Sacrifice Time to Integrate Technology? Why Bother?
Most of the educational uses of information technology that I know about increase
the time required by the faculty member—first to learn how to use the technology
and subsequently to implement and integrate it. This is especially true for
applications that enhance communication between faculty and students. Students’
appetites for course-related communications seem to rise with the convenience
of that communication, while e-mail seems extremely well-suited to the lifestyles
of many students.
But once faculty begin corresponding with their students via e-mail, they often
feel pressed to respond rapidly to students, even on evenings and weekends.
So, why should faculty members embrace changes that are likely to increase their
At the end of my presentation at a recent conference, I was approached by someone
who described himself as a “mainstream” faculty member who was intrigued
with the educational possibilities that new technology applications and courseware
seemed to be offering. However, he felt that he already had a full time job
and that any effort to learn how to use a new tool or approach would take time
away from his personal life—from his time with his family or from his time
He said that he was willing to make this kind of sacrifice, to make this personal
investment. However, he wanted reassurance that after doing so there would be
some related gains—not only in the quality of education for his students,
but also in some savings of time and effort for himself. He especially wanted
to hear that if he tried to make these changes, that within a year or less he
would be able to return to something like his current workload level and his
current lifestyle, with the same amount of personal time available to him once
again. He asked me to identify some educational applications of technology that
might meet the criteria he had just established, in order to give him some hope.
I think he was clearly expressing one of the fundamental concerns shared by
the majority of faculty who are not “early adopters” of new instructional
technology. He was asking a very sound question. And I wish I had more reassuring
Unfortunately, I couldn’t immediately think of anything except a few administrative
applications. He might learn to use some of the “gradebook” and other
record-keeping features of some Course Management Systems and, after a learning
period, find that he was able to reduce his course-related administrative workload.
Of course, there are some exceptions that offer obvious gains in the teachers’
productivity, especially applications that replace some of the time required
for the teacher to oversee and correct the repetitious learning of rote skills.
I’d like to offer another version of his question, a question that has
shaped my work with colleges and universities in recent months: “Why bother?”
In particular, why bother making great investments of money, time, and effort
to increase educational uses of information technology in colleges and universities?
About a year ago I began a discussion on the American Association of Higher
Education (AAHESGIT) Steve Gilbert Instructional Technology listserv that resulted
in a document that attempts to summarize the reasons for moving forward under
the challenging conditions experienced by that faculty member. You can see the
full text at www.tltgroup.org/gilbert/Why-Bother.htm.
I hope to extend and improve this document. Please suggest more reasons for
why “to bother” to email@example.com.
Steven Gilbert is President of the TLT Group and moderates the Internet listserv TLT-SWG.