It’s one thing to make big investments in mobile technology and other IT infrastructure in an effort to enhance the academic learning experience. It’s another thing altogether to ensure that technology is actively and effectively applied. When mobile IT and infrastructure investments are not paired with solid professional development for faculty and other staff, it’s unclear whether upgrading an institution’s technology to embrace mobility will ever pay off.
That’s the lesson that many colleges are now taking to heart as they seek ways to ensure they are maximizing their returns on mobile investments. They realize they must make professional development a priority if they are to engage faculty and produce successful outcomes.
The following ideas can potentially help your university make the most of its mobile technology commitment and investments:
1. Launch a conference to promote mobile initiatives and engage faculty.
So much of success revolves around motivation, enthusiasm and engagement. Several colleges that are committed to mobile technology have discovered they can engage faculty members and educate them at the same time with respect to a new technology’s value.
Adelphi University holds an annual Teaching with Technology Conference featuring presentations from its own faculty. This annual event attracts 80 to 90 attendees who learn teaching practices on various technologies from fellow faculty members. “The conference and the call for proposals are a way for us to help identify those faculty members who could be potential mentors for others in their use of instructional technology,” says Susan Lambert, director of the university’s Faculty Center for Professional Excellence.
2. Begin with an implementation strategy that ties mobile learning to your institution’s academic plan or vision.
One of the most important ways to enable learning and development is to ensure the mission statements of your institution will be supported and enhanced by your mobile strategy.
In an effort to get faculty engaged in applications of mobile technology, place emphasis on professional and community development around wireless applications, while explaining how it furthers the greater academic goals of the university.
3. Enable faculty “ambassadors” for technology maximization.
Some faculty members are likely to stand out, becoming particularly influential and supportive to the greater group. It’s critical to actively enable these “ambassadors” as they share new practices and techniques.
At MBA@UNC, a small group of key influencers is specially trained to help other faculty members adopt and apply new technologies. In fact, the group introduced Facebook to faculty as a communications tool to use among themselves and with students.
“We basically created a community around technology maximization,” says Douglas Shackelford, associate dean for the online MBA program provided by the University of North Carolina. “As that community grew so did the number of faculty members who embraced and used the technology.”
4. Link technology to learning effectiveness.
Faculty members are unlikely to adopt a new learning technology, mobile or otherwise, if they don’t see the relationship between its use and learning outcomes.
That’s why Macaulay Honors College has created an instructional technology fellows program that links up graduate students with individual professors to collaborate on course activities. Together, they design course syllabi, create activities and assignments, and determine new ways to enhance course instruction through the application of technology.
“Many faculty members are experts in their disciplines, but they are not experts in technology,” says Joseph Ugoretz, associate dean of teaching, learning, and technology. As he explains, the technology fellows “provide a level of support that integrates both technology and pedagogy on a peer-to-peer level. It’s extremely effective.”
5. Dedicate time and resources to the mobile technology adoption effort.
Ultimately, colleges have to commit serious resources to professional development if they intend to get lasting results.
New IT initiatives need to incorporate a significant training and support component to ensure faculty are fully prepared when new technologies are introduced.
To match professional development efforts to the needs of faculty, consider providing an instructional designer and/or a team of work-study students to assist teachers in the classroom. Also, the development of wikis, blogs, and web-based support tools to accompany rollouts could be beneficial. Support will be a key factor to making sure the technology is used properly and effectively.
As these approaches demonstrate, it’s not enough to simply roll out new technologies and hope for the best. To succeed with new mobile learning and communication technologies, schools must be very attentive to professional development and make it an investment priority. What has your university done to ensure its mobile investments are aptly utilized?
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