Thursday, May 30, 2013

Finding Faculty's Technology 'Sweet Spot'

Within the past few days, I've seen numerous articles, C-level posts, and discussions all based on the topic of faculty engagement as it pertains to technology. How can we get faculty to use the technology tools we have on our campus? Why are faculty so reluctant? Academic freedom, policy, success, etc.

1-2-3 Do
  • Recognize faculty are a massive group of individuals. So not only do they have different needs and methods, they respond differently and approach 'new' differently. Identify with your faculty members as individuals, respective of their department, personality and approach.
  • Faculty are learners. They teach because they've been taught and they continue to learn. They enjoy learning - about new ideas, new methods, and new technology. They enjoy being at the table when the solutions are vetted and ideas are being discussed and decisions are being made. If you make faculty-use or student-use decisions without involving the faculty, they won't be as quick to advocate for its use.
  • Although faculty are educated on higher level than most of us, they don't know everything. You need to make sure that training and education is available for them, on their schedule, within their genre on new (and old!) technology.

1-2-3 Don't
  • Don't underestimate faculty's interest in anything - involvement, technology, processes. They are interested, you just have to actively find their 'hook' whether that be 'work more, administrate less', communicate with students without supplying personal information, viewing student data a variety of ways, etc.
  • Don't ignore them. With interest typically comes a desire to talk things out. Don't cut off faculty when they are giving feedback. Listen to and value their feedback. And don't use acronyms or overly complex jargon. That's not impressive within the technology arena, let alone outside of it.
  • Don't sell campus technology alone. Find other highly regarded areas to help you, whether it be Admissions, Financial Aid or your Faculty-Senate (or similar) chair. Find your advocates across campus and keep them in the fold so even when you're not present, your initiatives have a someone present waving a rally rag.
A gauntlet can be thrown down forcing faculty to use a technology, but in most situations I don't think that is really necessary. Excitement needs to bubble from within. Adoption will be a natural progression. In information technology departments, the most difficult part of the job used to be making things work - the network, programming, systems. So much of that is automated now that 'the most difficult part' has changed into empowering technology adoption. It's serious business and a facet that shouldn't be ignored. There is a 'sweet spot' for faculty, staff, students, community. Every campus is different, but the basics remain the same. The '1-2-3 Do/Don't' recommendations should help in building a path to faculty engagement.

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