Faculty Computer Use and Training: Identifying Distinct Needs for Different Populations

Article excerpt

A quantitative survey directed at all faculty at a California urban community college yielded data from 117 faculty about computer use, competency, and attitudes toward using computers. Correlation analysis, multiple regression, and Ordinary Least Squares regression were used to delineate the relationships between computer use and other variables and to develop a path analysis model depicting the relationship among attitude, courses taken, having a home computer, competency, and computer use. The researchers present their model along with data obtained from an open-ended qualitative survey administered to elucidate further the relationships among these variables. Based on their quantitative and qualitative findings, the authors make suggestions for future research to assist in faculty development efforts.

One of the most dramatic changes in the last three decades has been the rapid development of information technology, which has gradually found its way into both business and industry and into the classroom through computers and computer-related technologies. Many jobs in the twenty-first century will involve computers in some way, and members of the workforce who are not able to use them will be at a disadvantage (Fary, 1984). Therefore, it is critical for individuals to have the necessary education and skills to compete in the next information-intense century.

Although computers are more attainable than ever before, their price having decreased even as their capabilities have increased exponentially (Breithaupt, 1997, Marcinkiewicz, 1996), research indicates that educators are more averse to using computers than other professionals (Hanushek, 1998; McKenzie & Clay, 1995; Paprzycki & Vidakovic, 1994). Despite the increasing availability of computer technologies as well as recent efforts to connect each classroom and library to the Information Super Highway, integration of computers by community college faculty into the classroom has not kept pace (McKenzie & Clay, 1995). Yet faculty play a decisive role in how successful technology will be in education (Yildirim & Kiraz, 1999; Office of Technology Assessment, 1995). Therefore, investment in technology cannot be fully effective (and may be counterproductive) unless faculty receive the necessary training and support and are willing to become fully capable of using these technologies (Office of Technology Assessment, 1995).

Availability of computers in the classroom, supporting and sharing resources, a supportive administration, and a strong support staff contribute to the successful integration of instructional technology into the classroom (Ely, 1995). But availability and support are not the only factors critical to getting faculty to use technology. Anxiety levels, self-confidence, and perceived relevance influence faculty intentions to use computers in instruction (Morton, 1996). Woodrow (1991) believes attitudes not only influence whether one accepts computers, but also influence future behaviors such as using the computer as a professional tool or introducing computer applications into the classroom. Attitudes are defined as an evaluative disposition based upon cognition, affective reactions, behavioral intentions, and past behaviors; that evaluative disposition can influence future cognition, affective responses, intentions, and behaviors (Zimbardo & Leippe, 1991). Simonson (1995) emphasizes the importance of positive attitudes in the learning process. He claims that promoting positive attitudes will also promote achievement, liking, and learning.

Across a range of studies, a strong conclusion has emerged that staff development programs are integral to integrating computers into the curriculum (Goodson, 1991, Parker, 1996). Yet, although the literature emphasizes the necessity of providing training for faculty, it does not distinguish between the types of training required by faculty who use computers for instruction and faculty who do not currently use computers for instruction, nor for those who may be computer-phobic. …