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Faculty members want to use digital technologies, and chief academic officers want them to incorporate them in their in-person and online courses, but many colleges and universities lack a plan to implement those efforts.

That's one of the major takeaways from the 2017 Association of Chief Academic Officers' Survey of Provosts and Chief Academic Officers, conducted by the association and the Campus Computing Project, and released today at the Online Learning Consortium Accelerate conference in Orlando. The survey includes responses from administrators at 359 public and private two- and four-year institutions nationwide.

While their oversight varies across campuses, the academic leaders who responded to the survey said their three main areas of responsibility are libraries (89 percent), online degree programs (82 percent) and campus centers for teaching and learning (75 percent). They said that the four technology priorities that are “very important” for their institutions:

  • Assisting faculty members in integrating technology into instruction (79 percent)
  • Providing adequate IT training and support for faculty members (76 percent)
  • Leveraging IT resources and services to advance student success initiatives (69 percent)
  • Developing and expanding online education programs (66 percent)

Nearly 79 percent of the survey participants reported that their colleges and universities have formal programs to recognize and reward faculty members for using digital learning technologies, and a large majority said instructors support technology to enhance teaching and instruction. But while the leaders emphasized the importance of supporting instructors' technology implementation efforts, only 60 percent said their institutions have a plan to leverage technologies to improve student learning and instruction.

In a separate survey of campus chief technology officers released by the Campus Computing Project last week, CTOs also reported low deployment of digital technologies to support teaching and learning on their campuses.

Meanwhile, nearly 70 percent of respondents in the chief academic officers' survey said that open educational resources will be a major source of course content on their campuses within five years. However, only a little more than one-third said that their institutions encourage OER use or support instructors’ efforts to develop OER.

Finally, the administrators reported that they have “great faith” in the potential of adaptive learning: 92 percent said they strongly agree or agree that adaptive learning technologies can improve outcomes, and 87 percent strongly agree or agree that instructors should make greater use of such technologies and resources in entry-level/gateway classes.

Digital Technology Obstacles

While the provosts and chief academic officers were optimistic about many digital technology efforts on their campuses, they were less enthusiastic, for a variety of reasons, about their institutions' abilities to implement them. For example, about 40 percent of the respondents said their institutions’ efforts to become “more digital” or “all digital” are impeded because many students don’t own the devices needed to easily access content online.

“Owning a … laptop or tablet really is essential for digital access,” Kenneth C. Green, founding director of the Campus Computing Project, wrote in the report.

In the separate report of CTOs released last week, one-third of the respondents said that learners not having access to digital devices is a problem on their campuses.

Another point of concern in the chief academic officers' study: less than one-third of the participants said that data analysis and IT resources and support services for students and faculty members at their institutions are very effective. They also said the effectiveness of their institutions’ investments in digital learning -- online programs and courses, academic support services (such as advising and degree mapping) and data and managerial analysis -- was fairly low.

On a scale of one to seven, only about one-third of the administrators rated their satisfaction with their campuses’ instructional support services and centers as a six or seven; 24 percent rated their student information systems at that level; and 20 percent said their analytic tools to support student success initiatives were at a six or seven.

Finally, the academic leaders did not give high marks to online program management services (OPMs) for course development and user support -- only 30 percent said that outsourcing such tasks was a viable and effective strategy, and only 26 percent said it was a profitable option.

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