Dave’s wildly unscientific survey of technology use in Higher Education

This survey
In the late spring early summer I sent out the questions below to my twitter followers in the hopes of getting a starting point for the discussion of where universities are with technological adoption, particularly where it is supporting learning.

A word on the respondents.
The responders to this survey included their names on the understanding that their names and institutions would not be published as part of the results. I include institution because, for many of them, the responses would clearly indicate who had completed the form.

The form was sent out to the followers of my twitter account. There are any number of biases inherent in that, not the least being that the majority of them, broadly speaking, don’t mind seeing my twitter updates. I am professionally familiar with almost every respondent. We got one student respondent and the majority of the others are either edtech or educational professionals at Universities in North/South America and Europe.

All that to say this this is not a terribly scientific survey, but it does reflect the usage of educational technologies at 25 institutions of higher ed in different parts of the world. I would not use it as a guide to action, but rather one more piece of the overall context.

This piece is strewn with ‘davenote’s. These are personal reflections on the data rather than quantifiable results pulled from the data. I would regard these with suspicion if i had not written them.

Do you use E-Portfolios at your university? If so, please tell us what you use and what the uptake has been like. Does it work well? Does it help or hinder ‘learning’?
Over half of the respondents replied in the negative to this question. Of those that suggested that some use was being made pebblepad and d2l were most often cited as the Eportfolios of choice. There was some consistent commentary about lone individuals or faculties (usually Education) that were moving in this direction, but no mandatory eportfolios were mentioned.

Overall (other than the ‘No.’) respondents, the general thrust of the respondents seemed to be that they understood this to be a good idea but that there was some confusion or resistance about how this was actually going to be done.

davenote: eportfolios are a vast hidden overhead. They really only make sense if they are portable and accessible to the user. Transferring vast quantities of student held data out of the university every spring seems complicated. Better, maybe, to instruct students to use external services.

Are you doing much with so-called ‘mobile education’? Can you point us to some of the work you are doing?
Most universities that responded said they either had none or there had been ‘discussions’ but no real movement. A smaller group suggested that they had done podcasts, one iphone applications and several others had explored ways to format existing work so that material was easily readable by mobile devices.

davenote: Our new mobile infrastructure at UPEI appears to be ahead of the majority of the respondents. By far the easiest ‘mobile’ work seems to be to just make sure your websites conform to mobile standards.

Are you using anything for lecture capture? (we’re using epresence) Is this something that you would consider an advantage for instructors or learners?
Quicktime broadcaster/podcast producer. camtasia. elluminate.adobe connect. Aprevo. Sonic Foundries, MediaSite system. Lectopia. echo360. ustream. jing.

A real broad spectrum of different tools appear to be in use with most universities saying that they are using something. There are only 2 occasions where broad spectrum adoption is present, but most seem to think that this is a necessary part of the 21st century university. There was also a broad interpretation of this question, some interpreted it to mean capturing powerpoints, some video and some the audio that was being produced. There is certain an indication of broad adoption.

davenote: There are a huge number of options and they are all fit for different purposes, and most require significant support. Things like ustream, adobe connect and elluminate benefit from being supported off site and being easy to record but suffer in the accessibility portability department.

Do you have an LOR (Learning Object Repository) or OER (Open Educational Resources (thingy)) Are these collections something that ‘should’ be part of a institution of higher education?
Over half of the respondents here said they did not have an LOR to speak of. There were many of those that suggested that bands of educators worked together to share materials. Of those that responded in the affirmative the majority suggested that the ones that were in use were getting little use. A handful suggested that the use of the LOR was mandatory and that it was being used for sharing. My guess here would be that either it gets built into the system (some form of mandatory) or people will move off into whatever works for them and their colleagues.

davenote: The peers we have in our learning and teaching are more often in other universities… these are the people that we really need to share with.

What is your elearning support structure(do you have a dedicated elearning support group?) Are there specific needs that are/aren’t being satisfied? Is this considered a ‘professional curriculum position)?
One respondent in particular simply laughed at the idea that they were being supported at all. The vast majority, however, have a centralized support system (perhaps 7-8 did not) and they are usually in the ‘educational support’ division or the elearning support group or something else that suggests a group dedicate to computer assisted learning. In each of the 5 cases where the support was being done by computer services the comment was coupled with “and they don’t know anything about learning”.

davenote: the comments here seem to suggest a much higher level of satisfaction with a centralized elearning infrastructure. I am biased in this, as I have suggested the same thing, but these respondents at least, seem to agree with me.

Are you using a VLE (LMS, LCMS, CMS) for education? Which one are you using, and what percentage of faculty do you estimate actively use it? How do you feel about them?
Broadly speaking this is the question that need not have asked. Everyone said yes, many suggested that use was mandatory and that there was a universal presence for every course. It was a mixture of moodle, D2L, blackboard/webct.

davenote: yup.

Do you have a formal elearning strategy? Is it publicly available? Do you think such a thing is necessary?
Many universities seem to have an elearning strategy, for some it is included in the overall strategic plan, for others, it is a discrete document. With the exception of the respondent that suggested that it was more important that they have someone in charge of thinking about this rather than the document itself, all respondents agreed that it was necessary (if they answered that part of the question. About half of those that were spoken of were publicly available.

davenote: Strategic plans, if enforced are very good things. Even if they aren’t enforced, they at least reflect thinking at a given time.

Are you using any tools (twitter, wikis etc.) that might be considered web 2.0?
I hesitated to include this question in the first place, as it was likely that the respondents to my twitter account would be using collaborative tools. They were. Twitter, delicious, WPMU, Twitter, Plurk, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Vimeo, Ning, Chatzy, Diigo … and the like. The two themes that seem to come out is the purposeful viral spreading of these tools and the institutional support of blogging.


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9 thoughts on “Dave’s wildly unscientific survey of technology use in Higher Education

  1. I think this was a really good idea! Technology is so important in the classroom and it is good to see where different university’s stand. I think this is also a good way to see what is working well for what schools, and which software’s and technologies are most utilized. It can also help other universities and schools try different options that they may not have considered in the past, and it may also help them reevaluate that technologies that they are currently using. I would have never thought of doing an experiment like this, and even though its not “scientific” it is still a great start at research.

  2. Interesting results. I have the feeling they’re not that far away from what’s happening in Colombia. Is it possible to see the raw answers?

    Lately I’ve been wondering a little about strategic plans. I wonder if an strategic plan becomes, in some cases, an instrument to “domesticate” technology… I mean, I agree about the usefulness of an strategic plan (if enforced), but I wonder if such a plan should be concerned with the strategic planning of change and the disruptive possibilities of technology. I guess it depends, obviously, on the vision of the people in charge of defining and enforcing the plan… Nevertheless, what if these plans are just a way to preserve a status quo (in learning terms, that is)? (This has to do with Papert’s ideas about the resistance of educational institutions to change)

    The thing is that we started a couple of years ago a national project to help higher education institutions to define their strategic plans (about 60 working on that so far), so my doubts have to do with the real outcomes of such strategy…

    Again, very interesting info! Kudos!

  3. Do you use E-Portfolios at your university? If so, please tell us what you use and what the uptake has been like. Does it work well? Does it help or hinder ‘learning’?

    fwiw, i have yet to find peer-reviewed evidence that e-portfolios benefit students. often there are non scholarly journals (e.g., Learning and Leading with Technology) that tout the benefits as being that they help students get hired, but this hasn’t been demonstrated in any studies that i’ve read. i think e-portfolios are great for programs doing program evaluation, but is it fair to students to ask them to collect your key data for you?

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