Faculty Technology

Community college faculty are no strangers to technology. The vast array of technological resources at most community colleges is actually pretty impressive. But how are faculty using technology on campuses today? Can faculty have a greater impact on student success if the technology focus evolves from aiding students to aiding faculty members’ work?

Current technology landscape

When asked what kinds of technology community college faculty use to be more effective at their job, the top two answers (in Family Feud terms) are usually the LMS and/or educational technology. In fact, there are a plethora of articles and studies focused on the impact of technology on learning. 

In addition to impacting learning objectives, these resources also serve to decrease the workload of the faculty member. They allow for easier course management. Faculty can assign auto-graded homework that provides just-in-time remediation and immediate feedback. Also, they can provide additional practice to students with the goal of increasing their ability to conceptualize and master the content. In Campus Technology‘s third annual Teaching with Technology Survey in 2018, they reported that 73% of faculty surveyed said that educational technology made their life “easier” or “much easier.”

Who are these technologies serving?

They are all focused, first and foremost, on the learner. While faculty experience is certainly important and considered in the development of such products, students are the central focus of these resources. Student success is priority number one—and this mirrors the institutions’ priorities as well. If you asked a faculty member about technology that 100% supports them, it’s likely they would draw a blank (hint, the answer is definitely not ratemyprofessor.com).

When looking broadly on campus, there certainly are a range of technologies, such as the ERP/HR System, SIS, etc., that community college faculty may interact with, but not consider as part of their daily workflow. And, of course, there is email, Word, and Excel (plus many other tools) for data collection and reporting. The majority of community college faculty are fluent in multiple technology systems. 

As institutional and state-wide pressures increase for faculty to improve student success, retention, and completion, many are turning to educational technology as a means to measure success. It is difficult to prove that you are meeting the desired learning outcomes without a way to quantify it. However, using multiple internal platforms creates disaggregated systems that make it difficult or nearly impossible to compile the necessary data and report. Community college faculty complain that required reporting data lives in many different systems and thus, can be difficult to pull together. They are often frustrated with duplicate requests for the same set of information that does not live anywhere digitally, and in perpetuity.  

Engaging faculty with technology

While the most commonly used technologies do help faculty succeed in their role, they were not created with faculty in mind. Because faculty are directly related to every aspect of student success, particularly via instruction in the classroom, you must first invest in their success and engagement. 

In a June 2019 article from Gallup, Stephanie Marken and Tom Matson state: “Engaged faculty and staff members are critical to student success—they are emotionally and psychologically committed to their work. These faculty and staff members practice intrusive advising. They identify the challenge a student is facing and help them find the required support services. Importantly to the mission of higher education, Gallup finds that faculty and staff who are engaged at work produce better student outcomes than their less-engaged peers.” They also find that only 34% of faculty and staff in higher education are engaged at work, which is lower than other benchmarked industries. If we can correlate faculty engagement and student success, we must then ask: what is leading to low engagement and how can we affect change?

Faculty engagement

A 2016 report from Cornerstone OnDemand and Ellucian found that some of the leading causes of disengagement in higher education are workload, governance processes, and the review/promotion process. By using technology to improve these inefficient and nuanced workflows, institutions can decrease workload (and frustration). Faculty will then have more time to focus on their students and teaching. In the same Gallup article, they found that increased faculty engagement also leads to increased longevity at an institution and greater investment in the brand. These outcomes contribute to student success and lower costs to the institution. 

Interfolio’s Faculty Information System helps institutions better manage faculty data and workflows, resulting in a more efficient, equitable, and consistent processes across campus. It transforms an institution’s ability to understand, manage, and support their entire faculty body (full-time and part-time faculty) at every stage of their career. Given faculty’s immense importance to student success and the overall mission of the institution, institutions must invest in faculty’s success and engagement—and thus continue to drive student outcomes. 

Author bio: Laura has spent the last decade in the higher education technology space establishing partnerships with two-year and four-year institutions to address affordability, employability, and retention. A graduate of Texas Tech University (Wreck “Em!), Laura lives in Lubbock, Texas.