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15 Mistakes Instructors Have Made Teaching with Technology in the Pandemic

There's a lot that faculty have done right teaching with technology during the COVID-19 pandemic — but there have also been times when technology use has been subpar. In a recent Educause survey, the majority of students reported that their instructors communicated and used technology effectively in their courses, whether learning took place online, face-to-face, synchronously, asynchronously or some combination thereof. At the same time, technology glitches and pedagogical misfires have at times led to more negative student experiences.

In its fall 2020 survey of 8,392 undergraduate students from 54 institutions across the United States, Educause asked respondents to recall the most and least effective uses of technology in their best course — the one in which they felt they learned the most. Students' best experiences were generally related to the use of the learning management system, videoconferencing applications, recorded lectures and access to specialized software. On the flip side, the report explained, students' worst technology experiences fell into three categories: explicit technology issues; instructors' failed attempts to use technology; and poor course management and pedagogical choices.

Setting aside unavoidable tech mishaps (such as WiFi outages and device failures), here are 15 instructor practices cited by students as their worst experiences learning with technology, according to the Educause report:

  1. The use of unofficial platforms and too many external applications or sites;
  2. A lack of instruction, guidance and/or support for activities such as breakout rooms, discussion boards and collaborative assignments;
  3. Unsatisfactory administration, proctoring and collection of exams and other assessments;
  4. Not anticipating technology limitations when teaching certain subjects, accommodating disabilities or meeting the learning needs of all students;
  5. Use of long lectures with massive slide decks;
  6. Lack of instructor engagement, communication with students and feedback on assigned work;
  7. Lack of technological support and refusal to accept tech issues as excuses for late work or absences;
  8. Assignments with little scaffolding or connections to learning outcomes;
  9. Underdeveloped class plans and agendas;
  10. Attempts to replicate face-to-face experiences in online learning environments;
  11. Instituting camera-on policies;
  12. Imposing strict deadlines with severe penalties for late work;
  13. Failing to maintain the pages within the learning management system for an online course;
  14. Refusing to accommodate and/or belittling students with disabilities; and
  15. Lack of clarity in the processes and procedures for completing and submitting assignments.  

Educause made three recommendations for institutions to improve teaching and learning both now and in the post-pandemic future:

Invest in hybrid. "Hybrid courses should no longer be viewed as an exception, an inconvenience, or supplemental revenue stream," the report asserted. Students are going to expect a variety of options in their learning experiences, and institutions should "invest in the design, development and implantation of hybrid course models and the people who support them."

Connect faculty with instructional designers and instructional technologists. Faculty development programs should focus on "technology-intensive teaching experiences" that "serve all faculty regardless of their levels of experience and skill," the report said. Institutions can scale up these programs by "developing and delivering asynchronous online versions for those instructors who need flexibility in their own schedules for faculty development."

Put students at the center of teaching. Students' worst experiences with technology during fall 2020 were "inevitably linked to policies, practices, and approaches to teaching and learning with technology that were designed without the student experience (especially during a global pandemic) in mind," the report explained. Students' best experiences were infused with empathy, care and flexibility. "If we learn one thing from higher education's pandemic year it's that higher education needs to invest in promoting caring, student-centered, and adaptive pedagogies," the report concluded.

The full report, "Student Experiences with Technology in the Pandemic," is available on the Educause site.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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