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Most Faculty Would Choose Face-to-Face for Student Interactions

student talking with professor

More than half of faculty (51 percent) prefer using a blended environment with their students, which includes both blended and in-person elements; but nearly three-quarters (73 percent) would choose a completely or mostly face-to-face approach for most elements involving interaction with students. The areas where the majority of faculty prefer completely face-to-face interactions specifically are student presentations, faculty/student conferences and labs/demonstrations. And for course management, more than a quarter prefer the online route for distributing course materials, making assignments and delivering quizzes or tests.

Those are a few of the findings in the latest survey of faculty and information technology, undertaken by the Educause Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR). The survey received responses from 9,521 faculty members at 119 American institutions.

In spite of the proliferation of student success tools on campus in higher education, faculty aren't necessarily big fans. Fewer than half said that programs alerting them to declines in student progress were "very" or "extremely" helpful. The same was true for programs that suggest new or different academic resources for students, suggest ways for students to improve their performance, or provide guidance about courses students might take in the future. Among those who do use the four flavors of student success applications, about a third rated them as very or extremely helpful. (Students are more likely than faculty to find such tools helpful, according to a previously published ECAR report that examined student ratings of campus IT.)

The ECAR researchers stated that the level of faculty satisfaction with their overall tech experience has declined a bit. Overall good or excellent ratings have dropped from 71 percent in 2017 to 64 percent in 2019. And fewer faculty over that same period rated the support services at their schools as good or excellent.

However, support services for accessibility technology were given high ratings by faculty respondents — when they used them. Six in 10 rated them as good or excellent.

The survey found that many faculty members still ban the use of student-owned devices in their courses. More than half either outright ban or discourage the use of smartphones and almost half do the same with wearable technologies. Laptops are the most accepted form of student device in the classroom; 50 percent of instructors encourage or require the use of laptops. And a similar number said that they'd be more effective in teaching if they had "greater skill in integrating smartphones or laptops as learning tools" for their course-related activities.

In fact, among the recommendations offered by the report, the authors suggested that the IT organization facilitate faculty professional development on the integration of tech in teaching, especially since outright banning "will likely decrease student engagement."

The report also advised the promotion of the benefits and strategies for engaging in online teaching via mentoring or setup of learning communities, as well as recognizing those instructors who do engage in course development or online instruction through changes in tenure expectations.

To help gain buy-in by faculty for student success technologies, ECAR encouraged greater communication to faculty about the benefits of their usage and the integration of those technologies into existing software (especially the learning management system) to make them easier to access.

A summary report of findings is openly available on the Educause website. The data results are available to Educause members through the ETRAC portal.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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