By Nicole Barbaro, Sr. Communications Content Manager, WGU Labs
Faculty are foundational to successfully usher in the technological transformation of higher ed. It’s more important than ever to ensure that we are listening to the faculty voice and understanding their experience with EdTech and online learning.
The 2022 CIN EdTech Faculty Survey provides insightful data that yield powerful strategies for both institutional leaders and EdTech executives to make changes that will improve the faculty EdTech experience. Here, we provide five data-informed strategies based on our report, which will ultimately enhance our students’ learning experience in the modern higher education environment.
Treat Faculty as Partners in Transformational Change, Not Obstacles
Our data show that few faculty identify as resisters to using EdTech in the classroom; it’s clear that faculty should be seen as partners in the institution’s digital transformation, not sources of tension.
It’s crucial that leaders actively listen to their faculty—leaders and resisters alike—to understand where friction arises in the process of EdTech adoption and implementation so it can be addressed and reduced. Faculty are experts in their craft and by fielding conversations with those who feel positively and negatively about technology-enabled education, educational leaders can make impactful institutional changes, improve the faculty experience, and boost positive perceptions about the future of their role at the institution.
Field the Faculty Voice in EdTech Decisions
Faculty know what they need best to effectively teach their students, which is why many prefer to learn from each other and not administrators or EdTech executives. But because much of EdTech is bought by and sold to administrators, faculty feel they have little relative influence on EdTech decisions.
To best ensure that the right EdTech are entering the university ecosystem, faculty must have a seat at the decision-making table and, most importantly, have their voices heard. Faculty know what needs are not being addressed, challenges their students are facing, and what tools they need to succeed.
By fielding the faculty voice regularly to identify needs, barriers, and EdTech tools they’re using, educational leaders can more effectively broker products that will actually be used by their faculty to advance their pedagogy and help their students.
Create A Culture of Faculty Peer-to-Peer Learning
Our data show that one in five faculty are struggling to integrate EdTech into their courses. Faculty are also learning about EdTech primarily from other faculty, not institutional leadership. These data point to the need to create strong cultures of faculty peer-to-peer learning to spread the adoption of impactful EdTech tools.
By first fielding the faculty voice in EdTech decisions, once tools enter the university ecosystem, the EdTech leaders among the faculty are best positioned to share with their peers how they are using the EdTech to advance pedagogy. It should be the norm in departments and colleges for faculty to share best practices, which also include best technology practices. To do this effectively, however, requires adequate time and support.
Give Space for Adequate Training and Support to Faculty
Put simply, faculty need more time, resources, and support if expected to use EdTech effectively in their teaching practice. By not providing what faculty need, institutions may inadvertently create resisters or fuel tension.
Adequate support is necessary to ensure that faculty can fully focus on their teaching development and pedagogical practice. Our data suggest that faculty teaching at institutions where the faculty role is broader in scope, specifically at 4-year institutions, report significantly greater time stress than faculty at institutions with more focused teaching responsibilities.
By making professional development and EdTech training integral parts of faculty roles, decreasing peripheral responsibilities, and ensuring adequate staffing, faculty can use their time to truly innovate in the EdTech and teaching space.
Communicate Effectively About EdTech
Our data show that faculty have a clear consensus about what they expect from EdTech: accessibility, integration, impact, and tech support. But because faculty are stressed for time, it’s difficult to evaluate each EdTech solution to understand what products meet their standards. What faculty need from both administrators and EdTech companies is better communication and information about the products available to them.
Administration can create a list of basic minimum requirements that each EdTech product must meet to be added to the university ecosystem. Vendors, in turn, can use the data here and other similar reports to ensure their products are designed to at least meet the minimum needs of faculty.
Lastly, faculty want to know if a product will have a positive impact on their students’ learning experience. This is no small feat. But companies and organizations, like WGU Labs, are working to share results of EdTech impact evaluations. It’s crucial that this research is communicated clearly and concisely, rather than putting the responsibility on faculty to assess jargon-laden research reports—which, based on our data, leave up to 40% of faculty in a position of uncertainty about evaluating the research.
With technology-enabled higher education proliferating rapidly, it’s crucial to understand how our faculty are experiencing EdTech. 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.
Institutional changes that provide more time, better training, and a seat at the decision-making table are starting points for an improved faculty experience. Because higher education shares the goal to better serve students and provide optimal learning experiences, faculty must receive the proper support, training, and resources.
The College Innovation Network at WGU Labs is dedicated to supporting institutions throughout the full life cycle of EdTech implementation, from needs identification to research evaluation. Interested in joining? Find out more: https://wgulabs.org/cin-institutions/