In the last two chapters, we have described major trends and developments in the fields of higher education and technology. In this chapter, we explain how we have collected and analyzed information about the ways in which technology is currently managed in post-secondary educational institution.
WHERE THE EVIDENCE COMES FROM
We have drawn on several different sources for this book.
A review of relevant literature
Both authors independently reviewed the literature on the management and governance of technology in universities and colleges. Important publications that have influenced the writing of this book are by Mintzberg (1994a; 1994b; 2009), the Australian Graduate School of Management (1996), Coimbra Group of Universities (2002), Hanna (2003), OECD (2005), Bullen and Janes (2007), Katz (2008), Tierney and Hentschke (2007), Higgins and Prebble (2008), Christensen et al. (2008), Zemsky (2009), McCarthy and Samors (2009), and Seaman (2009).
Web-based survey of institutional strategic plans
Sangra (2003) conducted a web-based search and analysis of strategic planning documents available through the institutional web sites at the time. He looked at a total of 16 universities worldwide (USA: 8; Spain: 4; UK: 2: Canada and Australia: 1 each).
Eleven institutional case studies
Sangra (2008) conducted five European case studies between 2004 and 2005. Bates, mainly drawing on other previously published studies, analyzed six cases, five from North America and one from Europe. The authors collected information across the studies over a period of twelve years, from 1998 to 2010, although most of the information was collected between 2002 to 2007. Thus we have information from some institutions who were just starting to integrate technology within the institution, and from others that were more mature in their technology applications. For some institutions, we have information that went from their first use of information and communications technology for teaching right through to full maturity.
Personal work experience
The authors worked for extensive periods in four of the case study institutions, where they were each actively engaged in policy and decision-making about the use of technology for teaching. In addition, both authors have extensive experience as consultants, having worked in over 40 countries.
Altogether, information was collected from a total of 30 organizations (25 universities, 2 two-year colleges, and three post-secondary educational systems), of which 12 were in the USA, 8 in Spain, 5 in Canada, 2 in the UK, 1 each in Australia, Portugal and Italy. All organizations in the study were publicly financed. More details will be found below.
THE WEB-BASED SURVEY OF INSTITUTIONAL STRATEGIC PLANS FOR TECHNOLOGY
Strategic goals for information and communications technologies
How the web-based survey has been used
THE INSTITUTIONAL CASE STUDIES
Case study institutions
North America: Virginia Tech, USA; University of British Columbia, Canada; University of Central Florida, USA; Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, Canada; Collège Boréal, Canada
Europe: University of Milan, Italy; University of A Coruña, Spain; University of Alicante, Spain; University of Rovira i Virgili, Spain; Open University of Catalonia, Spain; Open University of Portugal, Portugal
Virginia Tech, USA
This case was derived from one of several studies conducted by the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) and the American Productivity and Quality Centre (APQC) into best practices in supporting faculty use of technology in teaching (Epper and Bates, 2001). Although the SHEEO/APQC project was focused specifically on faculty development and training in technology, a considerable amount of data was collected in each of the studies about institutional strategies for technology integration.
Virginia Tech was just one of five institutions selected from over 100 as being a ‘best-practice’ example in faculty development for teaching with technology. For this book, we drew heavily on a publication by Anne Moore (2001) about the SHEEO/APQC study. She is now Associate Vice President for Learning Technologies and Director of Information Technology Initiatives at Virginia Tech.
Virginia Tech is a comprehensive land-grant, tier-1 research university based at Blacksburg. At the time of the study (2000) it had 1,500 faculty and 25,000 students, and was ranked in the top 50 universities in the USA. Its technology planning can be traced to the early 1990s, when the state experienced a severe recession. Moore wrote (p.80): ‘Charged with serving more students with fewer state resources, Virginia Tech decided to attempt to build institutional capacity using technology.’
One outcome was the Math Emporium, a learning center for the study of mathematics. It serves over 7,000 students annually with over 20 math courses, using over 500 Apple computer workstations. Math staff are available 60 hours a week in the general computer area to help students enrolled in any of the courses offered through the Math Emporium. Another outcome was the CAVE, which allows faculty to create three-dimensional simulations and visualizations. Both initiatives were very successful and are still operating in 2010.
By 2010, Virginia Tech’s Center for Innovation in Learning had provided over $3 million in grants to faculty since 1996 to support more than 120 strategic instructional projects. The Centre for Innovation and Learning’s project assessments show greater student and faculty interaction, equal or superior assessment performance, and more active learning in technology-supported teaching compared with standard lectures.
At the end of the first four year cycle of faculty development, 96 per cent of all the faculty had attended workshops and seminars on using technology for teaching. The faculty established on a voluntary basis a Cyberschool for faculty to share experience and assist one another in the use of learning technologies.
Similar mini-profiles developed for each of the other case study institutions.
CRITERIA FOR ASSESSING THE SUCCESS OR OTHERWISE OF TECHNOLOGY INTEGRATION
1. Are there ‘champions’ with power and influence in the institution who recognize the importance of technology for conducting the business of the institution?
2. Does the institution have an advanced, comprehensive technology infrastructure that enables all staff, students and faculty to access computers, networks, software and services as required?
3. Has the institution digitalized its administrative systems, and can staff, students and faculty access administrative information and services easily over the web?
4. Has the institution identified a clear, strategic rationale for the use of technology within the institution?
5. Has the institution identified additional financial resources or reallocated resources to support the integration of technology within the institution?
6. What proportion of staff, students and faculty are using technology and for what activities?
7. How innovative is the use of technology, particularly for teaching?
8. What level of support and training is given to instructors to ensure good quality teaching when using technology?
9. Are students learning better and getting better services as a result of technology integration?
Interpreting the rankings
We have used a variety of sources in the analysis of strategies and activities that support the effective integration of technology in post-secondary educational institutions. As well as the formal case studies, we have drawn on the literature and particularly from our own experience in assisting with the planning and management of technology-based teaching in a comparatively large number of institutions around the world as well as those included in the case studies.
Limitations of the methodology
Universities and colleges vary tremendously within a single state or province. There is even greater variation between institutions across countries, so any attempt at generalization or extrapolation from a small sample to the whole world of post-secondary education will be strictly limited.
At the same time, we were somewhat surprised to find considerable similarities in culture and methods of decision-making between similar kinds of institutions in the different countries. There were more likely to be similarities for instance between comprehensive universities in different countries, than between a comprehensive university and a two year college in the same state or province. Large universities in particular have very devolved decision-making structures that reflect the autonomy of faculty. Nevertheless, at least regarding the governance and management of technology, we shall see that as well as differences, there are common threads that seem to run across all post-secondary institutions.
However, we make no claims that we have hard, scientific evidence for our conclusions, nor that what we found will apply to all institutions. We also recognize that these findings will have varying degrees of resonance with different institutions. Even within an institution, the findings will apply more to certain periods of time in their development and integration of technology than to others. Nevertheless, we have covered a large enough sample of institutions to be comfortable in concluding that what we have found is likely to apply to many universities and colleges. With these disclaimers we can now look at the results of our studies.