Faculty Development and Educational Technology

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In the summer of 1998, Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, began its first of three summer workshops promoting the use of instructional technology to enhance student learning in the Williams College of Business. The purpose of this paper is to share our experiences related to this faculty development effort. We will begin by describing the environment in which the General Electric Technology Workshops operated.

The GE Technology Workshops

In 1997, Xavier University submitted a grant request to the GE Fund and GE Aircraft Engines to fund a workshop that would support the use of technology in the classroom to achieve curricular objectives. The GE Fund is a philanthropic foundation that donates generously to higher education. Grant requests are generally solicited. Much of the information following was obtained from the grant proposal.

The Williams College of Business was targeted by the grant proposal because of the need for business graduates to accurately assess data and determine what is required to make better business decisions. The grant proposal reads: "Technology will be presented to faculty as a means to an end. The end result is not the faculty's mastery of technology, but the use of instructional technology to enable all students to achieve curricular objectives." The summer institutes were designed for the following purposes:

  • Explore different learning styles and various methods available to tailor instruction to address students' needs;
  • Acquaint faculty with the range of instructional media that can enhance the students' learning experience;
  • Assist faculty to incorporate technological resources into classroom presentations and course requirements;
  • Involve faculty in the assessment and evaluation of student outcomes expected to result from changes in pedagogy and curricula; and
  • Communicate the results of the project within the higher education community to further the understanding of the relationship between instructional development and student learning.

An award of $84,000 was received to support three summer institutes for the Williams College of Business Administration faculty. Four members of the administrative staff working with the associate academic vice president planned the workshops. These staff members included representatives from information systems and services, instructional media services and the university library. The associate academic vice president and the dean of the Williams College of Business served as program managers.

Each year 12 faculty members took part in the GE Technology Workshops, allowing nearly 80 percent of the college faculty to participate over the three-year period. To apply for the GE Technology Workshops, faculty developed a proposal for an instructional technology enhancement designed to improve student learning in a course. Upon completion of the workshop, faculty continued to develop the enhancement in the course and an assessment plan during the remainder of the summer. At the end of the summer, each participant presented their technological enhancement to co-participants for feedback and discussion. Student assistants with substantial experience in targeted software applications were available to work with individual faculty participants before, during and after the institute.

Faculty who participated re-ceived their choice of three implementation allowances: a laptop computer; one course-load reduction for course development the following year; or a $3,500 professional development fund for approved software, course materials, training and conference expenses. In return, each participant was expected to:

  • Identify technology applications to best meet student learning needs;
  • Design course syllabi with goals, objectives and activities that include technology to enhance student learning and course content;
  • Implement these new conventions into at least one class during the following year;
  • Assess student outcomes in revised course curricula; and
  • Assist with data the college needed to evaluate the effectiveness of the faculty development program.

Summer Institutes Comparison

The first of three summer institutes was offered in 1998. The two-week institute included information on learning theory and software applications, as well as profiles of technology-enhanced classes. The workshop began with presentations on learning styles and classroom assessment techniques. Basic information related to graphic design principles, preparing Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, developing Web pages, searching the Internet and copyright laws were included along with more complex software applications, such as Authorware and Lotus Notes LearningSpace.

The workshop sessions included demonstrations of specific examples of technology-enhanced courses, such as paperless classes using networks, Authorware developed multimedia programs, advanced Web page design and HTML programming, and international collaborative learning via the Internet. Workshop presenters were a combination of university personnel and external consultants. University personnel presented the workshops on graphic design principles, copyright law, PowerPoint and developing Web pages. Presenters from outside the university focused on learning theory, more complex software applications and the profiles of technology-enhanced classes. Software application sessions included both demonstrations and hands-on training. Lotus Notes groupware was also highlighted as a software application with four half-day sessions related to it.

