Higher Ed in the News: 10/12

Photo by Max Böttinger on Unsplash.

This week on Higher Ed in the News: two stories about how college and university faculty are doing a great job adapting to virtual schooling, and also how faculty is often a source of innovation within education, contrary to what some people may think. You can read previous editions of this series here and here.


Faculty gaining confidence in online learning

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing professors to turn to remote teaching, a survey by Every Learner Everywhere and Tyton Partners found that faculty feel more confident and prepared to teach with technology this fall.

In May, only 39 percent of professors felt that online learning is an effective method of teaching with 31 percent disagreeing and 29 percent neutral. But in an August survey, the number of instructors who agreed rose to 49 percent while just 21 percent disagreed. Those who were neutral held steady at 30 percent.

Faculty members generally credited their respective schools for helping prepare them for online learning. Over 75 percent also said they use institutional resources and help from other instructors for support as well. At Georgetown, we hope CNDLS is one of the first places you look for support in this space, in addition to your peers and department heads!

The benefits highlighted by professors for online classes were that every student is required to engage (whereas, with in-person classes, a student can choose not to speak), students are given more flexibility to complete work, and some classes are using more online resources than textbooks, which reduces costs for learners.

Of course, professors still have concerns. With online classes, many students are living at home with their families instead of on-campus or in nearby off-campus housing, which forces students to balance “home and family responsibilities.” Similarly, monitoring students’ mental health and wellness can be more difficult from afar. Other issues include the need for reliable internet access.

Overall, many institutions hope that the pandemic can help faculty become more comfortable teaching in an online setting and also create “greater empathy for and understanding of the challenges faced by students.”


Forward-Thinking Faculty Playing Pivotal Role In Evolution of Higher Education 

What do Coursera, edX, and Udacity have in common? They’re all disruptors that were developed by faculty members at colleges or universities. The same is true about language learning programs Duolingo and Rosetta Stone. Despite these incredible innovations and many others originated by college faculty, they still fight the perception that they’re resistant to evolution in higher education. An enlightening piece by Forbes gives faculty the credit they deserve for transforming learning and teaching while pointing out why investors and school leaders would be wise to look to them as a new era begins in higher education.

The author writes that the underestimation of faculty members’ capacity for innovation was blatantly apparent when the move to online learning drew concerns that they were ill-equipped for digital instruction. While there have certainly been some bumps in the road, faculty have performed admirably as they demonstrated their resilience and ingenuity to make it work since the pandemic started. In fact, many faculty members are playing a significant role in the “explosion in teaching and learning innovations” that has happened during this time.

Now, the increased acceptance of faculty-led innovation should help make the case to administrative leaders to take a greater interest in the work of internal innovators, known as “intrapreneurs” in the business space, going forward. While investors are unlikely to stop relying on hubs like Silicon Valley to find the next ed tech breakthrough, universities can also embrace the capacity for innovation within their walls and empower constituents to improve everyone’s experience in higher ed.