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Faculty, IT Diverge on the Importance of Classroom Tech

Faculty members and campus IT staff aren't exactly in agreement on the necessity of some technologies in education.

According to a new survey, some of the key differences in perception are in the areas of virtual education and online collaboration, though those aren't the only differences. On the whole, IT places a much higher importance on technology than educators themselves.

The report, "The 2010 21st-Century Campus Report: Campus 2.0," commissioned by CDW Government (CDW-G) and released Monday at the Campus Technology 2010 conference in Boston, polled about 1,000 students, instructors and IT department staff members in order to gauge their attitudes about technology used in education and their expectations for the future.

It found that IT staff tended to advocate online collaborative tools and virtual education to a far greater extent than faculty members. According to the research, 72 percent of IT staffers indicated they consider online collaboration software "essential" to the 21st-century classroom, compared with just 31 percent of faculty members. Similarly, 68 percent of IT staff members said virtual learning is essential, a view shared by only 35 percent of faculty members.

In fact, in every category, a higher percentage of IT pros than faculty considered technology essential -- including wireless Internet access, digital content, smart podiums, lecture capture, HD videoconferencing and electronic readers.

But educators weren't unenthusiastic about every technology. A majority of faculty surveyed cited digital content (67 percent), wireless Internet access (65 percent) and smart podiums (62 percent) as essential classroom technologies.

Meanwhile, IT staffers were also fairly upbeat about the state of the infrastructure on their campuses. Only 6 percent said their campuses were "aging" or "in the dark ages." Thirty-eight percent reported that their tech was adequate, though it "could be refreshed." A majority actually reported that their IT infrastructure is either current, with "hardware that is no more than three years old" (47 percent), or cutting edge (9 percent).

As for college and university students, 63 percent said that technology was either extremely important or somewhat important to their college selection process.

"Today's high school and college students view technology as an engaging, interactive learning tool, which they expect will be readily available on campus," said Julie Smith, CDW-G vice president, higher education, in a statement released to coincide with the report. "Students associate it with the higher education experience, and campus technology offerings weigh heavily in their college selection process. They also expect that the higher education experience will bridge the technological gap between academia and professional life."

However, there were only two technologies that a majority of students cited as extremely important: wireless network (77 percent) and off-campus network access (57 percent). Course management systems came in third at 47 percent; digital content in fourth at 40 percent; and multimedia content streaming in fifth at 23 percent. The survey also found that 64 percent of current college students are using social networking for studying with peers or collaborating on classwork.

The complete report is available for download now. The study was conducted by O'Keeffe & Co. on behalf of CDW-G. There's an overall margin of error of ±3 percent. For faculty and IT responses, the margin of error is ±5.6 percent. For student data, the margin of error is ±4.8 percent. Further information and a link to the PDF can be found here.

About the Author

Dave Nagel is the executive editor for 1105 Media's educational technology online publications and electronic newsletters.

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