 10% to 65% over the same period.
Regardless of the chosen technology or method of implementation, any university can benefit by developing a sound strategy for promoting technology usage on a consistent basis. Developing incentives, creating structures for shared governance, and establishing policies and practices that align with the institution’s mission can help universities achieve transformative and lasting change.