Faculty Perceptions on EdTech and Online Learning

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Dr. Nicole Barbaro, Sr. Communications Content Manager at WGU Labs returns to the podcast to discuss their follow-up study on faculty perceptions of EdTech and online learning, as well as how we can better learn off our peer institution’s tech learning curves.

You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect e D U podcast network. I'm Eric Olsen with Helix Education and we're here today with Dr Nicole Barbera senior communications content manager at w Gu labs. Dr Barbara, welcome back to the show. Thanks so much for having me. Really excited to have you back and to talk to you today about your follow up study on faculty perceptions of Ad Tech and online learning, as well as how we can better learn off our peer institutions tech learning curves. But before we dig in, can you remind the listeners about your role and to work at W Gu labs? Absolutely. W LABS is a nonprofit and tech incubation, research and design arm of Western Governors University, which is the largest online university in the country. WG labs really focuses on identifying and supporting scalable solutions that can help address some of the biggest challenges in education today and within that working group at W G labs, I work on specifically the college innovation at work team, which is a collaborative research and innovation group that comes together with a network of Higher Ed institutions that are really committed to addressing some core challenges within higher education, in the modern higher education environment. And specifically we're really focused on kind of promoting belonging and engagement and leveraging technology to help students, you know, feel that sense of community, engage with their institution and their peers. I love the promise and reality of the network and the work you're doing. We're going to dig into that a little bit more later, but maybe to kick off this conversation, can you give us a high level overview of this recent C I...

N A Tech Faculty survey? Absolutely so. As I mentioned, you know, the college innovation network is a large group of different institutions, lots of diverse institution types. We have two year and four year online colleges, so a lot of different types of higher art institutions and last year we really saw a unique opportunity for us to gather insights from both students and faculty from this diverse network of institutions that are involved with college innovation network, and our goal is really to better understand how students and faculty are experiencing and using at tech. And you know, at tech has become really ubiquitous within the student and faculty experience, especially since the pandemic. So it's been really important for us to launch this Ad Tech Survey Series and since we've published report on the student experiences last summer, which I came on and spoke to you about, and then most recently we did a facult t version of that report which came out last month. And ultimately we are really trying to understand how faculty are experiencing at Tech, how they're using it in their teaching practice and ultimately we hope that the insights from these multi institutional surveys that we conduct twice yere can really be applied by colleges and leaders to improve teaching and learning experiences with education technology. Yeah, what did you learn? What were some of maybe your biggest takeaways or surprises from the survey? I think for me, you know, our survey included responses from over four faculty across eight teaching focused institutions and, as I mentioned before, we have both two year and four year colleges and online colleges within our network. And for me there's kind of two main things that stood out from the research that we just published. First, we found that faculty are actually really enthusiastic about a tech overall. When we ask faculty to kind of self identify as resistors of D tech or leaders or followers of using at tech in the classroom, only eleven percent of faculty reported not wanting...

...to integrate at tech into their courses. On the flip side, that means of faculty reported being really confident in their ability to adapt and use at tech in their courses. And I think these not numbers really counter the narrative that, you know, it's really kind of unwavering in a lot of education, that faculty are slow to adapt to new tech or they're resistant to using it, which are results just don't support that narrative and actually paint faculty in a really positive light of being really enthusiastic to use a tech. And second, and you know, related to that point, one insight that stood out to me was that there really seems to be kind of two parallel conversations about a tech occurring on campus. The first is among administration, an administration are the ones that are really buying and procuring a tech for their campuses. But the other conversation is really happening among faculty themselves. You know, faculty know best what they need to teach, what tech they need, what their students need, but they don't really have a seat at the decision making table at that university level. And our survey shows that faculty are aware of this and they report that administration has the most influence over the tech that comes on campus. But faculty themselves aren't relying on administration for recommendations and input about what tech to use. Instead, they're leveraging their faculty peer networks to learn about at tech. So it seems like we have kind of these two parallel conversations going on and one of the big takeaways that, you know, we can talk about in a little bit is how we can, you know, make that conversation a single conversation to best support our students. And you mentioned the scope of this study. More than four faculty participants across the C I n institutions. How representative do we believe these faculty these institutions are compared to the greater higher Ed Landscape? Could the faculty from your network inherently be more ad tech friendly...

