Steven W. Gilbert, President the TLT Group Eisler and Forsyth share their thoughts on why educators should bother teaching with technology, adding to my initial list of reasons.
From Rachel Forsyth, Learning and Teaching Unit, Manchester Metropolitan University:
Why bother? Flexibility. I can speak only for Higher Education in the UK, but I would be surprised if the same issues were not faced elsewhere. University teaching used to be an interesting and fulfilling professional activity. Over the last 15 years (that's a personal selection, the same things may have been observed over longer or shorter periods) the funding for universities has been eroded to the point where many daily teaching activities have become sheer grind.
We are constantly faced with the pressure to fit more students into the room, to mark more assignments, to spend less time with individuals who may be having difficulties, and on top of it all to concentrate more and more on research. Morale is low.
The introduction of technology doesn't reduce the number of students or the time that each one needs. What it does is to allow us to be more flexible about the way in which that time is used.
By moving outside the conventional paradigm of lectures/seminars/laboratories at fixed times and places in the week, we can take back control of the way we want to teach students - in every sense of the word teach. By using automated assessment for repetitive knowledge acquisition, we can remove some of the drudgery from our daily routine and use that time to look carefully at patterns in the outcomes of the assessment, so that we can identify students with problems and do something about it. By encouraging students to use a bulletin board to discuss particular topics (and providing marks for meaningful participation) we can get them to engage with aspects of the course in a way that is impossible if they are packed 200 strong in a lecture theatre whenever we see them. We can make sure that the quiet voices get their turn.
All this takes time to manage, but it can be done at times during the week that we choose. It means the day is not broken up hurrying to class and coming back, gathering papers on the way and distributing them on the way back. Less time at the photocopier. Less time taking a manual register. It makes it easier to plan face-to-face contacts for specific days of the week and concentrate on research the other days. It still takes up the same time, but you are the one deciding how that time gets used, rather than an administrator who timetables you in the lecture theater twice a week.
I expect there are a lot of people out there who disagree.... I can't wait to hear from you!
From David Eisler, Provost, Weber State University: Implementing technology and e-learning has become the most successful faculty development effort in which I've ever been involved. It is revitalizing faculty and causing them to think seriously about how they teach and hopefully about how students learn. I believe our classroom-based students along with our on-line students benefit from this revitalization.
This is probably one of the last teaching/learning things you'll get from me. I'm growing less concerned about proving the value of technology in t/l. I don't go around trying to prove that classroom instruction has value in t/l, and wonder why there should be a double standard. For our students, almost all of whom work too much in outside jobs, our online efforts enable students to take more classes, manage their schedules, and graduate sooner. On a campus where the average time to a bachelor's degree is 6.7 years, this is important. In the process we're also helping them gain skills that will facilitate their continued learning and growth once they've graduated. For many of our students in professional and technical skills, they actually are working in the positions they're learning about. People continue to look at e-learning as an "either or" type of situation. In our experience it doesn't happen in this way. Nearly 80% of the students who take an online course with us are also taking courses on one of our campuses. This is a good combination.
Finally, electronic learning has done wonders for our enrollment. For this fall, enrollment in online courses is up 57%. It's allowing us to stretch our facilities further than they could go physically. As the number of students who need access exceeds our ability to house them physically, electronic learning not only makes sense, it is an important approach to help meet this demand.
Taken from an AAHESGIT listserv posting by Steven Gilbert, 10/6/00. Rachel Forsyth (email@example.com) and David Eisler (firstname.lastname@example.org) were responding to AAHESGIT #49: Why Bother? For an online archive of Gilbert's postings, go to http://www.cren.net:8080/guest/archives/AAHESGIT/log0009/msg00001.html.