Centers for Teaching and Learning Assist in Technology Integration

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The use of technology for instruction at educational institutions often begins as a local or grassroots effort rather than as a part of a system plan. Once some faculty members at an educational institution have begun using information technology in instruction, more faculty members will become interested in it. The opportune time to bring about Technology Integration (TI) is when technology is still an innovation or when technology has replaced previously used parts of the infrastructure and users are gradually becoming dependent on it for their work, but well before the technology has become a part of the infrastructure (Marcinkiewicz, 2000). During the former phases, a center for teaching and learning can be effectual in assisting faculty members with TI. Following are suggestions based on the planning and activities of a successful center.

Resolve and repeat often that your goal should always remain that the technology serves instruction, rather than the reverse. Sometimes during training it is necessary to focus on either the instruction or the technology creating the perception that your goal has changed. You will be criticized for emphasizing either one. Be prepared, follow your goal, and remind others of it.

Understand the conditions needed to enable TI. Thomas Gilbert’s model of human competence is an elegant description of the balance of contributions that an institution and its faculty must commit in order to realize competence—in this case with TI. The model poses the responsibilities of the institution and the individual for each of three categories data, knowledge, and information (1978). The institution provides incentives, faculty provide the will to be motivated; the institution provides equipment, the faculty adapt for competency in using the equipment; the institution expresses its expectations for TI, provides training and placement, faculty know the expectations and learn.

Inform the institution about the responsibilities that need to be assumed. Learn about the equipment and soft technology. Know what works, why it does and under what conditions it is most appropriate.

Plan and mobilize for the parts of the model you can influence. These areas include fostering internal motivation, creating incentives, and providing training. A center for teaching and learning can motivate by responding to the expressed expectations to integrate technology and to the technological changes made in the infrastructure.

Campaign for TI in order to create an institutional culture where the use of TI is expected. Research indicates that the best predictor of TI is subjective norms, a construct akin to peer pressure; it is a perception that those by whom you are influenced in your work sphere expect you to integrate technology. The most influential ones are the administration, students, colleagues, and learned societies. (Marcinkiewicz, 1993/94, 1996).

Plan how you will assess your program. Build a database of activities and participation rates and evaluations early to assist your record keeping.

Develop a training plan and empower faculty by sharing the responsibility for planning with them. Initially, this may only result in suggestions. If these are not forthcoming, seek them out. Go door-to-door to faculty members to get to know them and to inform them that it is possible to try out some of their ideas. Then, act on your commitment. At my institution, there was a pent up desire among the faculty to have a presence on the web. I learned about various course managers, invited vendors, developed a theory-based rating scale, and informed faculty and other campus stakeholders. There was open and interested participation in the review process.

I sought help for training from a network of colleagues from around the country, organized training institutes—several days long sessions of hands on training. A few of the early adopters learned the program well enough to become the trainers for the next institutes. Because the course manager includes many features and requires learning procedural knowledge, the topics of the training sessions were focused and minimized. Acknowledge the needs of highly intelligent adults learning both the use of technology and how to integrate it into instruction—exercise patience, maintain low instructor-student ratios, allow much focused time, and provide collegial support. Practice good teaching principles: allow many opportunities for practice and make them authentic.

Schedule various training times and session lengths. Training sessions that lasted 50 minutes, that focused on singular topics, were offered repeatedly and at varied times throughout the semester were well-received by faculty. Experience showed that the standard matrix format of training sessions was the least successful likely because of the inflexibility of meeting faculty schedules. Organize special interest groups for faculty interests. These can include discussion and lunch sessions about topics in teaching and learning or software use. Hold walk-in lab sessions with the topics open to the interest of the person walking in; keep the ratios low. Schedule institutes that last several days. Schedule "college" type classes for professors conducted by their peers. An example of the latter is a course running three hours per session for ten weeks. Meals are provided, as is a stipend. Be creative in scheduling.

Communicate initially, repeatedly and often. Communication does not stop even after you have accomplished TI because you will need to communicate about the continuing success or failure of it. Just as the cost of maintenance must be considered when budgeting for the cost of information technology, so the amount of follow up time on topics learned must be budgeted. Think of follow up as an opportunity for communication.

Communicate about TI with faculty. Tell them what you know and ask them what they know. Set up panels of expert faculty; they and their colleagues will love it.