...than many campuses? These are great questions and I think our sample is pretty representative of Higher Ed Faculty in particular ways. First, you know, we did ask faculty in our survey to self report their gender, their recent ethnicity, whether they're part time or full time status, and we compared those data to federally reported numbers and overall we're pretty on part, kind of within a few percentage points across all those different categories. So across kind of these demographics and employment status, our faculty look pretty representative of their institutions overall. And second, I do think our sample is a good representation of what I call kind of the average college. All of our institutions, as I mentioned, are teaching focus colleges, you know, so we're not at the big flagship research universities, but our faculty are really representative of their peers that are working primarily at community colleges and undergraduate focused for your institution, whose full time job and education is teaching rather than research Um and, of course, to your last point, there's still you know, it's a voluntary survey, so we can't fully rule out Um understanding that there may be some selection bias, that the faculty that responded to the survey that we sent out may be different in certain ways from those faculty that did not take the survey. But overall and kind of key demographics and the types of institutions were looking at, I think our faculty sample is pretty representative in those areas. Let's talk about attitudinal findings. Higher it has been a tough missional ground in particularly last few years. We're hearing too many stories about too many of our best faculty career switching. What do you see in this study about the hope that our current faculty have for the future? I think that's a really important question, especially, as you mentioned, after the last few years where a lot of academics and faculty may be switching out of the Higher Ed Environment, and I think a lot of that has to do with the time and support and resources that faculty need to truly thrive in their teaching practice. But one area of hope and one...

...of my favorite parts about our end tech surveys that we do is that we always kind of include a set of questions at the end about their perceptions of the future. So what did they see happening in the future? And I think this is one area of hope. As we know, higher education is really in a area of technological and digital transformation right now, kind of moving into this more higher, hybrid, flexible online learning modality, and one thing that we see is that faculty are overall very confident that higher ed is moving towards this more online and tech enabled future and the majority of faculty, when we asked them how positively or negatively they feel about these changes, are overall positive. But you know, it should be noted that faculty feel more positive about online courses and smaller aspects of education moving online than they do about fully online programs and fully online degrees. But what's with our survey of having this diversity of two year, four year and online colleges is that we may be able to learn some things from these other colleges, especially online colleges, who feel really positive about moving towards this online future. So overall, I think that faculty are in a strong consensus that we're moving towards this more tech enabled online future of education, which is really aligned with where we kind of observe things are going. So I think that's kind of a key area of hope that we all seem to be kind of in in alignment of where the future of high it is going. Yeah, and you mentioned these learnings. What do you think we do with these learnings? What is your team believe? The action items are here for four C I N for those outside of C I n looking at this study, what do you think they should do with this? It's always a great question and I love finishing our reports with kind of a key strategy section in our report so people can really read the report and be like, okay, now what do I do based on this information? So are at tech surveys, including this facult to survey, really focus...

