A study performed by Ithaka S+R, with funding from the Lumina Foundation, looked into how ten member institutions of the Public Flagships Network (PFN) were finding solutions for their campuses to the issue of whether technology can help in improving the educational experience. Streamlined communication and better plans will help institutions make the most of technology, the study concludes.
Researchers interviewed a range of 214 individuals over the 2013-2014 academic year including everyone from presidents and provosts to administrative assistants, as well as faculty members, across 10 of the 17 large public universities within the PFN.
The study, Technology-Enhanced Education at Public Flagship Universities: Opportunities and Challenges, asked whether technology can aid in the improvement of learning outcomes for their students in addition to making education more accessible and affordable.
Technology is also viewed as a tool which can aid in the financial aspects of running a university. School administrators are hopeful in improving time-to-degree and completion rates through increasing technology-enhanced education.
Even as schools are considering ways to deal with budget issues, students arriving on campus are changing the way they consume education. They come to school with a number of Advanced Placement credits from high school, or transfer credits from community colleges that offer lower tuition rates. This is found to be increasingly true among courses historically considered to be general education, offering credits through large introductory courses. With fewer students enrolling, department budgets are also shrinking.
As a result of the study, researchers discovered that more can be done by PFN institutions in order to help stimulate transformational change.
Some of the steps outlined in the report include setting up a line of communication between students and faculty concerning the benefits of technology-enhanced education, while at the same time being open about the costs and benefits of online learning. Incentives for faculty must also be created in order to initiate learning through technology. Clear plans must be implemented for online learning in stand-alone and hybrid forms, and resources must be provided to allow for a smooth transition into online learning.
In addition, the report suggests that the PFN highlight the benefits of collaboration through the development of a meaningful demonstration project in a core arts and science discipline. In addition, they suggest recruiting five to ten similar institutions with the PFN into an ad hoc consortium for the project, such as a service course in calculus or statistics, or a broad foundations course in an area like psychology or economics. The goal of such as project would be to deliver the curriculum offered in such a course, or courses, to all campuses in the group in a more efficient and effective way.