Technology and Challenges for University Staff
The development of technology in the university setting is both feared as a disrupter to traditional practice and revered as an enabler of teaching and learning.
Technology undoubtably improves the educational curriculum by providing more diverse opportunities for research and development and for enhancing the student experience. Problems can arise however if the processes and those using them are not up to speed. This can result in increased challenges and hurdles for university staff, who are sometimes not aware of all the technological advancements, and even if they are familiar, they might feel they do not have enough time to keep up with all the updates and improvements.
Technology is also often cited as a source of stress by university staff who attend our resilience workshops. Technostress accumulates because technology lets us do so much that we can end up feeling overwhelmed, and “never finished”. Whilst technology can help staff work better and more efficiently there needs to be clear limits. If managers don’t set limits then there is a danger staff will continually be multi-tasking and suffering from information overload.
But modern technology isn’t going away, it is now integrated into education. Bring your own device (BYOD) and bring your own technologies (BYOT) are often encouraged within educational institutions and blended learning has emerged as a solution to the ever-growing needs of a digital generation. However, not all academic staff members embrace blended learning when it is introduced by their institutions. Negative opinions about e-learning or blended learning policy as well as the often substantial difference in computer skills of students and lecturers all play a part in hindering the adoption.
The implementation of technology for learning is often focused on students with less attention paid to the digital literacy of academic and professional services staff. Students usually like to utilise web technologies for their education, however if academic staff members do not understand how to use such tools then students will be less likely to be fully engaged with the technologies.
Research suggests that whilst university staff members are acquainted with web-based technologies and are engaging with such tools within their daily lives, they often lack the confidence to fully utilise these within their teaching practices.
Having the time, incentive, and opportunities for ‘peer-supported experimentation’ turns out to be the best way to help university staff learn new technical tricks. Statistics reveal that its older and more secure academic staff who make time to experiment and are happy to confess they need to learn but all staff need to invest time and effort into adapting to new technology.
So the key question is how can we create a relationship with technology that serves us well and keeps us healthy, effective and resourceful?