American University of Sharjah faculty and staff want more access to technology-enhanced classrooms, according to the results of a survey presented in a March 4 lecture.
Faculty Development Center Director Dr. Cindy Gunn, one of three speakers who presented the survey results, said that professors acknowledge the importance of integrating technology in their classrooms. They see it as increasing student access to course materials, as well helping them engage course content, she said, making wireless reach and stability essential on campus.
Gunn said the survey, based on one already conducted in the US, was sent out to 477 faculty and academic teaching staff. Exactly 207 people responded, for a 43% response rate, she added; participation, which was anonymous, was encouraged by a chance to win one of two iPads and 25 Logitech wireless presenters. College of Arts and Science faculty made up 44% of respondents, those of the School of Business and Management amounted to 13%, College of Engineering 27%, and the College of Architecture Arts and Design 10%. Staff comprised the final 6%.
The six-part survey included questions about demographics, technology priorities and perceptions, online and face-to-face learning environments, communications and barriers, learning about technology.
The results were grouped by participants’ colleges. Course/learning management systems ranked highest in maintaining or enhancing teaching effectiveness, said Gunn, adding that professors also valued the prompt feedback technology allowed them regarding tests and other evaluations.
In support of that, Gunn noted other survey results citing the lack of access to properly-equipped classrooms and labs; she said these are seen as significant barriers of effective technology at AUS. Respondents also considered the lack of funds for educational technology development, as well as hardware and software difficulties to be a problem, she said. The survey, Gunn and others noted, shed light on frustrations teachers face when trying to incorporate technology into class.
Efforts to change the picture are underway, according to Nabeel Amireh, academic computing director, who cited plans to upgrade the wireless system and improve teaching spaces. He said most wireless users are CAAD and SBM students, and connectivity issues in their buildings were almost nonexistent now. Most complaints, he said, were from students accessing the internet in the student center. He added that the survey results reflected issues with the wireless network at that time which have been subsequently fixed.
IT Director Leo De Sousa said the main issue the wireless network faces is amounts of traffic overloading the connection. Many students have a laptop, a smartphone, and a tablet, he said, adding that the speed of connectivity slows when multiple devices are connected and brought into classrooms. De Sousa added that new strategies are needed to scale and manage this growth. Besides upgraded wireless connectivity being integrated within school buildings, he said, new wireless systems have been installed in the dorms.
According to Gunn, the survey also included open-ended comments. Some emphasized the need for interactive white-boards, she said – which all schools already have at least one of – and the improvement of the wireless internet connection in order to make technology-friendly classrooms.
One CAAD faculty member present commented that he “would like to use 21st century methodologies, but I am housed in 20th century classrooms. Therefore, I strongly encourage the prioritization of classroom design over the subscription to new technologies; to put new technologies into old-style classrooms is not a sensible investment."
Tara Aldughaither is a Mass Communication major at the American University of Sharjah.
For more information about American University of Sharjah, please visit www.aus.edu