Appendix D: Report of the Subcommittee on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

Members: Joan Gotwals, Benn Konsynski (chair), Dennis Liotta, Maria Lunk, Betsy Patterson, and Steve Taylor.

For any teacher, this is an exciting time. Emerging information technologies are changing the opportunities both for teachers and students. The classroom experience is being transformed by technologies that change face-to-face meetings. At the same time, although the teaching experience was never limited to the classroom, the opportunity to reach beyond the classroom never has been more powerful. While only a few faculty at Emory currently are taking advantage of these powerful technologies, the broad range of initiatives inside and outside the classroom at Emory suggest the strong potential of the digital environment. It is incumbent on us to explore the potential offered by the digital age in order to transform the teaching experience.


There is a revolution taking place in the education marketplace. With the advent of technologies such as the Internet, we begin to challenge the historic assumptions of how teaching and learning are facilitated. The potential changes reach from the most prominent universities to the preschool environment. Few people would doubt the inexorable trend toward the capture and representation of knowledge in digital media. The challenge remains to assess the appropriate leveraging of these technologies to facilitate teaching. Still, advances both small and large are changing the face of the classroom experience and the learning environment.

Computers and networking have gained adherents partly because they enhance the skills considered necessary to survive in the twenty-first century. In the nineteenth century, it took about fifty years to double the world's knowledge. Today, the base of knowledge doubles in less than a year. The digital age creates new opportunities to access information in ways that transform work and play. The emerging workforce does not need "knowers" as much as it needs "learners." Few people would doubt that today's Emory graduate enters a world that differs significantly from that faced by a graduate of twenty years ago. Young adults entering today's workforce are no longer set for life with the skills they learn in college.

Not everyone is happy with the advances. Critics say that students are being thrown into cyberspace before they have a firm foundation in the real world. The high cost of preparing and delivering educational material causes great concern as resources for education diminish. Some people feel that it is too easy to make technological "mistakes" that are costly diversions from the missions and objectives of the educational institution.

Similarly, some observers worry that technology-enabled education will minimize the role of the teacher in learning. These individuals suggest that most people are affected profoundly by a teacher at some time in their lives. They believe that it is how the teacher relates the world that affects the student, not the facts of the world. In this view, there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction.

Supporters suggest that technology-enabled education is the wave of the future and inevitable in the digital age. These individuals believe that the process of preparing the institution for this future is a current cost, based not on faith but on a need to prepare the institution for its future.


The students who are and will be entering Emory are the first generation of the digital age. Computers in the classroom, distance-learning, and interactive multimedia will be routine to them as schools across the nation integrate technology with education. A number of students arrive at Emory with personal computers in hand; for them, surfing the web and sending electronic mail are familiar habits. Students and parents expect that Emory will provide opportunities not only to learn, but to learn in new ways, through new technologies.

Students of the digital age will be a critical part of the student body enjoying the Emory environment. It is incumbent on the institution to be able to maximize their skills in order to provide the best learning experience. The changing nature of the student community is a critical factor in fueling Emory's engagement with the digital age.

In the Atlanta area, for example, computers often are introduced in first grade or even in kindergarten. Children who need to learn English as a second language in kindergarten use computers extensively every day, learning sounds and words in English. First-graders use computers as part of an integrated reading program. Story- and essay-writing on computers continues through second grade, and in the third through eighth grades, students are expected to work a required number of hours per week on the computer. In high school, computers and technology perform a variety of functions in different disciplines. As more elementary and secondary schools integrate computers into their curricula, increasing numbers of students will bring corresponding skills-and expectations-with them to Emory. We must be prepared to increase those skills and meet, if not exceed, those expectations.


The global network of computers has made time, place, and distance irrelevant. Over time, Emory University will manage a full spectrum of relations with students-from classroom-facilitated learning to long-distance communication between and among faculty and students. Faculty and students will interact in new ways, sharing information and exchanging ideas that use information technologies.

School systems no longer are limited to the resources in the local area for programming. Via satellite and telephone, distance-learning has brought a variety of new vistas to students across Georgia in communities as geographically separated as Ellijay, Ellenwood, Douglasville, and Warner Robins. Recently Emory launched its own distance-learning project with the introduction of Nineteenth-century Russian Literature in Translation to the Oxford campus from the Atlanta campus. Language-instruction courses in Russian, Chinese, and Japanese will follow.


The subcommittee reviewed a number of surveys in an attempt to describe the technology environment at higher education institutions. For example, one 1996 survey revealed that less than half (43.4 percent) of American colleges and universities have a strategic plan that describes institutional goals, objectives, or implementation priorities for the role of information technology (IT) in instruction and scholarship.

