University faculty want more time to evaluate edtech, poll finds

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Professors say they don’t have enough time to evaluate technology to be used in classrooms, according to a recent survey from the College Innovation Network, a project of WGU Labs, the research affiliate of Western Governors University.

The network, which connects institutions interested in using edtech, found that only about one-third of faculty surveyed said they felt satisfied with the amount of time given to evaluate or learn how to use new tech products. About 20% of faculty said they struggle in integrating new edtech into their classes.

The report frames the results as fighting a stereotype about faculty — that they stand in the way of adopting new technology. Despite challenges, faculty in the survey said they are open to using new technology in their classrooms — 71% said edtech enhances their courses.

“We seem to have this higher-level decision-making going on with leadership and administration about edtech tools that should be integrated into the university, and then a separate, parallel discussion occurring among faculty about what tools work for them and how to implement different edtech in the classroom,” WGU Labs’ Nicole Barbaro, the report’s author, told EdScoop.

The survey showed that faculty often look to colleagues or campus resources to learn about new edtech. But, Barbaro said, this approach can have a side effect of cutting out part-time instructors.

“[That] can be even more difficult for part-time faculty, because you’re typically not as integrated into the campus community as a lot of the full-time faculty members,” she said. About 60% of the survey respondents identified as part-time faculty.

Barbaro’s results are consistent with other findings in the field. Researchers at a recent Duke Innovation Center conference said that faculty formed new working groups and sought out information on online learning and post-pandemic edtech. Programs that connect instructors to resources or supported these connections saw particular success, presenters said. Educause’s most recent Horizon report identified professional development as critical to online learning’s future.

Barbaro also asked professors about their priorities when they pick new edtech. Their top concerns included accessibility for students with disabilities and underserved students. Faculty also valued on-demand vendor tech support and products that integrate with learning management systems.

Faculty and instructors often play major roles in the adoption of new technologies, like open educational resources. Instructors need support incorporating free course materials into their lesson plans, but once they have a foundation, it can transform how they approach teaching, experts recently told EdScoop.

Some colleges coordinate the review of tools and products with their faculty, like Ohio University, where researchers are asking students and staff about their experiences with anti-plagarism technology. Industry groups like Educause designed tools like the HECVAT to gage the security and accessibility of new technology, though faculty may not be involved in acquiring the new tools.

“We find that the majority of faculty have a positive perception of using EdTech in their teaching practice, but institutional and market systems are not designed for faculty to effectively use EdTech,” the College Innovation Network report reads. “Institutional changes that provide more time, better training, and a seat at the decision-making table are starting points for an improved faculty EdTech experience.”

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