Technology Gap

Professors think they are doing a better job with digital tools than their students believe is the case, survey suggests.
November 5, 2009

DENVER -- Professors think they are doing reasonably well when it comes to using technology in the classroom, according to a survey released here this week by CDW-G at the annual meeting of Educause. Not everyone agrees with the faculty view of things.

Consider these statistics from nationally representative samples of students and faculty members (at two- and four-year institutions, public and private). Asked about their use and their institutions' support for technology, professors said the following:

  • 75 percent said that their institution "understands how they use or want to use technology."
  • 67 percent are happy with their own technology professional development.
  • 74 percent said that they incorporate technology into every class or almost every class.
  • 64 percent said that they teach in what they consider to be a smart classroom.

Sounds like a technology savvy professoriate. But when students were asked whether their professors understand technology and have integrated it into their courses, only 38 percent said Yes. Further, when students were asked about the top impediment to using technology, the top answer was "lack of faculty technology knowledge," an answer that drew 45 percent of respondents, up from 25 percent only a year ago.

And only 32 percent of students said that they believed their college was adequately preparing them to use technology in their careers.

The gaps between the faculty and student grades on technology may relate in part to different use patterns of students and faculty members when it comes to technology. On every category in the survey, including including some that are not particularly cutting edge, student use outpaced faculty use.

Use by Students and Faculty Members of Various Technologies in Conjunction With Education

Tool Students Faculty Members
Laptops 84% 69%
Course management systems 77% 60%
Social networking 52% 14%
Open source applications 31% 12%
iPod / MP3 player 31% 8%
Wikis 28% 11%

The survey also included a separate pool of IT staff members at colleges and universities, and that exposed another gap in how faculty members vs. how these staff members think about technology. Asked about which features are part of a smart classroom, there was agreement on the first three on the list that follows, but on the remaining three, IT staff members in general expect more.

IT Staff Members vs. Faculty Members on Technologies That Define a Smart Classroom

Technology IT Staffers Faculty Members
Wireless Internet connection 82% 74%
Internet connection 81% 86%
LCD projector 75% 80%
Interactive whiteboard 73% 41%
Distance learning capabilities to connect students from multiple locations 70% 40%
Video or voice recording mechanisms for lectures 61% 36%


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