Faculty Remain Skeptical Despite Benefits of Educational Technology

By: Aylin Dunham
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In 2017, Inside Higher Ed and Gallup conducted a survey on faculty attitudes on educational technology. The survey includes statistics about online courses, accessibility and pedagogy. Faculty of all different backgrounds were included in the survey pool, including those who have and have not taught online courses. Here are three things we learned reading the results.

Educational Technology Can Offer Better Digital Accessibility

More faculty who have never taught an online course say that courses at their institution are ADA compliant (95% versus 89% who have taught online). However, according to the survey, a higher percentage of faculty who have taught online courses say they offer enhancements like “providing alternative text to visual elements, making links descriptive for those with visual disabilities and captioning video and transcribing audio,” to meet ADA standards.

These faculty also place more value on the importance of accessibility, agreeing that all college online material should be compliant: “Faculty who have taught online courses (66 percent) are somewhat more likely than those who have not (57 percent) to say all of a college’s online materials should comply with the law.”

This suggests that faculty who have taught online have a higher awareness of the benefits of accessibility and universal design principles. They know that offering captions, transcripts and description of visual elements is helpful to more students than just those with disabilities. They have seen first-hand how providing media in multiple formats can improve learning outcomes.

Experience Teaching with Educational Technology Improves Pedagogical Skills

42% of all faculty surveyed had taught an online course. Of those, 71% said that the experience gave them new skills that improved their ability to teach, both online and even in the classroom. A majority of faculty agreed that teaching an online course has helped them “think more critically about ways to engage students with content.”

Other improvements to instructional skills included in the survey were:

  • 73% – Better use of multimedia content.
  • 70% – Better use of their institution’s learning management system.
  • 48% – More comfortable using techniques like active learning or project-based instruction.
  • 44% – Improved communication with students outside of class.

Not All are in Favor of Online Learning, Yet

Survey respondents with more knowledge of online learning, such as digital learning leaders, believe strongly that online courses at their institution can provide equal or better outcomes when compared with courses that meet face-to-face.  Those with experience are more confident in the smart use of technology to produce successful learning outcomes for a broader audience. However, faculty members who are not in a leadership role are slightly less likely to agree that online courses can meet the same standards as face-to-face.

There is an even split between those who agree and disagree that online learning can be sufficiently effective. Skepticism still exists, especially among those who have not taught an online course. 71% of the skeptics say it is due to the “impersonal nature” of distance learning. Other reasons include too much corporate influence and loss of control over the course. Cost, quality, and training were not as much of an issue in their resistance to online learning.

Attitudes toward educational technology have been evolving, and with the improvement of technology we believe there will be less skepticism in the future. The perceived impersonal nature of online learning can be addressed with an increased use of video, providing an efficient substitute for face-to-face communication with students.

We may not be there yet, but with smart use of technology online courses will be able to reach a broader set of learners, and offer more students opportunities for high quality education.

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