Faculty & Technology: Rewarding TET

In the mad dash to deploy technology-enabled teaching tools on your campus, are you unwittingly punishing faculty use when you should be promoting it?

It is the end of November, and J'e Faculty has just filed his Record of Service for tenure at Middle USA State University. J'e is pretty confident he will be tenured; after all, Middle USA State is a teaching-oriented campus, and J'e has done a lot to enhance his teaching with innovative techniques. He has a lot of service to his credit and a comfortable amount of scholarship and professional development in the record.

Now it is early May the following semester, and J'e’s chair calls him into the office. He is sympathetic, but he informs J'e that his application for tenure has been denied. While J'e had a substantial record, he explains, much of his teaching innovation was via technology use: PowerPoint to enhance lectures, course Web sites to enhance classroom activity and provide supplemental information, innovative assignments designed to take advantage of the vast amount of information instantly accessible on the Internet. J'e even taught a class completely online. His service and scholarship involved technology components, as well. And he published a couple of papers on innovations in technology-enabled teaching (TET).

Ironically, it was that very technology use that was behind J'e’s failed tenure application. Sure, J'e’s teaching evaluations were good, but they weren’t top-level, the department chair advised him. Obviously, J'e was told, this was a result of technology use: The time he spent on the use of TET—an as yet unvalidated tool—simply took away from his more serious teaching endeavors. The time involvement also detracted from his scholarly research; he made fewer scientific discoveries and received no grant money because of it.

Now, in late August, as J'e leaves the campus to teach at a community college, his department chair gives him some parting advice. “J'e, if you go back to a four-year university, be sure to spend more time on real scholarship and teaching, and don’t waste too much time with this technology fad; maybe then you can get tenured!”

While J'e would certainly get tenured at many institutions today, at other campuses—especially four-year institutions—this story isn’t so far-fetched. As a significant component of the academic environment, classroom presentation technology and innovation in other technology-enabled teaching has rushed onto the scene in a relatively short number of years. As such, the benefits, cost of development, and cost of implementation are just beginning to be explored. Still, while those efforts move forward, the need to recognize faculty effort and reward and incent involvement with instructional technology is both immediate and real. Without such recognition and encouragement, higher education might actually find itself thwarting the advancement of learning in the 21st century.

Fear of TET

Certainly, new “technologies” such as the Gutenberg press, the blackboard, and even the radio (for remote instruction) have impacted education many times over the centuries. Each time, the use of those technologies was no doubt accompanied by growing pains. Each time, there were probably faculty who were done a disservice by the inability of the academy to keep up with the changes in teaching technology. Fortunately, each time, faculty and the academy survived.

The TET-Savvy Campus

Today, some campuses have been reasonably effective at responding to the need for effective faculty development around technology-enabled teaching, and many hire instructional designers to address the issues of quality and pedagogical training and support. Tempered by recent economic crises, budgets at many institutions have responded to the need to keep up with the constantly advancing hardware and software upgrades and versions. And at these schools, through incentives (particularly in promoting development of online distance learning courses), faculty have been encouraged to incorporate technology into the learning environment. Incentives may be used for developing technology-enhanced teaching materials, receiving training, or sharing materials with others. Stipends, too, are inducement for faculty. Course release time, professional development monies, and additional forms of support are some other common types of incentives, as are needed hardware and software.

Still, the faculty rewards process has perhaps been less able to keep up with the rapid pace of technology-enhanced teaching innovations. In higher ed, the promotion, tenure, and merit process, in particular, has been slow to respond to these examples of teaching improvements and the related scholarship of teaching and learning. Faculty across many US campuses complain that there are no TET points for tenure, and that, in itself, is a sore point. J'e Faculty was unable to get tenure because the system was simply unable to place value on the effort and outcome around TET; unable to weigh the value of the result versus the time and effort put in. This may be, in large part, because administrators at many institutions have not yet looked at the payoff of TET, or asked the right questions concerning its use. Faculty can help them address such concerns.

Faculty Concerns

Clearly, these are challenging times for institutions of higher education and their faculties. Budgets and staffs have been stretched to the maximum in recent years, and teaching time, dollars, and resources are tight. For the most part, though, higher education (and certainly K-12) faculty embrace the use of the growing array of TET tools, even as their use places additional demands on time and attention. Yet, faculty are now not just concerned about being penalized for using the technological teaching tools, they are looking for reward and recognition for incorporating the new techniques into the teaching learning environment. The list of concerns is broad and diverse. If your own institution has not yet been faced with the following concerns, it soon will be. Your responses to these concerns—tailored to your individual campus—may spell success or failure for technology-enabled teaching in the coming months and years.