  1. Amortization. Few colleges and universities have a financial plan to address the continuing problem of "acquiring and retiring" computing and IT resources. Among the prominent technology issues cited most frequently were "enhancing/expanding the campus network" (17.6 percent) and "financing the replacement of aging hardware and software" (17.4 percent). As of fall 1996, just over one-fourth (28.1 percent) of the nation's colleges report a budget model for amortizing and routinely replacing computers and software, up slightly from 22.0 percent in 1995 and 15.9 percent in 1990. Even with these recent gains, though, the 1996 data indicate that the vast majority of colleges and universities (71.9 percent) continue to fund most of their equipment purchases and software upgrades with one-time budget allocations or special appropriations.

  2. Fees. Growing numbers of colleges are turning to user fees as one way to manage the continuing costs of enhancing and upgrading technology resources for students. In 1996 almost a third of all campuses (31.8 percent) required a student-technology fee, up from 26.9 percent in 1995. Yet the survey identified differences across sectors: in fall 1996 more than half of the nation's public research universities and public four-year colleges reported mandatory technology fees for their students. In contrast, less than a fifth of private universities and four-year colleges charge a technology fee; most private institutions apparently prefer to incorporate technology charges into tuition. Community colleges fall in the middle: about one-third (31.9 percent) currently require a technology fee from their students.

  3. Rewards. It seems that few institutions formally recognize or reward faculty efforts to integrate technology into instruction. One 1996 survey revealed that 54.6 percent of the nation's colleges had some type of technology resource center intended to support the use of technology in instruction. Yet just an eighth (12.6 percent) had a formal program to recognize and reward technology efforts as a routine component of the tenure, promotion, and annual review processes.

  4. Role in Teaching. Two-thirds of all students and more than three-fourths of all faculty have access to e-mail and the Internet. The role of the Internet and World Wide Web (WWW) continues to expand in higher education. Although technology use is growing, studies point to modest rather than major gains in the proportion of college courses using information technology resources. In 1996 the percentage of college classes using electronic mail rose from 20.1 to 25.0 percent, compared to 8 percent in 1994; use of presentation handouts rose slightly to 28.4 percent from 25.7 percent in 1995 and 15.1 percent in 1994. Eighty percent of campuses have an institutional WWW presence. Few schools, however, have comprehensive plans for the use of the web in courses. Only 9 percent of all college courses currently use WWW-based resources to support instruction, up from 6 percent in 1995. Use of commercial courseware and simulations remains unchanged.


The following comments reflect highlights of several interviews and surveys of technology users in the Emory community. While many comments relate to specific incidents, they reflect the more general frustration encountered by faculty interested in bringing technology to the classroom.

  1. User Support. Numerous interviewees spoke of being referred from one unit to the next in order to resolve a hardware or software problem, of delays lasting days or even weeks in responding to reported problems, and of a general lack of consistent support. Frustration with this state of affairs was expressed frequently, through comments ranging from "the Help Desk is no help at all" to "all I want to do is get my computer to work, not conduct shuttle diplomacy between warring factions in the university." Several faculty members observed that when they had hardware- or software-installation problems, they got their teen and preteen children to fix them; one person said his children were "more responsive and technically more adept than anyone I've yet met in the university."

  2. Infrastructure. In addition to observations from some students that classroom support for technology was less comprehensive and helpful at Emory than at their high schools, faculty members observed the difficulty they had in finding adequate classroom space to support what they wanted to do with technology. One faculty member said he had spent all summer developing some new interactive computer displays to use in class only to find out that no classroom was available fall semester that had a network connection, projection capabilities, and power supply for a computer. This faculty member ended up converting much of the work to black-and-white transparencies and regarded the experience as a step backward that negatively affected both his teaching and the interest level of his students. There also were comments about the desire to work from home and the difficulty of connecting to the Emory network remotely.

  3. Interface. Most people surveyed indicated that there was just too much information out there, and they resist having to learn one more program. Several respondents commented that they would stick with a particular platform until "the plug is pulled and the keyboard ripped from my hands." Said one faculty member who felt fairly comfortable with the setup she currently had, "I've got this guitar with just one string, and as long as it works I'll keep plucking it! And I know everyone else is looking for the same string." Another noted that "technology is a black hole . . . I could spend all my time, have a lot of fun, and get nothing accomplished, so I stick with a few basic programs and leave the exploring to others. Technology doesn't help me with tenure." Others asked that the university set up a kind of filtering system to alert them to the important technological developments in their fields. Noted one interviewee, "I used to know what the literature of my discipline was, and I worked well . . . now so much is coming out [electronically] that I don't know where to look, or how to decide what's good, so I tend to ignore it."

  4. Training. There were many negative comments about Information Technology Division's Short Course offerings and the expressed need for more "just in time" training. A representative comment was: "I need to learn about something new when I'm about to use it. . . . I can't wait for the next course, and I don't like to waste my time for the one kernel of information that I need to get."

