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Will Technology Replace Faculty?

santiago [1]By Santiago Iñiguez de Onzoño, Dean of IE Business School and President of IE University

“There is a fear, expressed frequently, that technology will replace professors. But I can say emphatically and unequivocally, THAT IT WILL NOT SUBSTITUTE THEM” (Bill Gates, Road to the Future, 1995; capital letters in the original)

In the present and future context of growing integration between technology and teaching, the role of the teacher will become decisive, moving from that of the conductor of the learning process to managing online modules. The new breed of teacher will not only require a deep understanding of the area of study, but also be skilled in online teaching methodologies, the use of educational platforms, and in managing information and multimedia materials.

Attracting teachers to this new environment will not be easy, partly because so many academic institutions’ collegial government requires substantial quorums to approve major curriculum changes. This collegial approach, which has deep roots in academia, could hinder a transformation process that requires a rapid response to the changes taking place, or be slow to adapt the role of academics to the new needs of education.

The other institution that could delay the adoption of new teaching methods and the integration of technology and teaching is tenure, which gives senior academic staff a lifetime position, regardless of how they perform or their commitment to innovation. Only those with a true academic vocation, with a firm commitment to teaching, will be motivated to operate change.

These two institutions, collegiality and tenure are driving some institutions to try to bring about change by creating independent businesses such as Duke CE, or by contracting teaching staff from outside the system, as has happened in Cornell University’s New York campus.

In order to carry out the transformation that the new teaching environment requires, as well as to win the support of the most important group of stakeholders, I would suggest the following lines of action, based on the formula created by Tricia Bisoux and based on her survey of specialists operating in the sector. (1)

Economic and other incentives to encourage faculty to embrace new teaching methods. As a rule, blended methodologies require teaching staff to spend more time and effort than face-to-face sessions. This could be compensated by tallying blended sessions as equivalent to two or more traditional sessions.

Preparation, training, and use of MOOCs. Involving teachers in preparing and delivering MOOCs and SNOCs (small network online courses) will help them better understand and appreciate online methods, as well as familiarising them with the technologies involved.

Encourage flipping. Face-to-face and online sessions can be turned into interactive experiences able to reach far beyond traditional teaching formats. In the process, this will produce better evaluations from participants, thus boosting teachers’ reputations, which in turn will likely be matched by better salaries.

Enhance the role of academics as teachers. In general teaching has been undervalued in recent years in favor of research. I have always said that the two aspects must go together. With this in mind, it might be worth reviewing the current system of incentives within universities, while recognizing and valuing the increase in teaching activity, particularly in the new online context. This is something that might best be addressed at origin, for example, during the PhD programs studied by future business academics with the aim of raising awareness and giving them the skills they need to be good teachers.

Support. It is also necessary to invest in the resources needed to develop the teaching skills required by teachers in the new online environment. This is where technology companies can play a fundamental role by investing in training, something that will be in their own interests, given that they will win over an important ally in the process.

Blending technology and pedagogy continues to provide new approaches to improve the learning experience. Much research has been conducted on the benefits and drawbacks of online courses, and more is needed if we are to increase our understanding of the transfer process from technology integration learning to the classroom.

Notes

(1) T. Bisoux, The Blended Campus, BizEd, July-August 2014; pp. 17-22.