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The Digital Sociology Classroom

May 21, 2013

Half of sociology departments are offering at least one course online, and most are using more than one new technology teaching tool in classrooms, according to a new survey.

The survey, by the American Sociological Association, was conducted of the chairs of departments that award bachelor's degrees in the field, and responses were obtained from 645 of 1,025 potential respondents. The association periodically conducts such surveys, and focused on technology this year, in light of the widespread public discussion of new methods of teaching and learning. While much of that discussion has noted the way fields such as business or computer science use technology for teaching, the sociologists' survey suggests considerable change in a traditional liberal arts discipline.

Fifty percent of departments reported offering distance education courses or programs, while another 12 percent reported that such offerings were currently in development. Further, 10 percent of departments offer a sociology degree online. By sector, master's institutions were the most likely to offer sociology courses online (64 percent do) while baccalaureate institutions were least likely (24 percent).

Public institutions were much more likely than private institutions to offer at least one sociology course online (75 percent vs. 29 percent). "The  difference may be explained by several factors, including pressure on state universities to reduce costs, private institutions include many small baccalaureate schools that do not develop these kind of courses because they have fewer resources in terms of IT personnel and faculty who have the time to develop online courses (given relatively high course loads), or because face-to-face contact with faculty members is considered the strength of these schools."

Technology tools are of course increasingly common in in-person classes, and the survey asked the chairs if their departments were using tools such as clickers, interactive whiteboards, discussion boards, social networking sites or online games. The results showed that most departments are using more than one of these tools, and very few departments have adopted none of them.

New Technology Tools in Sociology Classrooms

None 9%
One 24%
Two 34%
Three or more 33%

The most commonly used tool was discussion boards (83 percent).

The survey also asked chairs about non-technology questions, such as the most popular topics for new courses. The top five topic areas for new courses: crime/law, culture, gender/sexuality, race and ethnicity, and health.

 

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