...on translating results into actionable strategies that, in particular higher ED leaders can use to improve a tech experiences. And for this report I think one of the key takeaway is that the ED tech systems within universities for how we choose by and implement Ed Tech are not necessarily optimally set up for faculty to use tech while in their courses. So I hope that leaders come away from this report with a clear call to action to critically evaluate their institutional processes about how they choose by and implement at tech with their faculty in particular. You know, faculty really must be seen as partners and change Um and, as we saw from earlier data in our report, they're really enthusiastic and positive about these ad tech and online learning changes. But they have to have an influential seat at the decision making table, you know. After all, faculty know what they need best to help their students thrive and to make the tech transformation happen smoothly and effectively. Faculty really need appropriate time and training. Something about a third of our faculty report that they're not receiving, and this has been something that has come up a lot, especially since we've moved online during the pandemic, is it's difficult to translate a fully in person course to online, you know, to really integrate tech into these hybrid or multimodal, you know, formats for their courses. So we really need to make sure that our systems are set up well to support faculty with the time and resources that they need in order to use tech, you know, the best they can in their courses. I love those takeaways. Let's briefly pull back to the C I N Network, the College Innovation Network. It's one of the most interesting things I see happening in I red right now, so I'm obsessed with it and I'm excited to pick your brain about it. Talk about maybe this broader concept of piloting tech, learning off each other's curves, getting to a better student experience even faster through the shared learnings of this collaborative network. And if you believe more institutional collaboration like this is east potential to drive US faster to a more...

...beautiful future of Higher Ed. I'm so happy you brought up the institutional collaboration with something that makes me excited for the future of higher education is this increasingly collaborative approach that institutions are taking to drive innovation, and at C I N we're really leaning into that idea by connecting institutions to really create what we call a community of practice for leaders in Higher Ed to learn from one another. You know, because we have all types of institutions and our network community colleges, public and private colleges, online colleges, the leaders can really leverage the insights and lessons from others that are solving all sorts of different problems with their campuses. And what's great about this collaboration with all these diverse types of institutions is all these leaders have expertise and knowledge in different types of areas. You know. So our four year private universities are learning about online infrastructure and online teaching from our online universities. You know how to do this really, really well and at scale. So I think, you know, this collaboration with all these different leaders is really going to lead to very accelerated kind of insights and learnings that we have going on, you know, regularly in our network and within our network we really prioritize research, both with our twice annual a tech survey that I've chatted with you about, but also through the evaluation studies of a tech products that we help implement and each of the institutions and C I n. You know a lot of the times we, you know, in a great tech into a course or into a campus and then we don't have a rigorous research and evaluation plan in place, whereas at C I N we have a full ad tech cycle support that our institutions go through. It's about a two year cycle and we, through this psycle of support, help institutions one identify what needs their students need addressed in the first place, what Ad Tech can help, you know, address and bridge the gap and that need support the implementation at their camp us and then run about a year long...

...research program to evaluate the impact. And by doing this and publishing these different reports, we can help everyone, even within our network and broadly and Higher Ed, to help understand what attech is effective and how it's effective. So we're really excited to see our impact grows as our network continues to expand over the next couple of years. So excited to follow that journey as well. Nicole, you mentioned how you love ending your surveys with next steps. Let's end our conversation with the same. Leave us with some next steps for institutions. Listening, they're looking to improve their attach, their faculty expertise, their faculty buy in, their student experience. How should they think about that challenge? You know, we're really focused on higher ED leaders. That's the main kind of group that we take that we work with at CI N, and my number one piece of advice would be to start by directly talking to students and faculty about their experiences. This has been, you know, kind of the essence of the end Tech Survey Series at Ci n is to get that student voice, that faculty voice. As I mentioned earlier, we have these parallel conversations going on. Too often big tech decisions on campus are made without consulting those who are most directly impacted by those decisions, which are the students and faculty. You know, they're're using the ad tech every single day. What is working? What is not? What are the needs they want addressed? That's really the true starting point and I think that should be, you know, step one for any institutional change, you know, looking to, you know, streamline processes and help improve the experience. You need to talk to those that are using the tech directly. Great stuff, Nicole. Thanks so much for your time again today. What's the best place for listeners to reach out if they have any follow up questions for you or your team? I think the best place to to reach out would be directly on our website at w Gu labs dot org. We have a number of kind of contact forms on there. I mean, if you go to W G LAB DOT ORG, backslash C I N, you can get in contact with our team directly and see all of the research that's coming out of the network. They're...

...awesome. Nicole, thanks so much for joining us today. Thank you so much for having me. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges, downloaded today for free at Helix Education Dot Com. Slash playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show on Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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