Communicate by campus-wide e-mail announcements and duplicate that with paper announcements. Repeat the process as necessary. Remember that learning is dynamic and is subject to cycles and fluxes. Use psychology and do not continue to beat a drum about a TI topic because doing so will stop getting attention…just like bad tasting water, you will get used to it. The announcements will become a part of the ambience. Project low visibility for a while and then repeat announcements as necessary. To get attention, keep the element of surprise while maintaining a stable schedule of activities.

Empower faculty members by having them participate in technology decisions, participate in planning and conducting training sessions, and leading with examples of TI. Encourage faculty members to take risks with innovative applications. It is very probable that faculty members will reconfigure uses of technology for instruction that are beyond original expectations and unique.

Throughout, lead and serve faculty under the banner of "instruction leads technology."


Gilbert, T. F. (1978). Human competence: Engineering worthy performance. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company.

Marcinkiewicz, H. R. (2000). "Implementation Strategies: Will Teachers Use Educational Computing?

Marcinkiewicz, H. R., Regstad, N. G. (1996). "Using Subjective Norms to Predict Teachers’ Computer Use." Journal of Computing in Teacher Education, 13(1), 27–33.

Marcinkiewicz, H. R. (1993/94). "Computers and Teachers: Factors Influencing Computer Use in the Classroom." Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 26(2), 220–237.

Related Reading about Creating Dependence and Infrastructure.

Forbes, January 10, 2000; "UPS Company of the year."

Norman, Donald, A. (1998). The Invisible Computer. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA Forbes, January 10, 2000; "UPS Company of the year."

Critical Reviews

Critic LL

This article is good. I am writing an article on the complexity of distance education and as you can see from this article, there are a myriad of issues!

I would like to see more clarity in the opening paragraph. Especially, when the author states, "The opportune time to bring about Technology Integration (TI) is when technology is still an innovation or when technology has replaced previously used parts of the infrastructure and users are gradually becoming dependent on it for their work, but well before the technology has become a part of the infrastructure (Marcinkiewicz, 2000)."  Why?

Otherwise, the depth and breadth of what must be done, I think helps the reader understand that, Wow, this is complex!

Critic AE

I'd publish this essay as is. It's step-by-step specific, and would be useful for both fledgling and established Distance Ed. departments. In fact, I'm going to recommend this essay to our own DE dept.

Critic AB

The author presents a group of logical and practical guidelines that apply to almost any faculty development/teaching improvement/technology initiative.  I agree with his suggestions and especially, with the importance of placing instructional needs ahead of technology when making instructional decisions. This is a concise and reasonable presentation of some basic notions that are important but are sometimes ignored (to the detriment of learners). Given the length and intent of the article, the cited literature is acceptable. There are, of course, many other works ... some by very well-known people ... but the given list suffices if we take the article at face value. My interpretation of 'face value' in this case is that the intent of the article is to present the equivalent of an "executive summary" of major guidelines for successful engagement with faculty in the development of instruction that uses technology. As such, it serves its purpose well.

It is probably also worth stressing the potential of T&L Centers to contribute to the design and development of effective instruction. Despite the efforts of the TLT Group and others, there are still many places, I suspect, where technology has become dominant and where it is assumed that all that's needed is to use all the bells & whistles available.  The dangers are that the resulting instruction may be lacking and also, that the performance of the teacher may be judged not on the quality of the instructional design or on student learning, but rather on whether or not the latest technology was used. Fair and reasonable evaluation of tech-based instruction is also required, and we have a lot to learn about teaching and learning with technology as well as how to properly evaluate it.    Anything that can help to avoid mistakes is valuable.

If I HAD TO find a potential difficulty, it would probably be that there is not a lot that's new in this piece. These principles are as old as the field of systematic instruction design. Still, given the press to use/incorporate new technologies into literally everything and given the historic over-promise of technology in general, we wouldn't suffer from re-emphasizing a common sense view that is critical to the appropriate design of effective instruction. If this piece fits your needs, I'd publish it. There are many who probably haven't seen such a set of guidelines and it could save them (and their students) some grief.

