Opinion: Academics Torn Over Technology in the Digital Campus
As college administrators and education technology officials gathered at the Digital Universities U.S. conference to discuss the “digital campus,” the conversation was far from a pep rally. While many heralded the possibilities of learning in the metaverse and harnessing data for student success, others expressed worries over the emergence of artificial intelligence and the tendency to prioritize corporate profits over learning. Asim Ali, executive director of the Biggio Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning at Auburn University, noted that administrators often underestimate the burden technology changes place on faculty members. Meanwhile, Melissa Woo, executive vice president for administration at Michigan State University, fretted that predictive technology that accelerated the pace of handling key college functions might reduce institutions to factories.
One of the most significant concerns raised was the threat to privacy. While VR headsets might make learning more engaging, the biometric data collected by them would be valuable to companies looking to market products to students, creating new risks. Kyle Jones, an associate professor of library and information sciences at Indiana University–Purdue University at Indianapolis, warned that an over-reliance on course recommendation systems could lead to advisers being fired and the adviser/advisee ratio being increased.
While there are undoubtedly benefits to embracing new technology, colleges must be mindful of the risks and costs. If the technology is not directly in service of the institution’s core mission of educating students, it may do more harm than good. Administrators must also be empathetic to faculty members’ concerns about new technology, especially when those concerns are grounded in a sense that their workload or privacy may be impacted.
– The Digital Universities U.S. conference was co-hosted by Times Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed and was focused on the theme of the “digital campus.”
– While virtual learning environments and data analytics were popular topics, many speakers expressed concerns about privacy and the rapid emergence of artificial intelligence.
– Educating faculty members on new technology is essential, and Auburn University has designed a self-directed, fully online course to assist professors in the wake of emerging technologies.
College administrators must balance the appeal of the latest “bright shiny object” with the practical realities of privacy, workload, and education priorities. As technology evolves, empathy for faculty members’ concerns and recognition of individual instructor decision-making timelines will be critical to integrated technology implementations within colleges and universities.
The Digital Universities U.S. conference highlighted the growing debate among educators about the role and impact of technology in higher education. While there are benefits to pursuing a digital campus, there are equally crucial considerations around privacy, workloads, and institutional priorities that must be acknowledged. Ultimately, administrators must adopt empathy and a balanced view of technology’s role in educating students to shape a campus that supports the best interests of all stakeholders.