Technology in schools is a topic that continuously evolves as institutions’ needs develop and change along with issues such as enrollment, student population, and expertise of the faculty. Change may be the only constant in this equation as what works for one institution may not be the best fit for another. Some colleges and universities have embraced fully online programs while some are still entering the technological arena by offering online and hybrid courses to their students, combining them with onground courses that may be enhanced by the use of technology. Student and faculty preference along with administrators and staff who are skilled in implementing and supporting technology in schools are additional factors to consider when contemplating the optimal way to use technology in a cohesive, engaging manner.
Technology in schools, and the needs and requirements that accompany this important topic, can be as diverse as the educational landscape itself. One of the advantages of the higher education system is that students have a variety of institutions from which to choose when deciding upon their degree and career paths. The same can be said for faculty and administrators. Is a private institution a better fit or will a public college or university provide the opportunities they desire? In a similar vein, respective colleges and universities must ask themselves: what technological components are best for our institution and how will we support this technology to ensure that it runs smoothly for everyone involved?
When it comes to online platforms the type selected and how much of the actual learning management system (LMS) is used may vary from institution to institution. While all platforms contain similar features, such as dropbox options, discussion boards, and announcements, some are creative and flexible in nature, while others offer a more streamlined look. In addition, administrators may determine which options are available to faculty, limiting access to certain areas of the LMS while others may have a more open policy in allowing instructors to delve into each area of the platform while they either design, modify, or teach a course. Student population also plays a role in the type of technology used in schools. A more traditional institution with primarily onground students may have different technological needs than one that is mainly online with perhaps some satellite campus sites. The needs of the different institutional types may change as time goes on so the type of technology used must also be flexible in nature in order to best accommodate both students and faculty members.
Another point to take into consideration is technological support at the college level. A smaller institution may have a very limited staff designated in supporting faculty and students while a larger institution may employ many administrators to assist with a variety of issues from technology-related problems and navigation questions. For example, a small, brick and mortar college with a mix of online and onground offerings may only have the need for one faculty or content developer while a primarily online institution typically employs a team filled with experienced support personnel. No matter the courses offered, size of the college or university, or level of support required some constants remain. A comprehensive orientation course is a must when introducing a new LMS, enforcing school policies, or discussing relevant online pedagogical principles. Once the orientation has been completed, faculty should then be supported throughout the prep, teaching, and post-term experiences. The amount of faculty in need of support will determine the number of administrators needed to accomplish this task and will also set the tone for the overall training experience. The support should be comprehensive, thorough, and clearly executed. Similarly, students also require an orientation, especially if they have not yet experienced the LMS used in their courses or if they are new to the college or university or online courses altogether. Support should be offered for them as well, either through a specialized team or via the same personnel who support the faculty.
Technology in schools, when integrated in a smooth manner, can make the difference between a smooth, successful experience for faculty, students, and administrators and one that leaves everyone confused and frustrated. Determining what works best for your school may come through trial and error, asking pointed questions of those involved, and great flexibility. That last component, flexibility, is especially crucial. The needs of each institution very often ebbs and flows just like the technology used throughout the nearly ever-changing educational landscape.