The Role of Centers of Teaching and Learning in Integrating Technology in Instruction
Go to previous version

Go to original version with critical reviews

This is a good article that has been improved since the first draft.

We suggest developing ideas more thoroughly in response to highlighted critical comments included parenthetically in the text. Also consider adding more links to CTL sites: plans, curricula, evaluation tools, etc etc. Finally, at every step make sure to include practical ideas, in addition to theory. You have included more practical information than in the first draft, but this practical level needs to be present in every paragraph.]

 [Critic AB writes: "Stress the potential of T&L Centers to contribute to the design and development of effective instruction in general, including low-tech. 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. Fair and reasonable evaluation of tech-based instruction is also required."] [Critic W suggests that you develop more thoroughly the idea 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?]

Incorporating information technology tools into classroom instruction often begins as a grassroots effort rather than as part of a system plan. Once some faculty members begin using information technology tools in instruction, more become interested. As information technology tools become more accepted and integrated at an institution, a center for teaching and learning can play critical roles: motivating, teaching, listening, and partnering (Marcinkiewicz, 2000). If information technology tools are still perceived as an innovation, the center can help explore their new capabilities. As the  information technology tools systematically replace older forms, the center can show how the tools can replace or complement previous methods and how they can generate new uses. If the use of information technology tools has progressed to where they are part of the infrastructure and their use is expected as a typical teaching element; indeed, using information technology tools may be a requirement of the job, the nature of the relationship between the center and the faculty also changes. There is less need for motivational activities and more demand for a reciprocating relationship with faculty. At this stage of adoption, most faculty would have clearly defined expectations for their use of instructional technology tools.

The following is a list of suggestions for what a center for teaching and learning can do to help faculty members and institutions with integrate information technology tools.

Resolve that information technology tools serve instruction, not the reverse (Brown & Duguid, 2000; Norman, 1998). Corollaries to this view are that the tools are selected for their relevance and utility in promoting learning and that there is variety along a scale from simple to complex technologies scale. During training it may be necessary to alternate primary focus from instructional methodology to procedures for using information technology tools, which creates the perception that your goal has changed. You will be criticized for emphasizing either aspect. Follow your resolved goal, and continually remind others of it.

 [Please respond to the comments of one critic, who wrote: "I still feel that this language needs clarification. Just what is 'the will to be motivated'? Does the author mean that faculty are largely self-motivated? This makes sense and is in line with the literature, but it also fits with the previous words about the institution providing incentives." This critic suggests the following re-wording: " ...institutional incentives can help, but because faculty are largely self-motivated, the incentives must capitalize on this intrinsic emphasis... ]

Understand the conditions needed to enable the integration of information technology tools. Integration must be a part of the mission and the academic plan. Additionally, there is a balance of contributions that an institution and its faculty must supply together in order to realize competence as suggested in Gilbert's elegant model of human competence—in this case with information technology tools. Gilbert lists institutional and individual responsibilities for each of three categories: data, knowledge, and motivation (1978). The institution expresses its expectations for information technology tools and provides training and placement; in turn, faculty know the expectations and get the training. The institution provides equipment, in turn, faculty members learn to use it. The institution provides incentives; in turn, faculty members become motivated. It is critical that these conditions be met. An institution without a plan for them may not achieve information technology integration. Act on your understanding. The training and and motivation conditions are within the charge of a center for teaching and learning, but a center can also take an active role in informing decision makers to ensure that the other conditions are in place. Your institution may not promote the integration of information technology tools as a matter of mission, policy, or practice. Such a stance defines the choices for the activities of a center for teaching and learning. The extreme choices for a center would be to champion information technology integration in spite of the mission, on the one hand; or to promote other aspects of pedagogy ignoring technology tools, on the other. The potential costs of the first choice could be frustration and wasted effort. The rewards could be a change in the policy. The cost of the latter choice could be a loss of opportunities to use tools for improving learning. The rewards could be maintenance of the status quo. A part of the decision to promote integration at an unwilling institution rests with your beliefs and understanding about the validity of such an effort. Clearly, it is more productive and rewarding working where the goals of a center and the institution are in accord.

[Critic W suggests that you develop *even more* Gilbert's model of human competence. The critic writes: "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'?" Don't forget to consider the level of *how* this is to be implemented on a practical level.]

Inform the institution about responsibilities that need to be undertaken. A center for teaching and learning should inform and instruct all parts of an institution that are concerned with teaching and learning and not only with the faculty. This is done by committee work and conducting training for administration. Learn about equipment, software, and the role of information technology in learning. Read online journals. Participate in listserv discussions, such as ITFORUM ( or the American Association of Higher Education's ( Know what works, why, and under what conditions it is most appropriate. Coordinate panel discussions led by faculty, administrators, and staff involved in technology integration. Learn as you create opportunities for others to learn.

Plan and mobilize for the parts of the model you can influence. This includes fostering motivation, creating incentives, and providing training. A center for teaching and learning can motivate by responding to the expectations expressed by the institution to integrate information technology and to the systemic changes made in the infrastructure. One rule of successful incentives is that they be valued by those receiving them. Two incentives to which faculty respond is the opportunity to meet with their colleagues or peers and to engage in learning. Faculty members enjoy the company of their colleagues and have a deep love of learning.

