Saturday, February 13, 2010

Vital statistics

Tony Bates is currently writing a book on the integration of technology in post-secondary education and has written a blog post on the key factors used in assessing how successful an institution has been (How well has your institution integrated technology?). Case studies from 11 institutions in North America and Europe will be analysed in the book and the post lists the key factors as follows:
  1. Are there ‘champions’ with power and influence in the institution who recognize the importance of technology for conducting the business of the institution?
  2. Does the institution have an advanced, comprehensive technology infrastructure that enables all staff, students and faculty to access computers, networks, software and services as required?
  3. Has the institution digitalized its administrative systems, and can staff, students and faculty access administrative information and services easily over the web?
  4. Has the institution identified a clear, strategic rationale for the use of technology within the institution?
  5. Has the institution identified additional financial resources or reallocated resources to support the integration of technology within the institution?
  6. What proportion of staff, students and faculty are using technology and for what activities?
  7. How innovative is the use of technology, particularly for teaching?
  8. What level of support and training is given to instructors to ensure good quality teaching when using technology?
  9. Are students learning better and getting better services as a result of technology integration?
He suggests that these questions be used by all universities and colleges for a self audit and I would love to see this being implemented. I suspect that only a few will be able to answer all these questions.

Most institutions have now plenty of technology in place with high speed campus networks and wireless access commonplace. Administrative systems are established and learning management systems relatively widespread. However, in many places the problem is that the infrastructure is in place without being part of an overall strategy for how to best exploit the power of net-based tools to improve and widen the reach of our education. The benefits of the expensive infrastructure are not realised since there is seldom any money to invest in traing staff to use it effectively. Often there is no "champion" in the top management with the risk that important strategic decisions are delegated to the IT department who tend to see the issue as a technical one.

"... it seems clear already that strong commitment to technology from the senior administration is a necessary condition for effective integration."

However, I would say that what is often missing is an awareness of what technology is being used for and a lack of research on its use. Question 9 picks up on this theme. We implement technology but seldom study the effects. Are we using technology in the right way? Are we being innovative and if so what can we learn from the innovators? Are students benefitting from our use of technology and if not how should we change our methods? There is seldom any real quality assessment of net-based learning apart from superficial studies of drop-out rates.

One of the main mistakes we all make (in this post as well!) is using words like technology and IT. What's happening on the net today affects all of society and is mostly about new ways for people to communicate and collaborate. The technology behind the tools we use does not need to be understood by the users. Most of us drive cars without knowing how they work and the same is true on the net. For many people, however, the mere mention of such terms turns them off because they're simply "not interested in technical stuff". As long as we use such terms those at the top of our organisations will automatically delegate the issue to the IT people. Trouble is what else do we call it so that people will understand?

1 comment:

  1. Hello,
    You talked about things must be available (9 key factors) for the success of integrated technology .

    I think these factors must be available in any institute and I will be assessed to determine which incomplete or missing points in my university(An-Najah National University).