Also, the Gilbert (1978) citation is a bit dated. But if Gilbert's model is a logical and useful one to follow in conceptualizing and carrying out faculty development for technology, I don't see its age as a real problem. A little bit more on the model would have been of interest to me and perhaps a bit of rewording might help. For example "...faculty provide the will to be motivated..." is a bit circular in its language (what is 'the will to be motivated'?) and given that current motivation theory suggests that motivation is largely intrinsic, this language might suggest a contrary notion, namely that motivation is "done to" faculty.  Finally, though intrinsic motivation is important, we can't deny that extrinsic incentives like a priori development stipends and/or specific post hoc recognition/reward for course development have succeeded very well.

On the whole, then, I'd recommend publication. 

Critic Y

I think the article is good and worth printing because, although not containing many new ideas, it is a well structured summary of experience/wisdom on the topic.

A few comments to pass along:

The first paragraph doesn't make a lot of sense to me. It also just sits there and is pretty well unconnected with the rest of the article. Perhaps it's just that there's a sentence or two missing which indicates how the listed activities need to change depending on where the institution is and/or where the individual faculty member is with regard to technology integration into their teaching. [There seems to be an implied homogeneity with regard to faculty that also doesn't ring true.]  I'd suggest that the three stages given be listed, each with a definition and examples, so that the reader can think about where their own institution fits along the timeline (if that's what's being implied). Is the list of activities totally useless then if technology has "become part of the infrastructure"? I don't think so, but the flavor of the activities might change somewhat. Alternatively, if this is not the thrust of the article, then a modified opening paragraph could be substituted.

Is the point of the article to sell the notion of CTLs? That Centers for T&L have a role? If so, then maybe the title is the best one. If, however, the point is the excellent summary of activities, then I'd suggest a new title which brings that out, for example, "Teaching and Learning Activities Assist in Technology Integration" or "Technology Integration in Instruction:  Teaching and Learning Activities That Work" or ...

Is it possible for the author to add some links to some of the materials/examples/practices cited? For example, CTL plans, training curriculum, evaluation tools, panels, decision tools.

Critic W

I really have mixed feelings about the article. It likely would have its greatest benefits for readers at institutions without strong centers for teaching and learning. Otherwise, the article describes a fairly conventional agenda for a faculty development program. Many of us are already doing many of the things the author describes. I guess I would recommend publication, but only after some extensive edits.

The author presents some strong concepts in the first three paragraphs, but does not reflect back on them in the remainder of the article. I think this is a missed opportunity.  The first is in the third sentence of the article, in which the author notes that the opportune time to promote technology integration is when the technology is still an innovation. What does that mean for planning, training, and communication?  The second is the reference to Gilbert's model of human competence. I really wish the author had done more with this, because if the conditions needed to enable TI aren't addressed, the strategies that follow may not be effective. The idea of the institution providing incentives is a great example.  Most universities, especially research universities, provide incentives for faculty NOT to engage in technology integration. Why should my T&L center painstakingly plan and conduct technology integration activities when, as former EDUCOM executive director Kenneth King once noted, junior faculty engage in instructional innovation activities "at their peril"?

Actually, a much better citation than Gilbert is the work of Alan Abedor and Steven Sachs from exactly the same time frame, 1978.  Abedor and Sachs wrote at length about how the success of instructional innovation in higher education is largely dependent upon readiness levels on the campus, particularly in the faculty and in the university itself.  They then described how organizational development activities can increase the readiness level in the university, and faculty development activities can increase the readiness level among individual faculty. The author of this article focuses almost entirely on faculty development and says very little about the critical component of organizational development, which would address matters such as the reward system, campus policies, availability of resources, and campus norms and expectations. (This is a MAJOR issue within some individual departments -- for example, I was once asked to intervene on behalf of an assistant professor who felt he was about to be denied tenure because other faculty in his department didn't like his use of group activities in his classes. The other faculty lectured, and that's what he was expected to do also.)

Beyond that, I feel the article focuses too strongly on the "what to do" and says too little about "how to do it", especially in the first half of the article. If I were the director of a neophyte T&L center and reading this, the article would give me little guidance about how to do any of these activities except plan and deliver training programs and communicate. How do I create incentives? How do I campaign for TI? How do I "inform the institution about the responsibilities that need to be assumed"? Send out an e-mail?

I feel that the author needs to address these matters before the article is ready for publication.