Myths of Educational Technology

Seven original myths were formulated by Bill Scroggins, Past President, Academic Senate for California Community Colleges.

The myths below are in the form of statements that can be interpreted in many ways – some that are favorable to technology and some that are not. The text of each of the myths is printed, along with commentary to show why the statement has some elements that are true and some that are false.

Myth 1

It is possible to educate more students by teaching online than it is by traditional face-to-face classroom teaching.

Right now, not all potential online students have access to the Internet from home or access to computers with which to take online courses. In many areas, the dial up access to the nearest Internet Service Provider is a toll call, and, in addition, there is the monthly cost of the ISP service. However, more and more areas of the country have at least one ISP, and there are free ISPs that can be accessed in many areas if one does not mind commercials. As broadband service increases around the country, only the most populous areas have service initially, and the cost is prohibitive for many people. However, the cost will come down as competition increases, and eventually it will be possible for students working from home to benefit from the most up to date methods for providing education, including streaming video. Public computer sites in libraries and college computer labs can play a role in providing access for some students. However, if the numbers of online students increase sufficiently, public sites will not satisfy the demand.

Because of the communicative nature of online courses, they usually have fewer students per course than do traditional face-to-face courses. Some faculty members teach larger numbers of students online by using undergraduate or gradute student assistants to help facilitate. The assistants play a variety of roles, including helping with technical questions, clearing up misunderstandings in assignments, or actually participating in the dialog about content with students. Other faculty members can accommodate larger numbers of students by limiting the number of assignments that require communication with individual students. They may also have students work in groups, and the faculty member can communicate with the group instead of individual students.

Not every student who participates in higher education will do so using a computer from home. There is a need to socialize young people on a college campus, and even if the number of students taking online courses increases, traditional methods of teaching will continue to thrive on the campus.

Myth 2

Teaching online costs less than traditional face-to-face teaching.

Myth 3

Fewer brick and mortar buildings will be needed when more courses are taught online.

Teaching more courses online may result in an increase or a decrease in the rate of new building construction. It may be true that fewer traditional classrooms will be needed on some campuses, but there will always be students engaged in face-to-face learning. Some of the construction funds may be used for specialized buildings or classrooms and to house offices and staff space needed to support online courses. Those include student support staff, instructional designers, and educational technology IT staff.

Myth 4

Purchasing networks and computers is the most expensive part of providing technology for teaching and learning.

Taken out of an educational environment the truth of this statement cannot be judged. The price of technology, whether costly or inexpensive, is irrelevant if it is not used properly so that students learn. Purchasing and installing technology does not translate into quality education without effort on the part of faculty, trainers, technical support, administrators, instructional designers and others. Only after the pedagogy and online course design have been addressed should the price of technology be measured.

Myth 5

Eventually, all faculty will abandon face-to-face teaching for online teaching.

Not every faculty member will be a good online instructor. Some faculty will not be able to develop the skills needed for online teaching and learning. In the online environment, the skill of delivering inspiring lectures is replaced by the skill of facilitating conversations among and with students. Learning facilitator skills takes training and practice, just as learning to be a good face-to-face classroom teacher takes training and practice.

Many people believe that the use of instructional technology begins with the most technologically advanced faculty, and then slowly but surely most other faculty members adopt and begin to use technology in their teaching. William Geoghegan¬†built on the works of Rogers and Moore to show that most faculty members will not integrate technology into teaching on their own. Crossing the “gap” between early adopters and mainstream faculty does not occur unless institutions recognize that there is a technology gap and work very hard to overcome the natural tendencies faculty have to resist the integration of technology into teaching.

There will always be a need for face-to-face instruction. Some subjects may be more susceptible to learning in a face-to-face environment. Hands-on subjects for practitioners of a craft or a skills-based profession require apprenticeships where instructors can observe the quality of work and offer suggestions. Young learners come to campus to associate with scholars and others pursuing learning. In the process they become socialized and exposed to a variety of ideas and cultures. There is not an online substitute for this process.

Myth 6

Fewer faculty will be needed as the shift to online learning occurs.

The number of young people and adults who will need to be educated for the information economy will continue to increase. Even using the best methods and technologies, there is a limit to how many students a faculty member can effectively communicate with in any course. So it is unlikely that the number of faculty members required will decline.

However, online teaching may mean that it is easier for faculty members to teach when and where they please. The number of adjunct faculty participating in online education may increase as institutions hire instructors to teach extra sections. There will be a demand for skilled and trained facilitators who understand how online learning differs from face-to-face. Since faculty will be able to teach from anywhere in the US, skilled faculty may be able to sell their services to institutions that provide the best working conditions.

Myth 7

Students learn more in the online classroom than they do in the face-to-face classroom.

The method of instructional delivery does not by itself determine how much students learn. Students learn well when the instructor is enthusiastic and when the course is structured appropriately so that learning can occur. Students can learn very well from face-to-face instruction. Most people recall a particular lecturer who inspired them to pursue knowledge in a particular field. They can also learn very well from the online environment, at least as judged by qualitative studies. Some links to studies that discuss the quality of learning that can occur in the online environment are shown below.

Exploring Quality Teaching in the Online Environment Using an Evidence Based Approach

The Effects of Student Engagement, Student Satisfaction, and Perceived Learning in Online Learning Environments

Evaluation Instruments and Good Practices in Online Education

Measuring Student Engagement in the Online Course:  The Online Student Engagement Scale (OSE)