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

Plan how you will assess your program. Build a database of activities, participation rates, and evaluations to assist your record keeping. Survey the faculty regularly balancing the need for information against the likelihood of estranging them by burdening them with yet another survey. Use a simple format for each activity and a more detailed one annually. The 3-question format used for classroom instruction, the Small Group Instructional Diagnosis (SGID) is equally useful for getting feedback on your center's training activities (Clark & Redmond, 1982). The 3 questions are:
1. What did you like about this course (workshop, institute, etc.?)
2. What would you omit or change to this course?
3. What would you add to this course?

 [By "presence on the Web," do you mean that faculty members wanted to put their courses online? And do you mean, by "course managers," online course management systems such as WebCT? Please clarify.],
 [of a course manager? if so, which one?]

Develop a training plan along with the faculty. At my institution, there was a pent-up desire among the faculty to assign parts of their instruction to the Web. I learned about various course management systems, such as WebCT, BlackBoard, and Learning Space, invited vendors to demonstrate their products, developed a practice and theory-based rating scale, and informed the faculty and other campus stakeholders. There was open and interested participation in the review process. We selected a course management system; then, I sought help for training from a network of colleagues from around the country, and organized day-long, hands-on training sessions. A few of the early adopters among our faculty learned the program well enough to become the trainers for the next institutes. Because the course management system included many features and required specific procedural knowledge, the training session topics were limited and focused. Also, it was critical to address the needs of highly intelligent adults learning to use information technology tools: it required patience, low instructor-to-participant ratios, much focused time, and collegial support. I also practiced good teaching principles by providing plentiful and authentic, opportunities for practice. For a review of course management systems see Gray & Marcinkiewicz, (2000). See the rating scale for course management systems in Marcinkiewicz, & Ross, (in press).

Schedule various training times and session lengths. Be creative in scheduling and offer to work with faculty at varied and odd hours in order to maximize your meetings with faculty. Unless you offer continual and repeated daily training activities, a fixed schedule will fail to suit a wide number of faculty because their schedules are so varied. It is typical for faculty to teach only on Tuesdays and Thursdays or the other three days of the workweek. Still others work evenings, etc. As options, I recommend one of the following. Conduct 50-minute training sessions focusing on one topic, offered repeatedly and at different times of day throughout the semester. This schedule will be well-received. Host special interest groups, which can include discussion and lunch sessions about software use or topics in teaching and learning, can work. Conduct walk-in lab sessions, with the topic decided by the person walking in. These can be successful, as long as the instructor-to-participant ratios are low. Another option is to schedule institutes that last several days, or short courses for professors conducted by their peers, such as a course running three hours per session for ten weeks, with meals and stipend provided. Our schedule is posted at ( Another example schedule can be found at

Communicate initially, repeatedly, and often. Communication does not stop after accomplishing integration of information technology tools; you need to communicate its success or failure. Just as maintenance and technical support must be considered when budgeting for information technology, so follow-up time must be considered when budgeting for information technology. Communicate with faculty, share ideas and knowledge, and set up panels of expert faculty. Communicate by campus-wide e-mail and paper announcements. Learning is a dynamic process and is subject to cycles and fluxes; overemphasizing your training topics will stop getting attention. Therefore, project low visibility for a while and then repeat announcements as necessary. Keep the element of surprise while maintaining a stable schedule of activities; take a cue from psychology and marketing.

Empower faculty members by having them participate in information technology decisions, plan and conduct training sessions, and lead by example. Encourage faculty members to take risks with innovative applications. Faculty members will likely reconfigure information technology use in ways beyond original expectations. Professors at our Michigan College of Optometry developed an album of digital images of students' retinae which are accessed via a course management system. This mediation has been a significant time saver allowing students to view varieties of retinae and develop their diagnostic skills. This process replaced the initial diagnosis by the professor looking into a patient's eye, then having the student repeat the procedure several times. It also allowed for a variety of types of retinae to be displayed simultaneously. Contact Dr. Randy Vance for information about this process at This is one of our success stories and it surpassed our expectations for use.Your faculty will also find new and unexpected uses for or shortcomings of information technology tools. Encourage them to feel free to do so.

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


Brown, J.S., & Duguid, P. (2000). The Social Life of Information. Harvard Business School Press.

Clark, D., & Redmond, M. (1982). Small group instructional diagnosis: Final report. ERIC Document Reproduction Service. ED 217 954.

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

Gray, S., & Marcinkiewicz, H. R. (November, 2000). “Making the Choice: Providers for Online Courses” (Buyers; Guide: Product Summary) Syllabus 14(4),  62–64.

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., & Ross, E. M. (in press) “Planning for Web-based Course Management.” In. B. Khan (Ed.), Web-based Training. Englewood Cliff, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

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.

Norman, Donald, A. (1998). The invisible computer. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA

[APA doesn't include references to articles not cited in the text. If you wish to retain them, please cite them; otherwise, delete.]