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Editor's Note

The Faculty Disconnect?

University Business, Nov 2009

WITH THE TECHNOLOGY ADVANCES THAT have been introduced in higher education in the last decade we should be well on the way to realizing the ideal of the 21st century connected campus, right?

Not so fast.

Earlier this month at the EDUCAUSE conference in Denver, CDW-G released its second annual “21st Century Campus Report: Defining the Vision.” The technology reseller surveyed more than 1,000 college students, faculty, and IT staff members to understand their respective perceptions of technology use on campus.

Only 38 percent of students say that faculty understand technology.

The study, which is available at, offers an interesting view on how technology is perceived by various constituencies and reveals some of the roadblocks on the way to that vision.

Not surprisingly, the report notes that, overall, the keys to realizing the 21st century campus are improving access to wireless networks, access to educational information and resources, and the ability to communicate inside and outside of campus boundaries.

But more important, it also reveals a significant disconnect between faculty on the one hand and students and IT professionals on the other when it comes to using new technologies in the classroom.

There’s no denying that now, more than ever, faculty view technology as a positive influence on teaching and learning. Seventy percent of faculty surveyed said that technology was very important to incoming students (up from 58 percent the previous year). Eighty-one percent of the students claimed to use technology every day to prepare for class. Yet only 38 percent of students say that professors understand technology and have fully integrated it into their classes.

This, says Julie Smith, executive vice president of Higher Education Sales for CDW-G, is probably reflective of the cultural changes that have taken place in recent years. With the ubiquity of wireless access and laptops, cell phones, and personal mobile devices?not to mention the growing use of technology in the K12 arena?it appears that young people now entering college are far more in tune with technology trends than are their instructors.

Asked what technologies define the smart classroom, both faculty and IT staff rated wireless internet access, internet connection, and LCD projectors very high on the list.

However, when it came to ranking other technologies, the disparity again became apparent. Interactive whiteboards were considered important by 73 percent of IT staff, while just 41 percent of faculty felt that way.

Distance learning capabilities to connect students in multiple locations scored high on the list for IT staff (70 percent) but not for faculty (40 percent). Likewise, lecture capture technology was important for 61 percent of IT staff but only 36 percent of faculty.

Students, too, have a different opinion of what’s important than do faculty. For example, more than half (52 percent) of students surveyed thought there was educational value in social networking sites such as Facebook, compared with only 14 percent of faculty. Open source applications (such as Google Apps) were seen as a useful tool by 31 percent of students but just 12 percent of faculty.

Perhaps most telling is that IT staff believe the biggest impediment to widespread technology use is lack of budget. Yet 45 percent of students surveyed say the greatest challenge is the lack of faculty technology knowledge.

How do these results compare with what is going on in your institution? Do you agree with the numbers? How should administrators encourage and support technology use by faculty to bridge this apparent divide? Let us know.

Write to Tim Goral at

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