Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

The Need for Technical Literacy in Doctoral Education: A Preliminary Survey

Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

The Need for Technical Literacy in Doctoral Education: A Preliminary Survey

Article excerpt

An electronic survey was sent to 1,026 rehabilitation sciences faculty members at higher education institutions around the nation to determine the relative importance faculty in the rehabilitation sciences placed on technical literacy skills in higher education. The survey contained a list of 55 technology and distance education skills in six broad areas: electronic searches and resources, computer productivity tools, Web-based instruction, teleconferencing, using technology to deliver instruction, and virtual mentoring. For each skill, respondents indicated the level of importance they attached to each skill as it relates to successful performance as a faculty member in the rehabilitation professions by selecting a number between 1 and 5, with 1 indicating that the skill is not at all important and 5 indicating that the skill is extremely important. The return rate of the survey was 17.6%. Although there was considerable variability for rated importance of skills within categories, results indicated that skills related to computer productivity and electronic searches were judged as most important to faculty success. Those skills related to newer technologies and skills related to troubleshooting were rated as least important. Discussion of these findings and implications for future research and doctoral instruction are presented. J Allied Health 2007; 36:88-100.

DEVELOPING AND MAINTAINING quality doctoral programs in the rehabilitation sciences professions, such as communication disorders (CD), occupational therapy (OT), and physical therapy (PT), is an ongoing challenge. Shortages in qualified, doctorally trained faculty are a widespread problem facing these professions. In the area of CD alone, doctoral programs reported a total of 333 unfilled student slots in 2001(1) and up to 200 unfilled faculty positions, with one to two years passing before such positions are filled by qualified personnel.2 In addition, with the move from the bachelor's to master's entry level in the OT and PT professions in the past few years and the impending move to a doctor of physical therapy degree for physical therapists in the near future, the need for doctorally prepared faculty will continue to grow.

In addition to shortages of both students and faculty at the doctoral level, curriculum advances must also be addressed. Advancements in information technology in higher education, both in face-to-face instruction and to distance sites, have mushroomed in recent years. Technology at all levels of instruction has become more accessible and affordable. The increased use of distance education at both the undergraduate and master's levels suggests that new doctoral candidates who are preparing for teaching careers may need to possess the technical literacy skills necessary to deliver such instruction. In response to technical advances, faculty in the rehabilitation sciences professions and their doctoral students must have high levels of technical literacy.

Technical literacy has been defined as "the ability to use, manage, assess, and understand technology."3 Wonacott* noted that technological literacy involves much more than the use of computers. Authorities such as Gagel5 and others have enumerated a variety of skills necessary for technical literacy, including accommodation to rapid technological changes, evaluation of the applicability of new technology to one's particular situation, competence and creative use of new technologies, and the awareness of technologies related to specific careers.

The move toward greater use of technology in the classroom resulted from many factors. In his article on technical literacy, Charp6 noted that "developments in telecommunications, increased use of the Internet, proliferation of affordable hardware and software, and growing acknowledgement among policy makers that proper use of technology has the potential to improve teaching and learning" has hastened this trend.

Doctoral-level academic programs that seek to prepare faculty in the rehabilitation sciences should maintain a high level of technical literacy as it relates to instructional delivery. …

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