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A new survey from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has found that 40% of professors use or are interested in using innovative techniques and technologies, but only 20% have actually used them. It is most likely that cultural and pedagogical barriers are preventing faculty from using technology in the classroom, and institutions must provide peer-training programs to persuade faculty to embrace the use of technology more substantively in the classroom.

Institutions must commit to providing faculty training as part of their technology implementation plans

The survey asked professors whether they had used various kinds of high-tech teaching methods, including clickers, the flipped-classroom model, hybrid courses, and social media or discussion forums. For most methods, the majority of professors said that they were familiar with the idea but had not tried it. Most faculty come from a generation that is less comfortable with technology than students, and this can be problematic on a number of levels. First, in a classroom setting, faculty must initiate the adoption of technology and those not comfortable using it will be less inclined to do so. Second, students familiar with technology in the consumer world will not necessarily be able to transfer that knowledge to the more formal educational setting. Either way, the technology is not leveraged.

Adopting technology can require considerable time-consuming changes in how faculty prepare for and conduct classes, and some may need more persuasion than others. Therefore, it is important for institutions to tailor the approach to each faculty member. Ovum suggests that when planning for technology investments, institutions should consider the requirements to change instructional behavior and whether they have the commitment or capacity to accomplish this. There will be variations in solution types in terms of the strategies required to overcome cultural and pedagogical hurdles, so institutions must consider and include peer-training programs where appropriate as part of their formal implementation plans. Seeking out advocates of technology and using these as peers to model and train faculty who are struggling is also a useful approach to help faculty feel comfortable in seeking help. Ovum believes that when institutions commit to providing the appropriate training and ensure that academic computing departments work closely with faculty to develop an interconnected set of services and strategies, these hurdles can be overcome.


Further reading

“Affordable education in the US will place pressure on institutional resources,”IT0008-000226 (January 2015)

2015 Trends to Watch: Higher Education, IT0008-000217 (November 2014)


Navneet Johal, Research Analyst, Education Technology

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