The second summer institute in 1999 incorporated several modifications based on faculty feedback. The information on learning styles and classroom assessment was maintained, while sessions related to software applications were more focused on applications supported on campus. Workshop sessions related to software applications for new users were made optional, and sessions related to active learning and spreadsheet software were added. The second summer institute was also slightly shorter in terms of contact hours and more varied in scheduling. Instead of two straight weeks as in 1998, the workshop sessions were scheduled over several interspersed Fridays and Saturdays during the spring semester and one full week of summer. This modification was provided to give faculty time to consider design issues for the course in which they were going to incorporate technology. It also allowed faculty to practice with new software applications prior to the more intensive how-to sessions on that software application. For instance, the session that profiled a faculty member's use of Lotus Notes to enhance student learning was scheduled for the spring semester, with the sessions on using the Lotus Notes software application following in the summer. The schedule also allowed for more interaction among the faculty, both with other current faculty participants and faculty participants from the prior year.

The final summer institute was scheduled for summer 2000. The schedule included few modifications in content based on the positive feedback of the 1999 participants, however, the timetable of the workshop sessions was again revised. While faculty liked the time to consider implementation issues by having sessions dispersed through spring and summer rather than two straight weeks of the workshop as in 1998, the 1999 participants suggested increasing the duration of each session to reduce the number of affected weekends. For the 2000 workshop, the number of spring semester weekend sessions was reduced from four to seven. A session related to teaching via the Internet was added, and some topics were shifted earlier or later in the workshop timetable. A criticism of faculty in both the 1998 and 1999 workshops was that more hands-on training should be included. An effort was made to coordinate with the workshop presenters to include more time for hands-on practice in their sessions.

Feedback from the 2000 faculty participants was more varied. Workshop sessions and presenters rated highly by participants the previous years were not rated as highly by this group. This group of participants suggested a reversal of the order of workshops. They preferred to have the technical workshop sessions on the software applications prior to the profiles of enhanced classes. Another criticism was that some of the workshop sessions were repetitive. A presenter in the 1999 GE workshop had been so well received that the presenter was invited to do a universitywide teaching workshop the next academic year. When he was then asked to present in the GE workshop the following summer, many of the participants who had attended the universitywide teaching workshop were familiar with the material.

Summary

Several lessons were learned from Xavier's experience with the GE technology workshops. Faculty development programs associated with educational technology should include educational theory along with demonstrations of technolo-gical applications. The workshop should emphasize technological applications that are supported on campus and include as much hands-on training as possible. Finally, the schedule of developmental workshops should be dispersed to allow faculty time to practice applications and think through design issues for the course or courses they will modify.

Julie Cagle, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Finance Department at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. She regularly uses technology as a supplement in traditional face-to-face classes and has been teaching an online course for three years. She serves on the Williams College of Business teaching workshop committee, on the university teaching and learning center task force, and on the faculty development and compensation subcommittee of the university faculty committee.

E-mail: cagle@xavier.xu.edu

 

Steven Hornik, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Accounting and Information Systems Department at Xavier University. He regularly uses technology in class and as part of online distributed learning environments. He has made several presentations on the use of technology to enhance student learning.

E-mail: hornik@xavier.xu.edu

 

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank Dr. Carol Rankin and Dr. Mike Webb for providing information related to the summer institutes. They would also like to thank GE Aircraft Engines for supporting the summer institutes. In addition, Steven Hornik would like to acknowledge the financial support from Deloitte & Touche.

 

About Xavier University...

Xavier University is a private, co-educational university. It is the third largest independent educational institution in Ohio, the sixth oldest Catholic university in the nation, and is one of 28 Jesuit colleges and universities nationwide. The university offers 61 undergraduate majors, 10 graduate programs and six certification programs. There are 260 full-time faculty members, and about 4,000 undergraduates and 2,500 graduate students. The average class size is about 23, and the student-to-faculty ratio is 17-to-1. Within Xavier University, the Williams College of Business offers eight undergraduate majors and an MBA degree. The college enrolls more than 800 undergraduate and 1,000 graduate students. Xavier offers an on-site MBA at local General Electric Co. offices for GE employees or contractors.

This article originally appeared in the 10/01/2001 issue of THE Journal.

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