6 Challenges to Higher Ed Technology Adoption

Different challenges and technologies cause higher education to rethink how teaching and learning happens at different institutions.

by / February 11, 2013 0

Over the next five years, the New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Project suggested that six emerging technologies would become mainstream in higher education. But the adoption of these technologies comes with challenges.

The six emerging technologies include massively open online courses, tablets, games and gamification; learning analytics, 3D printing and wearable technology. While universities and colleges are exploring these technologies, it's not always easy to stay up on an ever-changing field and fulfill other responsibilities, said Malcolm Brown, director of the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative.

The EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative partnered with the NMC on the 2013 Horizon Project report, which named six challenges to technology adoption in higher education.

1. Faculty training still does not acknowledge the fact that digital media literacy continues to rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession. 

2. The emergence of new scholarly forms of authoring, publishing, and researching outpace sufficient and scalable modes of assessment. 

3. Too often it is education’s own processes and practices that limit broader uptake of new technologies.

4. The demand for personalized learning is not adequately supported by current technology or practices.

5. New models of education are bringing unprecedented competition to traditional models of higher education.

6. Most academics are not using new technologies for learning and teaching, nor for organizing their own research.

Time is one of the major factors in how much faculty can learn about and incorporate new technologies and digital media literacy into their courses, Brown said. Especially in traditional research universities, faculty spend time researching, teaching and serving on campus. That means faculty professional development has been challenging to fit in.

"Faculty are just really hammered for time," Brown said.

Even when they do learn about mobile technology, for example, they might have to relearn concepts two years later because the technology changes so rapidly. Both technology changes and curriculum planning and delivery changes contribute to this challenge.

"Teaching in higher education has become a multi-faceted skill," Brown said. "Think of all the things that an instructor needs to be mindful of. It's tougher and tougher for a person to work as a lone ranger in terms of the curriculum."

And universities are taking note that it's been harder to work solo. Instead of making small curriculum improvements at the individual course level, they're considering different models or frameworks.

Massively open online course (MOOC) models allow professors to reach large numbers of students who don't pay a fee to participate. Competency-based learning measures students against a set of knowledge, skills and abilities that they need to perform a task. Multiple ways to gain knowledge, skills and abilities exist in this model, according to Competency-Based Learning Models: A Necessary Future by Richard A. Voorhees, associate vice president for instruction and student services for the Community Colleges of Colorado System.

The rise of these two models and others show that higher education is taking a closer look at how to deliver curriculum and assess learning.

Brown said, "The fundamental models of which schools have approached their teaching and learning mission in the past are getting in some cases a really deep and meaningful reexamination."

Tanya Roscorla Former Managing Editor

Tanya Roscorla covered ed tech from 2009-2017.