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Enthusiasm for technology runs wide and deep at the University of Washington, which recently took a snapshot of current tech usage patterns by students, faculty and teaching assistants. 

Supplemental materials such as course recordings and streaming or downloadable content have contributed to substantial changes in tech use since 2008 (the time of the last reporting). One example out of the School of Oceanography is the research and discovery within the classroom coupled with a live undersea video feed.

“The data around student technology use are interesting, because we see students using a greater variety of technologies to support their learning than instructors report using in various course contexts,” said Cara Giacomini, Research Manager at UW-IT.

Over 1800 students, teaching assistants and faculty participated in the Teaching, Learning, and Research Technology surveys in 2011. Findings show that technology use is increasing, proficiency and access is high while technical obstacles were reported as low. Additionally, students report using technology to support their learning more than what is required by faculty, and both students and instructors are using educational technology to make large classes more manageable. Giacomini adds, “In particular, students make greater use of collaboration and communication technologies as they coordinate with their classmates.”

Tom Lewis, Director, Academic & Collaborative Applications, UW Information Technology, summarizes the importance of the report:

“The fact that faculty and students rate their personal technology expertise similarly undermines a commonly-held notion that students are far ahead. This, coupled with the fact that faculty and students are using the same technologies, means that there is a huge potential to use these technologies in innovative and interesting ways for teaching and learning. What is more remarkable is that almost all faculty involve students in their research projects and encourage independent research by students, and Web-based collaboration and communication tools are central to the research process. The survey really shows how central technology has become to all facets of inquiry at the University of Washington.”

The chart below shows the percentage point change in overall use of these technologies across populations and teaching/learning contexts showing which technologies have increased use since 2008 and the few with diminished use. As with the key findings, this helps illustrate that tools that help with course management activities are getting the biggest gains.

Advancing beyond technology tools, the researches took into account how people are using the technology. Giacomini states, “We did do some new things with proficiency measures, so we could look to see how individuals with different skill levels had different experiences with technology, encountered different obstacles, had different priorities, etc. This lets us think of ways of tailoring information and support to more effectively reach various types of users.”

Read the full report here.

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