  5. Instructional Design. Perhaps the biggest question in our discussions was that of how to use digital technology effectively in the classroom. Many faculty want to use technology more, but do not feel informed enough to make good choices given all the options open to them. "I know what I want to demonstrate," said one respondent, "but why can't I find someone who knows how to pull it off?" One faculty member went into great detail about how he wanted to show what happens when changing variables in a statistical analysis. He had seen it done by a colleague at another institution; however, when he approached the Multimedia office, he was told it wasn't possible. He tried the School of Medicine's computing services, which refused to help since he was not part of that division. The faculty member knows that what he wants is possible, but can't find the expertise-or willingness-on campus to help him bring his concept to reality. Many other faculty members told of similar experiences that ended in frustration. One person wryly observed that it wasn't surprising that the Carlos Museum had to go to Georgia Tech to get help setting up their web page and interactive information kiosks.


Our studies revealed the need to identify better ways to assess the impact of technology in facilitating education. Faculty, administrators, students, parents, and policymakers are beginning to demand evidence that a substantial investment in computers and communications infrastructure is worthwhile. There is great anxiety about the change in the nature of classroom work. Some people suggest that the supporters of technology in education need to wipe the stardust from their eyes and give a lot more thought to how and when these technologies can be used effectively to change the teaching process. Others speak with assurance that the leverage of technologies is not merely an opportunity, but a necessity in the future educational environment. The confusion indicates that we require new assessment tools to assist the university in decisions regarding the appropriate use of technologies in the educational process.

Assessment of impact must account for all usage patterns: education provision (teaching tools, simulations, presentations), administration (grading, scheduling), and communications (e-mail, conferencing, listservs, and Internet chat rooms). Measures of gain and improvement need to be developed to build the case for leveraging digital resources.


Computers and networking technologies have captured the imagination of many faculty who are eager to help prepare students for the digital age. The energy and enthusiasm the new technological opportunities have unleashed create high hopes for higher education. To sustain the effort, all stakeholders-faculty, students, administrators, the business community, public-interest groups, parents, and citizens at large-must focus on long-term goals and seek collaborative relationships wherever possible. Specific recommendations include:

  1. Consensus on Investment. While technology has enormous potential to help students prepare for the new demands of the twenty-first century, merely investing in current technology will accomplish very little. Advocates are unlikely to succeed unless they convince faculty, administrators, and the public that using technology to empower students, promote active learning, and break down walls between classrooms and the "real world" adds up to a better way to prepare students in the digital age.

  2. Technology Developers. Developers of technologies must be encouraged to build bridges to the education community. Frankly, we have had several disappointing rounds of technology overpromotion and underachievement. Faculty must be given the training, technical support, and time needed to integrate network connections into the curriculum. Further, many people are not as naturally enthusiastic about technology as the experts are; user-friendly applications and support are necessary.

  3. Available Resources. Businesses, government agencies, and nonprofit groups should consider how they can make the information they produce available in ways that educators can use. The substantial contribution NASA has made to education provides a model for others. The digital resources of the Library of Congress reflect the best elements of reference technology made available for education.

  4. Infrastructure. Faculty members interested in promoting the effective use of information technologies must become involved in the broader debate over the institution's future. The infrastructure for tomorrow's classroom, residence hall, and the overall educational environment is being decided today. The directions for capital investment are being set in the next few years.

  5. Faculty Comfort. Helping all faculty get connected and comfortable with the technologies is an important starting point. Doing so would enable faculty to share ideas with their peers and help build a powerful constituency for further efforts to enhance the educational experience.

  6. Partnerships. Creative partnerships are needed among some very diverse players: business, government agencies, and nonprofit groups. Current fiscal and other realities will prevent Emory from doing the job alone. There is great advantage in educational institutions sharing resources in ways that serve all participants.

To create the same opportunities for all students, the collaborative spirit that has energized the connected few must spread to employers, communities, governments, and other institutions. The result will be students better prepared for work and citizenship in the twenty-first century. Moreover, Emory and the larger community will benefit greatly from these innovations.


Our primary recommendation is that the university systematically explore innovative, effective ways of using technology for teaching. In Emory's existing and emerging culture, what opportunities exist for the appropriate use of information technologies to enhance the teaching environment? Further, in order to encourage faculty to make effective use of technology in teaching, we offer recommendations about fundamental ways that support is structured for the faculty.

  1. Using Technology Effectively at Emory

    1. Classrooms need to be equipped for the easy use of technology. Based on the major pedagogy methods in each school, assistance should be provided to identify a combination of hardware and software for a certain number or size of classrooms and out-of-class activities. Faculty input into teaching-space design is important.

    2. Support staff should be available to assist faculty in using equipment in the classrooms and be on call to respond to breakdowns or interruptions in service.

    3. Faculty should be given support in selecting and using available software packages for teaching.

    4. Library support should be available to facilitate linking electronic information resources to coursework and integrating technology into course plans. Support is also needed in order to use multimedia technology in courses.

