How to Integrate Technology in Higher Education: Clues from Faculty Technology Mentoring Program

By Hatice Cilsalar Sagnak (Yozgat Bozok University) and Evrim Baran (Iowa State University)

Dramatic changes throughout the world have been infused in higher education contexts. Teaching and learning experiences have evolved with technologies. Students response systems such as Socrative, Kahoot, Mentimeter, PollEverywhere and learning management systems Moodle, Canvas, Edmodo and Blackboard are commonly used ones. On the other hand, technology has evolved teaching and learning activities such as flipped learning, e-learning, blended learning, etc.

This change process in educational environments revealed a metamorphosis in higher education settings. Faculty members tendency to use these emerging technologies and the way that they integrate them in their courses are the key points of technology usage for educational purposes. The need for professional development of faculty members has been met by face-to-face, online, synchronous, asynchronous, one-time and recurring professional development (PD) programmes, including self-directed learning experiences, professional meetings, seminars, workshops and conferences to accommodate faculty members’ needs for effective technology integration in their classrooms (Johnson, 2015).

To contribute the technology integration behavior of faculty members, we designed and implemented a faculty mentoring program concentrated on technology integration. This faculty technology mentoring program (FTM) was implemented at the Middle East Technical University in Turkey for two semesters.

The mentoring program comprises mentors and mentees where experts who are mentors guide novices who are mentees. Mostly faculty members were mentors of the university students. Contrary to this, roles have changed in faculty technology mentoring programs. Graduate or undergraduate students who are expert on technology usage are mentors of the faculty members.

The university has a computer center, learning and student development office (LSD) and an instructional technology support office (ITS) that aimed to help faculty members to integrate technology and deal with any issues the faculty members faced during technology integration. Some workshops, resources, and seminars were used with different educational technologies and technology usage in courses. Although different training methods were presented to faculty members, they had trouble at some points which were context specific. To meet the specific needs of faculty members, the mentoring program was implemented.

There were 24 mentors in the program who had backgrounds related to teaching or education and 12 of them had expertise in teaching at least one year. The mentors were the graduate students from the Faculty of Education enrolled in the course “Research and Practice on Technology in Teacher Education”. Participating in the FTM enabled the mentors to practice what they learned from their classes or student-teacher field trainings because they were asked to guide faculty members in developing not only their technology integration intention and behavior but also their pedagogical views.

The faculty members and graduate students were matched as pairs. Each mentoring group met as often as possible, preferably once every week. At these meetings, they were expected to define the needs of the faculty member(s) and to search for ways to meet them. All mentors met together to discuss their concerns arising from their mentee meetings. Among the artifacts of the FTM, a mentoring case webpage was designed as the representation of the students’ mentoring case studies. In addition to FTM webpage, the students and faculty members of the program were enrolled in the FTM Facebook group page to be connected through and after the program. On this page, the mentors and mentees shared some specific technologies they used or planned to use in their classroom to solve specific problems and their reflected experiences.

The steps undertaken were defined by Baran (2016a);

  1. Conduct needs analysis to determine mentees’ needs at the beginning of the semester
  2. Engage in technology integration activities with their mentees throughout the semester by holding weekly or bi-weekly meetings and observing the mentees’ classes
  3. Present technological and pedagogical solutions to problems laid out by mentees
  4. Explore solutions through a collaborative discourse with mentees and other mentors
  5. Evaluate the results of implemented solutions
  6. Present and share the process and results with the community to disseminate the knowledge of innovations within the course and the campus (p. 52)

Each mentoring group had their own schedule and program plan in their hands which were prepared by mentors and mentees based on faculty members’ specific needs. The needs were determined by need-assessments conducted by mentors at the beginning of the program. According to the results of the needs assessments, each mentor came up with suggestions to their mentees and planned their mentoring process based on these suggestions and needs. The mentoring groups followed their unique plans and did some activities.

After FTM, faculty members were interviewed, and they indicated how they shaped their technology integration behavior. According to results, faculty members’ technology integration behavior within the FTM context while experiencing technology integration behavior was affected by intention, attitude, subjective norms, facilitative conditions and their subdimensions represented in Decomposed Theory of Planned Behavior. The results indicate that faculty members’ technology integration intention is significantly predicted by attitude, students’ influence, and self-efficacy while subjective norm and facilitative conditions have no significant relation with their intention. Finally, determination of the factors gives clues on how to develop faculty members’ technology integration skills to enhance this behavior across the campus and draw a general framework on how to design and implement any professional development program for faculty members by considering these factors.

The need for technology integration into the higher education context has occurred during the pandemic. With this study we explored how to contribute faculty members technology integration behavior with the help of our technology mentoring program.  The full version of this study has been published in AJET; Faculty members’ planned technology integration behaviour in the context of a faculty technology mentoring programme.

References

Baran, E. (2016). Investigating faculty technology mentoring as a university-wide professional development model. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 28(1), 45–71. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12528-015-9104-7

Johnson, W.B. (2015). On being a mentor: A guide for higher education faculty. Routledge.

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