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In many universities there are increasing institutional pressures to incorporate educational technologies in the delivery of teaching (Becker et al., 2017). One of the intentions of this strategy is to enable more flexible, personalised and mobile types of learning, which can greatly benefit increasingly diverse cohorts of students who may be negotiating competing demands of work, health, family and society (Henderson et al., 2017, Te Riele, 2014). However, many academics tasked with integrating educational technologies into their teaching may feel unprepared and untrained for the task (Tyilo, 2017). Academics are required to stay current, not only in their subject expertise and the changing pedagogical trends, but also with the educational technologies they are expected to integrate (Martins and Nunes, 2016). A further challenge faced by academics is how best to teach diverse cohorts of students that may not have equal access to technology or the required skills to use technology for educational purposes (Becker et al., 2017, Wilkin et al., 2017).
Recent research indicates that top-down and structural approaches to implementing change are generally not very well suited to higher education institutions with their focus on academic freedom, consultation and collegiality (Carbone et al., 2017). Commonly, universities provide a variety of professional learning opportunities and employ learning designers and educational technologists to assist academics with integrating technology into their face-to-face teaching (Dahlstrom, 2015). However, despite the best intentions of university learning and teaching strategies, the focus is not always on pedagogy or best teaching practices (Holmes and Mockler, 2015). A consequence of this may be a clash between academics’ choice and the aspirations of institutions regarding the adoption of educational technologies (Islam et al., 2015).
This study explores academics’ perceptions of technology-focused professional development and the factors that impact their ability to deliver technology-enhanced teaching and learning in their current university context. Findings are based on survey data from 78 participants and interviews with 22 academics across 11 Australian universities in 2017. Thematic analysis of the data reveals that just over half of all respondents perceived that professional development played a key role in supporting their use of technology in conjunction with their face-to-face teaching. Findings also revealed several professional development challenges faced by academics, such as time restrictions, inadequate and unsustainable technical support, and a mismatch between academics’ needs and the types of professional development opportunities offered.
This research offers evidence-based recommendations regarding how to effectively upskill academics in educational technology so as to minimise professional anxieties and increase confidence in their ability to deliver learning that successfully blends pedagogies. The authors of this paper advocate for new approaches to designing and delivering professional development to university academics, in particular approaches which provide solutions for both academics and institutions and which take into account university principles of academic freedom, consultation and collegiality (Hoover and Harder, 2015, Selwyn, 2016).
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