    5. Support should be provided to expand the existing programs that some academic departments have for teaching effective use of relevant electronic library resources for courses.

  2. Basic Issues
    1. Training. Emory needs to establish a more thorough computing orientation for new faculty and a routine means for faculty to update skills and awareness of network and application changes. These sessions should explain Emory's network architecture, connectivity options, procedures for getting more training/assistance with applications, and the kinds of information resources available to faculty (e.g., via Emory libraries). Faculty also could benefit from a shorter version of the Electronic Research Methods workshop (eleven hours long) that the libraries and Information Technology Division have taught for several years. Some respondents have suggested that we make participation in orientation to computing resources a condition of getting an e-mail account.

    2. Rewards. Schools should consider granting release time or other rewards to encourage the development of digital curricular resources. Our inquiries identified a number of faculty who are interested in trying something, but simply can't manage it while preparing courses and securing tenure. There doesn't seem to be a mechanism in place in the current departmental review structure to encourage such work or to recognize it as an appropriate contribution toward tenure. Several cases were cited in which junior faculty have been reviewed negatively because of the amount of time they invested in developing technology tools or publishing in electronic journals instead of traditional publications.

    3. Commitment. The messages given to faculty and graduate students about the use of (and support they will get for) technology vary widely not only between schools but even between departments. Are we as a university as committed to greater integration of digital resources and technology as we say we are? There seems to be a gap between what we as a campus say about technology and what we actually do-in funding, staff support, training, and recognition. The Commission on Teaching should encourage a university-wide, sustained, and very visible commitment to technology as the way this campus does business. Evidence of such a commitment could mean, for example, conducting much of the business of the university electronically or providing ongoing capital investments in hardware and software for all faculty. The subcommittee encourages the Digital Information Resources Council (DIRC) to address some of these issues in the future.

  3. Faculty Presentation Support

    1. Faculty need to reach a basic level of technological functionality. To do so, they need state-of-the-art equipment, network access, and support staff to maintain their systems and instruct them on their use. In Emory College, we have begun to meet this need with local support positions, but resources for such support is inadequate.

    2. One frequent concern is that faculty need guidance in figuring out how to take advantage of information technology (IT). They want to have available someone who understands the direction of IT and who understands the work of the faculty well enough to make recommendations to them. Such persons would be high-level, professional instructional designers, not technicians. The position of Faculty Information Technology Center manager is a step in this direction, but more of these positions must be created.

    3. Many interviewees requested a more fleshed-out, full-service multimedia center. Faculty members would like to be able to hand their old transparencies to someone who would turn them into a PowerPoint presentation or a web page. We have such a service available in Emory College, but it is more self-service than most faculty members desire. Other Emory schools have some version of it, but it would be more efficient-and in keeping with university goals-to make such a service available to the faculty of all schools.

    4. Faculty members continue to express concern about the availability of presentation equipment in classrooms. Various suggestions have been made to facilitate finding a classroom that is properly equipped-from changing the registrar's room-assignment procedures to installing data projectors in every Emory class-so that faculty will be able to assume a basic classroom architecture as they plan their classes.

  4. Training on Tools

    1. Faculty new to Emory, and all faculty who receive new computers, programs, and upgrades, should be offered a short course by a specialist in order to familiarize them with the new equipment/programs.

    2. Those faculty receiving e-mail and Netscape Navigator for the first time should be offered introductory instruction as well as written information and guidelines.

    3. Departments should be responsible for educating faculty about tools that meet the department's particular needs. For example, the Department of Russian, Eurasian, and East Asian Languages and Cultures has brought in specialists to demonstrate the uses of LearnLink, Webcasting, and Authorware. This example should guide other departments in technological training.

  5. Institutional Commitment

    Faculty and instructor review and promotion are the real test of an institutional commitment to the integration of technology at the instructional level. Surveys show that comparatively few campuses formally recognize and reward faculty members' efforts to enhance their syllabi and classroom activities with technology resources. Faculty tend to monitor the experience of colleagues who were "early adopters." One message is clear: failing to award tenure to or promote faculty who invest time and effort in this area sends a chilling message about the university's commitment to technology in instruction and scholarship.

    In general, there do not seem to be mechanisms to encourage such work or to recognize it as an appropriate contribution toward tenure. One faculty member said, "I'd like to suggest that all schools review their tenure and promotion policies to consider accepting the publication of instructional software on a par with the publication of a textbook." The subcommittee urges the university to explore developing a mechanism for including technological issues in tenure, promotion, and salary reviews.

  6. The Forward View

    For the most part, the comments and recommendations in this report have addressed the short-term demands of the Emory community. It is important to make note of the farther-reaching experiments in pedagogy that are ongoing. A description of distance-learning is available at the subcommittee's website:

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