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[September 24, 2004]

 

A Brief Report On Technology In Colleges Survey

 

BY DAVID R. BUTCHER


Eduventures Inc. , a Boston-based research firm, published its Higher Education Survey on Leadership, Innovation, and Technology, 2004 last month, focusing on U.S. campuses’ IT and the academic impact it has, to determine if technology is enabling colleges and universities to reach their primary strategic goals. Among the 432 people surveyed were chief academic officers/provosts, chief financial officers and presidents at 3,800 U.S. higher education institutions. The results show that college and university students still spend what minimal money they have on roughly 42 books per semester for each course they take; organizing and hosting Power Hour parties (Leadership), in which each participant drinks a shot of beer every minute for an hour; iPods, which liberate their desktop computers of roughly one thousand downloaded songs that each contain the word “dawg” in the title (Technology); and installing stripper poles into their on-campus apartments (Innovation).





Wait a minute — different survey results. (Sorry for eliciting any flashbacks; and for some of you, “You’re welcome.”)

Right, now the published research: As reported at eSchool News Online, the survey’s academic respondents indicated their top five strategic objectives:

  • Enhancing teaching and learning;
  • Improving student learning outcomes;
  • Attracting and retaining faculty;
  • Improving retention rates; and
  • Improving fund raising.

Present technology in colleges and universities, according to these same survey participants, is most beneficial in assisting them attain the following objectives:

  • Enhancing teaching and learning;
  • Improving institutional communication;
  • Improving business processes;
  • Enhancing the productivity of faculty and administrators; and
  • Improving student learning outcomes.

Despite the surveyed portion of academia having acknowledged emphasis on such objectives, the results of the survey evidence that the technology is least helpful in meeting institutional goals related to student retention, fundraising and constituent relationship management (oh good, another CRM acronym…).

And it’s not as if the technologies don’t exist. But the cost to purchase and resolve substitution software and accompanying solution tools often stands as the primary hindrance to implement such resources.

However, many schools do have the technological capabilities. Simply having the technology, though, simply isn’t enough. The upper portions of the institutions that do have the resources and tools, including professors, instructors, department heads and even alumni officials, must learn to use and leverage the technology for much-needed improvements in the field of higher learning. A significant number of students have both the prudence and the aptitude to use such techno means — look at the numerous college (even high school) students designing and composing personal Web sites for fun or for their favorite bands, as well as the Hinman CEOs, a few of these same young men and women who, like a high number of those Dot Com Boomers not long ago, are running their own businesses out of their dorm rooms. Look at Michael Dell.

This is a generalized characteristic that’s placed on a much larger scale, the young often (though not exclusively) being inclined to more quickly and voluntarily take interest in technological innovations (as long as such innovations directly affect them advantageously), at least among the general public; the academic institutions — those already with the resources — need to leverage their present technology for beneficial improvement. Those at colleges and universities who have, but are not using, the techno abilities to at least attract high-quality faculty and improve student learning outcomes mustn’t shy away from learning to use those able technologies.

Don’t panic; it’s only progress.

David R. Butcher is the assistant editor for Customer Inter@ction Solutions Magazine.

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