The Use of Emerging Technology Exploration Projects to Guide Instructional Innovation

The Use of Emerging Technology Exploration Projects to Guide Instructional Innovation

Andrew W. Cole (University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, USA) and Nicole L. Weber (University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7769-0.ch007
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Purposing emerging technologies for instructional innovation in higher education provides a multitude of challenges for students, instructors, and administrators. Educational leaders, researchers, practitioners, and other stakeholders in higher education often struggle with implementing processes to evaluate technology-based instructional innovation. This chapter details the development, facilitation, and evaluation of projects exploring emerging technologies in order to guide instructional innovation and provide solutions to common teaching and learning challenges. The purpose of these emerging technology exploration projects (ETEPs) is to guide college instructors interested in effectively using emerging technology in their teaching. To that end, this chapter also details opportunities and challenges, as well as potential solutions to these challenges, related to exploring and evaluating instructional innovation through these ETEPs.
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Though technology use and adoption has changed dramatically culturally over the past thirty years (Fischer-Baum, 2017), the physical classrooms in many contemporary American colleges and universities appear, in structure and function, quite similar to their medieval counterparts (Park & Choi, 2014). As new information and communication technologies (ICT) continue to saturate contemporary life, these technologies permeate the traditional, physical college classroom as well (Buabeng-Andoh, 2012). Perhaps categorizing a course modality (e.g., face-to-face, blended, fully online) may persist more for logistical purposes (e.g., student records) than a practical reality for many of those individuals currently teaching and learning in various modes. Recent statistics suggest that approximately 30% of college students take at least one form of distance education course, with only around half enrolling exclusively in online courses (Allen & Seaman, 2017). Though enlightening, these statistics may not fully capture other relevant formats such as a “technology-enhanced” or “Web Facilitated” (Allen & Seaman, 2014) course or a “flipped classroom,” which may be employed in a course classified, or categorized, as face-to-face. These courses may require students to do learning activities that might be thought of as traditional classroom work (e.g., watching an instructor lecture) online, and outside of class time (see Feng, 2017 for more on “flipped classrooms”).

As higher education works to adapt to changes and opportunities offered by online teaching and learning, cutting edge technological innovations like the “Internet of Things” (IoT), augmented and virtual reality platforms (AR/VR), and wearable technologies (Hether, Martin, & Cole, 2017) offer further transformative potential for the traditional, physical classroom experience. Attempts to integrate emerging technologies into higher education teaching and learning reach across many domains and stakeholders. For example, employers may expect college graduates to have the technical aptitude to use new technologies, and also demonstrate developed “meta-skills” that transcend the specific technology (e.g., communication skills, critical thinking skills) but are necessary to use the technology effectively (Duffy & Ney, 2015; Robels, 2012). Though a long-term need to integrate emerging technologies into higher education may exist, instructional innovation, and the related symbiosis with emerging technologies comes with a multitude of challenges for students, instructors, and administrators. This chapter details the development, implementation, and evaluation of emerging technology exploration projects (ETEPs) at a medium-sized, four-year comprehensive, liberal arts university in the Midwestern United States. The purpose of these ETEPs is to assist, and guide, instructors interested in using emerging technology to innovate their instruction, and effectively impact student engagement and learning.

The campus Learning Technology Center (LTC) develops and facilitates the ETEPs described in this chapter. Through the ETEPs, the LTC works closely with instructors to explore emerging technologies in their courses, and then evaluates the technology for potential further campus adoption. By discussing the current ETEP development and facilitation process, this chapter details some common challenges and potential ways to address these challenges, as well as opportunities related to exploring and evaluating technology-based instructional innovation. Before describing the ETEPs, however, it is necessary to explain how the use of emerging technology can impact instructors and students.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Emerging Technology: A technology or tool (often an information and communication technology; ICT) that has not yet been widely adopted for higher education teaching and learning but offers potential to address a teaching and learning challenge.

Campus Adoption: The process to integrate a technology into the campus, including offering widespread support and training for the technology.

Pedagogy: The theory behind, methods that support, and practices related to teaching. A commonly used term in higher education settings (though andragogy, that focuses on adult learners, would often be more accurate).

Instructors: Anybody who teaches courses for undergraduate and/or graduate credit at institutions of higher education. Examples include graduate teaching assistants, lecturers, and professors.

Institutional Review Board (IRB): A campus unit, in higher education, that reviews research protocols to ensure federal guidelines are met and ethical procedures are followed.

Higher Education: Postsecondary institutions (e.g., colleges, universities, vocational/technical schools) supporting continuing education after high school.

Scalable: A technology solution with resources available to adopt it for wider campus adoption following a pilot and evaluation process.

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