A Case for Effective Technology Stewardship

July 19, 2023   |  
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This blog arose from a discussion forum in which members of the Jenzabar Community discussed technology-enabled learning models.

Online learning isn't a new phenomenon, especially for alternative educational programs. More and more institutions are transforming traditional programs into classrooms that have no borders by implementing and adopting new technology. But the success of these endeavors may have less to with the integration of new and emerging technology and more to do with stewardship.

Educators are willing to try new technologies that tout their ability to increase engagement, enhance integrity, or automate the mundane. Because of this, instructors generally come pre-equipped with a set of technology preferences and are being actively targeted by countless providers who promote making their lives easier. However, when implementing new instructional technology, there is much more to consider and much more at stake than is typically understood at the instructor level alone. The institution must consider the consistency between courses and programs, ease of adoption, and the significance of departmental expenditures amongst their selection criteria. The lack of boundaries for new technology adoption, combined with increasing staff turnover and the use of adjunct instructors, can lead to organizational chaos and technology that becomes an obstacle to student success and retention.

Making Technology Work for Your Campus

While policing the use of new technology may be seen as a hindrance to instructional creativity, institutional norms should be viewed as a catalyst for successfully adopting and using technology. With the right onboarding processes and training in place, institutions can grow their knowledge base and standardize pedagogy; some have already done so. Over the past few years, mindsets and philosophies have been drastically changed on what constitutes substantive classroom interaction. Many now believe the online classroom can provide an acceptable alternative to the traditional environment. Part of that belief lies in what can be accomplished through technology.

While the emergency-online move of 2020 led to an expedited review of classroom technology, it is time for an in-depth analysis that considers the perspectives of a wider range of key institutional stakeholders, including those who provide support for these systems and services, set annual budgets, and populate data for institutional research. The analysis should also include a closer inspection of what considerations should be given toward which technologies actively facilitate institutional and departmental goals.

Instructional Technology and Student Success

In addition to developing better practices for onboarding and orienting users, the library of institution-specific resources must increase. Perhaps the greater consideration is not on which technologies can be integrated, but which technologies can realistically be supported and absorbed to increase the student experience.

Constantly changing what technologies a user encounters puts them at a disadvantage as they must spend time acquainting themselves with new systems before they can devote their attention to a course’s subject matter. The opposite, then, is also true: the more familiar a student is with technology, the more time they can devote to the content that truly matters. While standardizing technology may not sound very progressive, an institution’s ability to better support and anticipate expected outcomes in the online classroom claims otherwise.

Finally, it should be noted that students are generally unimpressed with the latest in classroom technologies and are typically not attending your institution based on which ones you use. They may, however, partly associate their experience with how well technology was managed and supported at your institution. More than that, they will likely recall moments of great personal interaction (yes, this is entirely possible in an online environment) with instructors who were able to share content with passion and provide an approach to online learning that was consistent and planned, helping them achieve their life’s goals.

This blog was written by Terrill Gilley, Ph.D., Product Manager at Jenzabar.

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