Support. More than ever before, teaching faculty are looking for the provision of technical and professional development support in the use of TET tools. They want to know: Is the campus providing training opportunities, both technical and pedagogical? Is appropriate hardware and software provided and kept up-to-date? Is there sufficient expertise available on campus, either via training or among colleagues? Faculty also want to know that there is financial support for the tools, and a budget sufficient to ensure that the support continues. Finally (and perhaps most importantly), is there moral support for faculty technology use? Is the campus truly behind the initiatives, and is that publicly apparent to faculty and other constituencies?

Incentive. Today, faculty want to know what incentives exist to encourage instructors to incorporate technology into the teaching environment—and details count. They ask: Is the incentive in the form of stipends or release time? Will incorporating technology provide additional choices in class form or type, schedule slots for the classes, or classroom location and type? Will tech-enhanced or even online courses provide increased earning opportunities, such as summer teaching assignments or course overload potential?

Reward. Any of the incentives above could also be considered a reward. Additionally, a key concern is whether or not remuneration will be made through the standard rewards structure, i.e. promotion, tenure, merit, or other performance-based compensation systems. Furthermore, will the use of technology to enhance teaching and learning be appropriately recognized and rewarded not just with (or instead of) compensation, but with promotion or job security? Will changes in workload due to technology incorporation be recognized and considered in the rewards process?

Penalty may be a top-of-mind issue with faculty, even if you don’t suspect it is an issue on your campus. Of greatest concern is the risk or cost—actual or implied—of incorporating technology into teaching and learning. But there are myriad other issues as well: What is the penalty for copyright or ADA non-compliance? What is the risk or penalty to school or to instructor with regard to plagiarism and cheating? What is the penalty in teaching effectiveness? How are issues like class size and workload impacted? Are they taken into account and adjusted appropriately? More philosophically, but most importantly: How is something crucial like critical thinking affected?

Autonomy. Of vital interest to your faculty is the issue of how much control or say a faculty member has over the tech-enabled teaching environment? D'es the permanence of the material reduce the freedom a faculty member has to stray from the material during classroom instruction? D'es technology-enabled teaching leave a “paper trail” that may not always be comfortable? Moreover, d'es the prominence of tech-enhanced teaching materials actually draw the spotlight (sometimes welcomed, sometimes not?) With TET, is peer observation of the classroom different, either by what it judges or how it observes?

Workload. When it comes to TET, faculty have myriad concerns and want to know if it will increase workload (and the expectation of carrying greater workloads), or if, in fact, it will ease workload. And again, faculty are wary: Will changes in workload be recognized by faculty and/or administrators?

Accessibility. Here, problems can crop up before administrators think through issues, and concerns are many: Are computer-based teaching materials accessible for students or instructors with physical or learning disabilities? How d'es the Americans with Disabilities Act impact teaching with technology and/or are teaching materials compliant with the Act (Section 508)? Faculty want to know who, precisely, is responsible for maintaining compliance, and what the risk is to the faculty member or school not being compliant.

Copyright. To encourage faculty use of TET tools, it’s essential to clarify the rules for copyright in the digital age, and questions are everywhere: Is fair use the same as in the non-technology-enhanced classroom? How is copyright permission obtained? How d'es the new copyright act (TEACH Act) impact teaching with technology?

(For a TEACH rundown, please head to www.ala.org/washoff/teach.html.) Who polices it? What are the risks to the faculty member or school not following the new copyright law? How d'es one know if teaching materials are compliant with the Act?
Ownership. Because some faculty fear a loss of additional earning opportunities if intellectual property rights are turned over to the school, one of the most urgent questions for faculty moving to TET, is: Who “owns” technology-enhanced teaching materials? If a faculty member creates technology-based teaching materials, d'es he or she have sole ownership, shared ownership, or no ownership of the materials?

Quality. Because TET has been around a relatively short time, both faculty and higher education administrators are looking for evidence that the tools are, in fact, effective. How is the quality of tech-enhanced teaching materials monitored, measured, or assessed on your campus? Who will monitor it and how will quality control be handled? For more on quality assessment, see The No Significant Difference Phenomenon (www.nosignificantdifference.org), The Technology Evaluation Sourcebook (rcgd.isr.umich.edu/tlt/TechSbk.pdf), and PBS TeacherSource (http://www.pbs.org/teachersource/%20teachtech/research.shtm).

