Waiting It Out

Have you given up trying to bring faculty into the world of emerging technology for teaching and learning?

Katherine Grayson

What happens when you invite a group of 50 senior campus technology executives to discuss what keeps them up at night? They focus on the latest and greatest technotoys for campus IT wizards, right? Wrong: They grapple with-- among other things-- how to "bring faculty into the emerging technologies without being overwhelmed or intimidated," as one exec put it. Now there's a sympathetic take on a persistent and often recalcitrant challenge, if ever I heard one.

In fact, for the stellar group of campus technology leaders who attended this year's invitational Campus Technology Executive Summit (July 28 in Boston), dealing with such realities was the order of the day. Certainly, there were in-depth panel discussions on emerging technologies, present and future. And they were followed by intensive roundtable discussions of the subtopics critical to attendees. But what may be surprising to some is how tenacious the test of (as another attendee phrased it) "successfully overcoming the faculty hurdle" has become.

Recently, while attending the 2008 InfoComm Expo in Las Vegas, I had an especially distressing conversation with two CIOs (one from a top-tier university) who were bemoaning what they described as their never-ending battle to bring faculty into the 21st century. They were visiting a vendor booth where reps were hawking a pretty exciting new technology product. But their reaction was: "What's the use? We'll never be able to get faculty to use it." One of the execs even remarked that he could no longer defend the tech expenditures he had fought for, when the intended users were so resistant to the new technologies. Too large a portion of his institution's faculty was of an older generation, one of the CIOs explained. "We'll just have to wait for them to retire," he sighed.

As a campus technology executive, are you "waiting it out?" Or, are you a member of the faculty, intimidated by the overwhelming speed with which tech products are foisted at you, and so just "waiting out" your tenure on campus?

The alarming fact of the matter is that five years; two years; one month of your students' education compromised while this tug-of-war continues is not only irresponsible, it is now indefensible. How much longer can your institution stand by a 20th century mode of course instruction, when students have to work and compete in a 21st century world? And on a strictly business-survival level, how long will your institution be able to compete in a world where students can secure a vibrant, engaging education elsewhere, instead of sleeping through your faculty's talking-head classes?

An aging faculty and a tight-fisted CFO are no longer excuses, my friends. There are too many good ideas for motivating, incenting, and nudging intimidated instructors to get with the program. And there are now too many solid business arguments for increased budget allocations for such professional development. Here at CT, all year long in print, online, and at our conferences, we highlight innovative approaches schools, technologists, and faculty (yes, senior faculty) employ to resolve this critical challenge. It may take serious effort and planning on your part, but it's time to devise a better game plan to attack this obstacle. Waiting it out is not an option!

--Katherine Grayson, Editor-In-Chief
What have you seen and heard? Send to: kgrayson@1105media.com.

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