Professors lack technology training

At least 30 percent of faculty members who teach in high-tech classrooms in the Elliott School of International Affairs building failed to attend GW technology training sessions.

“Faculty are not making it a priority to attend a short 20-minute training (session), and thus they are not able to utilize the technology

successfully,” said P.B. Garrett, assistant vice president of the Center for Academic Technologies.

The Center has trained fewer than 60 of the 90 to 100 faculty members who teach in the Elliott School building’s nine high-tech rooms.

Garrett said the University makes a concerted effort to provide training to professors who teach in GW’s 25 high-tech rooms, which feature Pentium IV computers, dual projectors and DVD players. Other facilities that house high-tech rooms include the Media and Public Affairs Building and Funger Hall.

University-conducted training sessions have been sparsely attended, Garrett said, who noted that her department sees an increase in service calls at the beginning of academic years from untrained faculty members.

She said the most common problems are professors not being able to turn on projectors or computers, adding that some trained professors encounter problems because they are placed in rooms with different equipment from the ones in which they previously taught.

The University held a series of training sessions in August and still makes one-on-one technology assistance available by appointment, Garrett said.

She said GW “wants a return” on its $1.1 million investment in the Elliott School building’s state-of-the-art technology and that professors should fully utilize the technology afforded to them.

“For a few moments of training, they can have a better classroom experience,” said Garrett, who noted that projectors in the E Street facility cost $20,000 to $25,000 apiece.

She said a “series of dominoes” ensues when an untrained professor attempts to use a computer or projector because they damage the system by indiscriminately pushing buttons and removing wires.

Craig Linebaugh, associate vice president for academic planning and development, said the University cannot force professors to attend training sessions and noted that some professors don’t utilize technology because their teaching style doesn’t require it.

“If it were feasible to require faculty to undergo training … that would be the optimal situation,” he said.

Professor Elizabeth Chacko said training sessions were informative and helpful and that many professors are hoping to integrate more technology into their lesson plans.

“It’s pretty straightforward,” said Chacko, who teaches a geography class in the Elliot School building. “Even people who are not technologically inclined can use them. It’s a great resource.”

Other professors said that while the technology is a benefit for faculty, many professors are not utilizing it enough.

“Those that are using it are well-trained,” said Maurice East, professor of international affairs and political science. “The concern is that not enough people are using it.”

Linebaugh said the sizes of some classes necessitate their location in “high-tech” rooms that can hold hundreds of students, regardless of the professor’s penchant for technology.

“If the professor who’s teaching one of those courses chooses to use only an overhead or a blackboard, that class still has to go into one of those rooms,” he said.

He said GW relies on academic departments to provide information about a professor’s teaching technique to determine where to place classes.

Garrett said precious class time is consumed when a professor is not able to use a computer or projector properly.

“I’m sure it’s very frustrating to a faculty member when they have so few minutes in the class,” she said.

Linebaugh said a study is being conducted to determine whether to equip 10 more classrooms with state-of-the-art technology next summer.

He said the study would also examine how existing technology can be used more effectively in high-tech rooms.

“The extent to which we go forward with that plan will depend on the needs assessment,” Linebaugh said of the study, which he said would determine whether the number of high-tech rooms the University has is sufficient.

The study will be completed in late January and will not be made available to the public, Linebaugh said.

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