Teaching and Learning with Technology in Higher Education

Michele Jacobsen
Educational Psychology

Recent estimates indicate that colleges and universities invest billions of dollars per year acquiring computer technology for use in the teaching and learning. Computer technology is currently being used in most post-secondary institutions for:

In some cases, integration of technology into the teaching-learning process has transformed the teacher's role from being a "sage on the stage" to also being a "guide on the side"; as well, student roles are changing from being passive receivers of content to becoming more active participants and partners in learning. Increased access to and use of the Internet is making a unique contribution to the teaching and learning process, and is an important part of strategies to provide distance education to an increased number of students in very diverse locations.

Despite research and testimony that technology is being used by more faculty, the distribution of technological innovations for teaching and learning has not been widespread, nor has it become deeply integrated into the curriculum.

Recent estimates suggest that no more than five to ten percent of faculty actively use information technology in their teaching as anything more than a "high tech" substitute for blackboard and chalk, overhead projectors, and photocopied handouts. Although there is a growing number of faculty who are very enthusiastic about adopting technology because of the potential of newer tools for their students, there is still a large number of faculty who seem hesitant or reluctant to adopt computer technology for their teaching tasks. Explanations for limited adoption may be found in the many barriers that still constrain use by enthusiastic beginners. For example, "user friendliness" is a seductive term that does not represent current technological reality. Many computers and peripherals are still not well-designed, fault-free, and easy to use. As such, the evaluation of the success of educational technology still seems to depend largely on how well "early adopters" make it work.

Given the size of investment in instructional technology for higher education, the increased demand for distance education , and the demonstrated effectiveness for some educational outcomes, it seems reasonable to investigate why the integration of technology for teaching and learning is so appealing to some faculty, and not to others.

Previous explanations for why the majority of faculty did not adopt technology for teaching and learning focused on blame. Faculty were blamed for being stuck in traditional methods of course delivery, were labeled as resistors and charged with negative attitudes towards technology. The challenge for researchers interested in the adoption of technology is not to assign blame nor to attempt to fix faculty attitudes. The challenge instead is to draft technology integration plans, and design new educational systems within the logic and meaning of the emerging paradigms that are informed by our growing understanding of the complexity and interconnectedness of faculty social systems, communication channels, and patterns of diffusion. A different support infrastructure is needed for mainstream faculty than that which sufficed for early adopters of educational technology.

As part of my doctoral research in educational psychology, I have designed a survey to collect information about adoption patterns of computer technology for post-secondary teaching and learning. As an integral part of this research, information is also being collected by interviewing faculty who are adopters and non-adopters of technology for teaching and learning. Results from this investigation will be used to inform and educate the general post-secondary community about the adoption of educational technology by academic staff, resulting changes to the teaching and learning process, the incentives and barriers to integrating technology, and methods for evaluating the outcomes of integration. A goal of the present research is to develop recommendations for the integration of technology with regard to possible training, support, and resource needs on campus. This plan may contribute to the future design of professional development opportunities and incentives for faculty who wish to integrate computer technology into their post-secondary teaching. However, this independent research project is unrelated to current information technology plans on any particular campus.

The views and opinions of faculty who have, and have not, integrated technology for teaching and learning will provide valuable information.

You are encouraged to participate in this survey by March 14th, 1998 by accessing the on-line version of the survey at athe following World Wide Web address: http://www.acs.ucalgary.ca/~dmjacobs/phd/

All responses will be kept in the strictest confidence and only group results will be presented in any published reports. Paper versions of the survey can also be obtained by contacting me directly, and I am available for any faculty who wish to participate in an interview.

If you have additional questions about the survey or this article, please contact:
Michele Jacobsen
E-mail: dmjacobs@acs.ucalgary.ca
John Mueller
Phone: 220-5664
E-mail: mueller@acs.ucalgary.ca

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