A quiet tension prevails at our colleges and universities. Sometimes it’s perceptible in the murmurs that echo down corridors and throughout staff offices. Other times it’s laid bare when infighting suddenly spills into public consciousness.
It’s a tension born from discordant views about the form and function of technology in higher education. In one camp sit the IT leaders who design and deploy the technological platforms upon which professors are asked to instruct and students are expected to learn. Then there are the faculty themselves, a group usually laser-focused on its trade and often relatively disinterested in technology’s application in lecture halls.
I was reminded of this tension when I attended the 2016 EDUCAUSE Conference last week. While discussing merits of a new technology available to colleges, I was cut short by an IT director at an Ivy League school. “Our faculty would never use that,” she said. “We’re notoriously traditional, and implementing even simple technology is a challenge for us.”
Many professors view technology as an encumbrance, she continued, something to tolerate and accept simply to placate administrators.
Of course, there isn’t a strict dichotomy between two unyielding forces – reality lurks in the grey margins. And at EDUCAUSE, fresh attempts to build bridges were evident.
EDUCAUSE President John O’Brien told eCampus News that the conference focused on “the crucial connections needed between IT and academics on campus.” These connections, according to O’Brien, are essential to student success.
EDUCAUSE attracted more “faculty and staff from outside IT” than ever before, O’Brien said, signaling an increased emphasis on collaboration across the entire higher education community.
This is encouraging progress. By putting student success ahead of long-held value systems and preconceptions about how higher education should look, teaching faculty and IT leaders can create better learning opportunities for students.
Were you at EDUCAUSE? What’d you hear?