College President Views on Technology and Higher Education
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  • Posted:
  • January 12, 2012

Based on findings culled from an earlier research study focusing on public and college president attitudes toward higher education, Pew Research Center released a recent report on the views of college presidents regarding the digital revolution and higher education. Here, we summarize some of the key insights of the report.

Online Education
According to the report, over 75% of the nation’s colleges and universities offer online classes, and 23% of college graduates have taken an online course. Online learning is offered more in two and four-year public institutions, and leaders of these institutions are more likely to endorse the value of online learning. Alternately, private college presidents remain among the most skeptical, where only 36% believe an online course provides the same value as a class taken in person (compared to 50% of four-year public university presidents).

Overall college presidents are more likely to believe in the value of online education than the public (51% versus 29%), and adults who have taken a course online are more likely to view online learning positively (39%), compared to only 27% of those who have not taken one. Many college presidents are in agreement that online education is set to grow significantly in the future, where 50% predict that in 10 years, most of their students will take classes online. Finally, college leaders’ beliefs about the mission of higher education are linked to their views on online learning, – those who believe the most important role of higher education is to prepare students for the working world are more likely to say online classes provide equal value to in-person classes (59%), than those who believe college should promote personal and intellectual growth (only 43%).

In the Classroom
The advent of tablets and digital readers are estimated to have a large effect on educational hardware and content. Of the college presidents surveyed, 62% believe that more than half of the textbooks used currently by students will be digital in 10 years, and 30% estimate the share of digital textbooks to paper will be between 25% and 50%. As digital textbooks become more common, so will the use of portable computing devices on campus and in the classroom. While using computers during class has become a somewhat controversial issue, the majority (56%) of college presidents report that their institutional policy regarding laptops in the classroom is left up to the instructor.

College Presidents and Technology
College presidents are tech savvy, especially compared with the general public, reporting high rates of access to and early adoption of technology. 91% report using a laptop at least occasionally, 88% use smartphones, 87% use a desktop computer, 49% use a tablet computer at least occasionally, and 42% use an electronic book device such as a Kindle. Only 32% of college presidents report using a mobile phone that is not a smartphone.

Beyond devices, many college presidents are using social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook, with fully half reporting they use Facebook at least occasionally, and nearly 1 in 5 reporting they use Twitter. While they are slightly ahead of the general public in their use of social media, college presidents still lag behind or are on par with young adults, where of those between the ages of 18—29 – 74% use Facebook and 17% use Twitter.

It seems that although institutions will differ in the degree to which they have adopted online learning, the use of technology by their leadership is fairly consistent across all sectors of higher education. However, younger presidents (under age 50) are more likely to use laptops daily than their older counterparts, and interestingly, presidents of colleges located in the east are less likely use Facebook or smartphones, than those in different regions of the country.

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