Tips for Training Faculty on Teaching
with Technology

CDW has released a report indicating, among other findings:

  • Only 38% of students surveyed believe faculty are making effective use of interactive learning technologies in the classroom
  • Faculty identify training as what they need most to help them integrate learning technologies

Patricia McGee, associate professor of instructional technology at the University of Texas at San Antonio, offers some practical tips on training faculty for the integration of interactive learning technologies into the classroom.

Focus on Affordance

"Often faculty don't need more training on the tool, they need more training on the affordance of the tool and how to use it to support learning. Different tools have different pedagogical affordances."
Patricia McGee, UT San Antonio

For example, the research indicates that blogs support student reflection. That's a wonderful tool for a course that requires deep, reflective thinking -- but not as useful if the goal involves collaborative work. "It's easier to learn the tool," McGee remarks, "than it is to figure out how to use it in a class to support learning." It's important to keep the training focused on the curriculum and on learning outcomes and needs, rather than providing sessions focused just on how to use the tool.

"The idea that faculty need to be experts at technology is, I think, misplaced. It's more important for them to think deeply about what students need to accomplish in their course and how technology can be used to support those outcomes."
Patricia McGee, UT San Antonio

Adopt a Tailored Approach

Campus-wide training may not be the ideal option. Faculty in different disciplines will have different needs for the use of technology. Training that is focused on how to use a tool for learning within one discipline will be both more helpful and more appealing to faculty. It is important that faculty see the application to their classes and their students -- and to the outcomes of their degree program.

As training can be costly, McGee recommends that academic leaders prioritize professional development by academic program. Invest first in high-priority programs. If an institution offers department-specific professional development based on that department's outcomes and needs, then faculty are more likely to accept and participate, and more likely to leave the training empowered to use the new technology productively to meet actual outcomes.

"Sometimes we feel that the most efficient strategy is to do mass professional development. But it is more effective to do customized training for your faculty. The return is much higher."
Patricia McGee, UT San Antonio

Offer an Array of Training Options

Because faculty will have differing needs, you will want to offer varied opportunities for professional development. Make self-paced tutorials available (with incentives) for faculty who are able and willing to learn on their own. For faculty who are new to using a variety of learning tools in a classroom setting, offer options for longer-term professional development, so that they can consider more fully the value of learning technologies and the opportunities for using them in the classroom.

Some institutions require faculty to take an online course or certification that covers different aspects of using technology. "These have proven to be very effective," McGee comments. "Faculty can complete the course at their own time and pace, given their busy schedules."

In all cases, McGee recommends offering training that uses the instructional strategies that you want the faculty to apply. If you're trying to help faculty determine how to use technology to foster collaborative learning in the classroom, make sure that fostering collaborative learning is a major part of the training program.

Consider Mentoring

Another strategy McGee recommends is to set up mentoring or internship using either other faculty or students. For example, a faculty member who is an early adopter could mentor a faculty member who is acquiring the new skills. McGee adds, "I have also seen institutions do a remarkable job with students who work with faculty and mentor them in the use of technology." This works for two reasons:

  • Students tend to be good problem-solvers, and can brainstorm new ways to help faculty engage with the tool
  • Working closely with a student mentor, the faculty member has the opportunity to hear the student perspective on the technology and its use, and may understand better what will and will not work for students

For added value, offer opportunities for conversations about uses of learning technology. These could be informal brown bag lunches, or facilitated, topical sessions. "As academics, faculty want to discuss the implications and hear others' successes and hesitations," McGee comments. "This makes technology both more palatable and more understandable."

Read More

CDW 2009 21st-Century Campus Report

Wiki Focused on e-Learning Tools & Practice