Faculty Perceptions on EdTech and Online Learning w/ Dr. Nicole Barbaro

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The last few years hastened our online learning adoption curve. But how do faculty feel about this new reality?

To find out, we turned to Dr. Nicole Barbaro, Sr. Communications Content Manager at WGU Labs, who recently returned to the podcast to discuss their follow-up study on faculty perceptions of EdTech and online learning.

We discussed:

  • The biggest takeaways from the survey
  • The importance of gauging faculty perceptions and the accuracy of the survey results
  • How EdTech and online learning are shaping the future of higher education

The results are in…

Last year, WGU labs saw a unique opportunity to gather insights from students and faculty within the College Innovation Network, a diverse network of two and four-year online colleges.

In particular, they wanted to gauge student and faculty perceptions on today’s tech-enabled learning, which has exploded in popularity — especially in the wake of the pandemic.

Last summer, they published their report on student perceptions surrounding EdTech and online learning. Now the results have arrived regarding how faculty views these innovations.

In short, faculty perceptions are overwhelmingly positive.

In fact, 81% of faculty reported feeling very confident in their ability to adapt and use EdTech in their courses.

Dr. Barbaro says that this result counters a prevailing narrative that faculty are slow to adapt to new technologies.

Despite the positive perceptions surrounding the tech, however, faculty also reported having very little influence over the purchasing and adoption of new technologies in the classroom. The survey results show that the majority of faculty indicate that administrators are overwhelmingly in charge of these purchasing decisions.

At the same time, faculty indicate they are not learning how to integrate EdTech into their classrooms from the administration, but rather through leveraging their faculty peer networks. Over a third of respondents indicated that they had received little or no training from their administration.

How representative was this survey of broader faculty sentiment?

While the network of colleges represented in the sample did participate voluntarily, Dr. Barbaro is fairly confident that the results are representative of colleges nationwide. 

In part, that’s because the survey asked faculty to voluntarily report their age, race, gender and part-time or full-time employment status. This self-reporting was then compared to federally-reported numbers and found to be comparable to within a few percentage points across these various categories.

That said, these numbers are derived from self-reporting, so it’s impossible to completely rule out some self-selection bias in the responding population. 

The biggest takeaways from these attitudinal findings

Whenever surveys like this are released, regardless of the questions asked or answers gathered, the first question that pops into most people’s minds is: What do I do with these results?

For Dr. Barbaro, the primary value and utility of this survey is to serve as a guide for educational leaders to better shape the future for faculty and students alike.

Pointing to the lack of training reported by one in three faculty members, Dr. Barbaro says that this survey is particularly valuable for urging leaders to not just equip their faculty with EdTech, but also the skills needed to effectively implement it.

Ultimately, this training will help usher in an exciting era of EdTech-assisted learning, while ensuring colleges keep their competitive edge well into the future.

What does the future hold for EdTech?

The survey also gathered insights from faculty concerning their views on the future of education — in particular, how EdTech will factor in.

One potentially surprising result was that, while most respondents expressed enthusiasm for EdTech and online learning being integrated into the traditional classroom, they were less convinced when it came to these things replacing it. Respondents tended to gravitate towards multimodal methods of learning, indicating the necessity for in-person interactions for at least some of their teaching.

Still, the support and enthusiasm for the next wave of tech-enabled learning only further bolsters the argument that colleges and their leaders need to help educate and guide their faculty in how best to continue to drive better results in the classroom through technology.


This post is based on a podcast interview with Dr. Nicole Barbaro, Sr. Communications Content Manager at WGU Labs. To hear this episode and many more like it, you can subscribe to Enrollment Growth University.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.