Students who are facile with texting, social media and gaming are not necessarily facile with classroom learning technology. That’s a shame, because evidence is mounting that instructors' increased use of digital courseware increases student engagement and learning outcomes.
Classes in which course management technologies like discussion boards and postings of notes, readings, and assignments produce higher scores on benchmarks published by The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). Ditto for interactive technologies, such as collaborative editing software, blogs, simulations, and virtual worlds. NSSE's report titled Assessment for Improvement: Tracking Student Engagement Over Time says those students participated more in deep approaches to learning and reported higher academic and personal gains during college.
Faculty are steadily more comfy with their grasp of technology and its use in teaching. Students don’t agree. The biggest gaps involve use of social media as a teaching platform and learning/using the technology on campus that will be used in the workplace. The 21st-Century Campus Report study from CDW-G says just 38 percent of students believe their professors understand technology and fully integrate it into their classes. An interesting divide.
Not so black and white
On closer look, all students are not equally comfortable with technology. The stereotypical multi-tasking, texting, ear-budded twenty-something digital native is at most one-fifth of the student population. Four fifths are adults. Among those adults, there is a wide range of attitudes, skills and experiences regarding technology.
A Cengage Learning - Eduventures survey, entitled Instructors and Students: Technology Use, Engagement and Learning Outcomes, further debunks the digital native myth. It reports that 65 percent of instructors think students are tech savvy when it comes to using digital tools in the classroom. Conversely, only 42 percent of students believe there is enough support for educational technology. There is a perception gap regarding how tech-adept students actually are versus how savvy they are presumed to be.
A closer look reveals that few college instructors are technological Luddites. Even with the gap – real or perceived – between student expectations and faculty performance, more and more instructors are embracing technology successfully.
Technology more advanced than its users
The sophistication of today’s learning technology has outpaced both its instructors’ and students’ ability to use it.
That became apparent to Cengage. The company produced a suite of products: Course Mate, Course Master and Course360 – a baby bear, mama bear and papa bear approach that matches up instructor competence in bringing learning technologies into the classroom.
Bill Rieders, Cengage’s Executive Vice President says 70 percent of students prefer courses that use a great deal of technology, provided there is adequate support in how to use the tools. So the company launched CourseCare to provide the missing ingredient: training. Consultants help faculty choose an appropriate tool, customize it to match desired learning outcomes, and teach instructor and student how to use it.
Good teaching, good marketing
It’s working. According to the Cengage - Eduventures survey, 58 percent of students say technology helps them with coursework and learning. Three fourths of instructors think that student engagement has improved as the use of digital tools has increased. Of the instructors who believe engagement levels have improved, 87 percent believe that learning outcomes have improved as well.