Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Teacher-Student Gap and the Convergence of Tech-Ed Opinion

By John Glaser

Inside Higher Ed briefly reports on a new study by the technology company CDW:
While 72 percent of IT professionals say that online collaboration software is an essential element to the 21st-century classroom, the survey found, only 31 percent of faculty members agreed. In addition, 68 percent of IT staff say that virtual learning is a key part of the higher education experience; only 35 percent of faculty agree.
I blogged before on this dire gap between teachers who tend to deny the value of online education and most everyone else. Obviously, this presents a real problem to the advancement and prevalence of hybrid learning class environments as well as fully online classes, insofar as college faculty has control over the nature and content of the courses. That gap in preference for technology in the classroom is quite predictable, given it is the IT professionals at the university who favor it over professors.

The gap I find more interesting is the gap between professors and students on this issue. It may seem just as obvious and predictable as IT staff and professors, but it is still much more significant. This gap between student and professors suggests that these preferences are largely generational, and thus will soon converge into institution-wide universal consensus on the need, appropriateness, and efficiency of tech-ed. Not to say that faculty resistance is the only obstacle to its full embrace, but I'm cautiously optimistic. One reason, for example, is colleges will have to respond to the increasing demand for such methods, as CDW reports:
"Today's high school and college students view technology as an engaging, interactive learning tool, which they expect will be readily available on campus," said Julie Smith, CDW-G vice president, higher education. "Students associate it with the higher education experience, and campus technology offerings weigh heavily in their college selection process. They also expect that the higher education experience will bridge the technological gap between academia and professional life."
If smarty pants professors can't see this gap as generational and the convergence as inevitable... well then I guess they're not so smart. This is too bad, because otherwise we could get to work now on a lot of the problems of affordability and productivity in higher ed.

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