“J'e, to get tenured, spend more time on real scholarship and teaching, and don’t waste time on this technology fad.”

Plagiarism is an important issue, regardless of technology. But plagiarism may be an even greater risk or problem in the tech-enhanced teaching environment. On your campus, do students feel it is easier to plagiarize and/or easier to get past an instructor using TET? How can this activity be detected? Faculty want to know how TET plagiarism can be stopped, or at least reduced or minimized. What’s more, they ask: How much of this activity is intentional, and how much is innocent? For more on plagiarism with TET, go to: Plagiarism.org ( www.plagiarism.org), Plagiarized.com (www.plagiarized.com), Plagiarism resource list (www.web-miner.com/plagiarism), and “Probing for Plagiarism in the Virtual Classroom,”
Syllabus magazine, May 2003, (www.syllabus.com).

Cheating is, of course, similar to plagiarism. Yet, with TET, how big a problem is it? Do students feel it is easier, or easier to get away with? D'es the Internet provide greater opportunity through information access, communication, and anonymity? Again, the questions are: How can it be detected, and how can it be stopped or minimized? Furthermore, will the administration back instructors in detecting and punishing it?

Reality. Finally, the questions around day-to-day use of TET are many: What is the reality of using technology to enhance teaching and learning? Is it for everyone? How is classroom personality (of instructor) affected? What is the technology comfort or competence of a given faculty member? How d'es the shift from teacher-centered teaching to student-centered teaching impact a faculty member? D'es the faculty member have to believe in “the cause,” and what happens if he/she d'esn’t?

Changing Attitudes

In 1999, an action team at Southeast Missouri State University (MO), composed of a faculty member from each school or college on campus, was tasked with creating a white paper on the issue of rewarding and recognizing the value of technology-enabled teaching. The team found that there were few studies of the problem, and so created a document (cstl.semo.edu/itfrr) designed to aid campus promotion-and-tenure decision-makers in fairly evaluating faculty dossiers.

Frankly, it is hard to say whether the document has had much impact at Southeast Missouri State. Via failed promotion applications and comments on promotion-and-tenure reviews, there is anecdotal evidence that the system still has not placed appropriate value on the use of technology to support teaching and learning. (Where promotion and tenure is not part of the process, such as in the two-year and K-12 environments, there is still concern that the role of technology in enhancing teaching and learning is not being adequately recognized and rewarded. On the other hand, K-12 has perhaps been the first arena to start incorporating expectations of use of technology in teaching and learning in job descriptions, the hiring process, and even the performance review process.)

Why is expectation of TET use not part of the higher ed promotion-and-tenure process? Probably because ours is a system that makes it harder to incorporate into the process new definitions of the role of the faculty member. And maybe because of the issue of intellectual property rights, which has arisen as an important component of the rewards process for many faculty. A review* of the intellectual property rights policies addressing technology-based teaching materials at 30 well-known institutions of higher education found that, at most campuses, faculty own the material and that is stated in general policy or a policy interpretation. When it is otherwise, the distinction of ownership comes down to the existence of a work-for-hire clause; a specific contract or statement that assigns those rights to the college or university. But a prevailing reason for not acknowledging the importance of TET in the promotion-and-tenure process may simply be the slow process of attitude change in higher education.

What can be done to balance the scales for J'e Faculty?

Push the associations. From the broadest perspective, national organizations such as the American Association for Higher Education (www.aahe.org), Educause (www.educause.edu), or the American Association of Colleges and Universities (www.aacu.org) should be encouraged to more effectively take up the cause; currently none of them focus on this issue very heavily.

Discuss and explore. Closer to home, open discussion of the issues is essential. A TLT Roundtable (www.tltgroup.org) approach with inclusion of action teams and ad hoc groups can effectively involve a broad base of the campus community in the conversation; ideas harvested from these discussions can have significant impact.

Scholarship. Encourage faculty to make use of scholarship opportunities through organizations such as MERLOT (www.merlot.org). Instructional design support can help maximize effectiveness of TET materials.
Follow best practices. “The Seven Principles of Effective Undergraduate Education” (www.tltgroup.org/programs/seven.html), as defined in the tech-enabled environment, can be a great starting point for incorporating effective design in TET.

Increase awareness. Administrators, IT staff, and faculty can change attitudes by being aware and contributing. Certainly, faculty can encourage other faculty to address the rewards process and help make administrators aware and willing to forge small changes at first. And finally, the IT community can have a marked impact on both faculty and administrators by educating, helping, and supporting.

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