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Over 45,000 Faculty and Students Have Spoken - Are We Going to Do Anything Different?


The results of the 2017 Educause ECAR Survey were huge. Roughly 11,000 faculty and 35,000 students responded to questions about the role of technology in higher ed.  Some of the results are startling:


"...most faculty members are satisfied with their learning management system (LMS) for course management functions such as publishing a syllabus or recording grades.... But few report using it for more advanced, interactive purposes. (Campus Technology) "The LMS is accepted as a utility. It is the phone system, the plumbing..." (Jeffrey Pomerantz, ECAR senior researcher)."


So we profs are using our LMSs only to:


  1. post syllabi
  2. give online quizzes
  3. communicate with students via brief messages
  4. ask (usually unchallenging) "discussion" questions
  5. let them upload papers
  6. calculate grades.


Discouraging and hard to argue with.   


Why aren't we using LMSs (including MindTap and WebAssign) for "...more advanced, interactive purposes"?


I'm going to guess that there are two answers to that question:


  1. We profs don't know how to structure a lesson in a way that is interactive. Too many of us (including myself) are entrenched repeating the process by which we ourselves were taught: the "sage on the stage" (I hate using that phrase but it does capture it). All we know how to do is "present information" and "cover" material. We need help re-thinking what we do.
  2. Tech tools could play a part in our newly reinvisioned approach to teaching, but we either, a) don't know that programs exist that could help us (one example: how many of us are familiar with easy to use tools like ThingLink?, PollEverywhere, or the many tools available at KnightLabs and HP5? ) and/or b) we can't imagine how to use these tools to create "interactive lessons".


Well there's a 3rd reason that we don't explore how to use our online learning tools to create more engaging/challenging/interactive content: we're not being rewarded for doing it.  What incentives exist in the faculty system to encourage faculty to spend time learning new approaches and new technologies?


Perhaps untenured faculty at some institutions are being rewarded for exploring the use of technology in their teaching, but I'll bet that while doing so is considered "nice" by faculty peers, rewards (compensation and movement up the academic ladder) still comes to one thing: number of pubications. 😞  Until that changes, we will continue to see few academics using powerful online learning systems utilized in challenging ways. 



Great article, Michael, thank you sharing. It really is a shame that more instructors aren't using online technology for more than posting syllabi and grades. It saves so much time! I do have to agree with you. I also think that many insturctors just don't know that the technology is there or that they don't know how to use it. I've said many times, and not to be offensive, but I don't think some instructors are much different than their students. If we don't understand how to do something, we just don't do it and we don't asked because some may feel, "I'm suppose to know how to this and I don't want anyone to know I don't know, so I'm just not going to do it". What they don't realize is that the online ancillaries and technology that Cengage has to offer makes life so much easier and students so much more successful!


I hope you all have a happy, healthy, safe and blessed New Year and a fantastic semester!!



HI Terry, 


Yes, I remember someone suggesting that while students may suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out), instructors often suffer from FOMU (fear of messing up) in front of class. It is indeed embarrassing when tech doesn't work as planned and a class of students is staring at you....