Master Planners: Faculty Development
David Starrett and Michael Rodgers
The advent of the World Wide Web stimulated unprecedented technology spending by universities worldwide. Unfortunately, poorly-coordinated combinations of grants, gifts, and politically-motivated government funding led to fragmented technology implementation. Costly hardware and software installations may have provided good feelings and marketing hooks to attract students to “cutting-edge” learning environments, but beneath the high-tech glitter were some ugly realities: the technology was poorly integrated into existing teaching and learning practices, there was little coordination with institutional goals and values, and faculty generally lacked the skills to use the technology effectively.
The fragmentation led to intramural installations of incompatible systems, or multiple systems that required inefficient retraining of students using the systems in different departments on campus. Strategically, fragmented implementations prevented institution-wide realization of Web-based technology’s promise to enhance access to university education, especially at the undergraduate level. To many, technology was a solution looking for a problem.
With expensive but rapidly aging technology in place, some institutions saw the incongruity between lavish technological resources and minimal faculty skills as the chief obstacle to realizing improvements to teaching and learning through technology. Numerous development models were implemented to close the faculty skills gap and ultimately to validate the investment in technology for teaching and learning.
Indicators, such as the number of online courses and programs now being offered, show that the faculty did benefit from the efforts. However, some faculty continue to look askance at technology, citing the lack of agreement on how technology use should count in tenure and promotion decisions, unresolved intellectual property issues, the still-steep learning curve for teaching with technology, and a general lack of faith that online instruction is “as good as” face-to-face instruction. Perhaps the most powerful driver of efforts to assess technology’s impact on teaching and learning is the need to respond to these concerns.
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