The article excerpted below reports on a recent survey of college students in reference to their and their instructors' use of technology in teaching and learning. I read the reporter's statement that "students nevertheless hunger for the human touch in courses" to mean that students reported that the human touch cannot be achieved in a technology-mediated medium. In perusing the report form the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research , however, I found no evidence that the survey asked students to rank their preferences for the ways in which the human touch can be delivered to students. In other words, there are many different ways to deliver the human touch (face to face and by letters, phone, email, web discussion group, and so on). So students' responses to the survey item ranking their preferences for the pervasiveness of the use of technology in their courses may not be about the medium of communication but, instead, about how well their instructors use the medium of the Internet. Indeed, one of the most fundamental observations from the study is that when students judge their instructors to be skilled in the use of technology in instruction, their rankings of the effectiveness of technology in promoting engagement and other attributes of active learning are at the highest level -- relative to less skilled instructional uses of technology. I conclude that once again we are learning that the instructor and pedagogy count! Technology can be used well or not so well by instructors, and students notice the difference -- just as they have always made a lie of the maxim that "content is king" by judging educational quality to be more dependent on their instructors than on what their instructors teach.
ECAR notes that the study is not statically significant. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the research design is that it appears to have surveyed, almost exclusively, students enrolled in site-based, contact-hour instruction, thereby giving short shrift to students who can't (or prefer not to) participate in instruction having significant requirements for scheduled, real-time activities -- whether those activities take place in a campus classroom, in an off-campus classroom, via a two-way video and/or audio connection, or online. In other words, the design of the study appears to have selected for those students who had already decided to participate in the traditional instructional model. It's not surprising that such students would prefer the moderate use of technology to the more pervasive use of technology in instruction.
The study once again confirmed convenience as the highest satisfaction factor surrounding instruction that uses technology, which is no surprise to those of us who place high value on the convenience of online communication, online access to resources and information, and online transactions -- think online banking, e-commerce, and so on.
Students Desire a Balance of Technological and Human Contact, Survey Suggests
By Vincent Kiernan for the Chronicle of Higher Education, November 15, 2005
College students want faculty members to use information technology, but students nevertheless hunger for the human touch in courses as well, according to a new survey of 18,039 freshmen and seniors at 63 institutions. Forty-one percent of the students said they preferred their professors to make moderate use of information technology. By comparison, 26 percent said they preferred only limited use, while 27 percent sought extensive use. "They really want to see it balanced," said Robert B. Kvavik, an associate vice president of the University of Minnesota who worked on the survey. "They value the interaction among themselves and with faculty, and they don't want technology to get in the way of that." "The students see technology right now as supplemental rather than transformative," said Mr. Kvavik. Students in the survey most commonly said that convenience was the primary benefit of the use of technology in courses. They cited "connectedness" second. Chronicle subscribers can read more ...