The Times Higher Education Teaching Survey 2017 has revealed the burdens and frustrations felt by lecturers across the world. Whilst the majority of academics (88%) still enjoy their teaching, this doesn’t disguise the everyday challenges faced by university staff. Unfortunately, not all of these challenges can be solved by quick fixes but, in some cases, edtech can go a long way in easing the frustrations of lecturers.
"52% of academics say their students arrive at lectures having not completed the required reading or research"
This is a problem identified by academics the world over. As identified by Angela Jenks, a professor at the University of California, there are often reasons behind this, other than students being lazy or unmotivated. Are students able to access the reading - either through cost or Internet access?
ETextbook platforms, such as Kortext, ensure that access is no longer a barrier. By providing students with a personal copy of their core etextbooks, students are able to access the reading set by their lecturers without cost, and download to their own devices for offline reading.
"Class sizes are growing, despite the fact that 57% of lecturers prefer to teach smaller groups"
EdTech cannot fix the problem of growing class sizes, but it can make managing them easier, and more efficient. For example, Kortext, the UK's leading digital learning platform, owns digital smart tools such as group share which allows lecturers to communicate with all of their students in one place. Also, whether a seminar or lecture, a group of 5 or 50 students, lecturers can use group share to share relevant notes, set reading or highlight key areas of the text by using their personalised learning platform. Furthermore, rather than sending 50 emails with attachments and links to relevant reading, Kortext allows lecturers to manage and communicate with their students in one digital learning platform. Such technologies will allow lecturers to divide larger classes into smaller groups, with each group can annotating and discussing a particular section, resulting in a whole class discussion at the end. Therefore, encouraging peer to peer learning experiences.
"Many universities have shifted their focus towards student satisfaction at the expense of academic quality."
With the pressures of the NSS and the TEF, student satisfaction and student learning` experience are central points of focus and investment in the sector. But their intention is not for academic quality to be sacrificed. Universities are therefore perceiving investments in the student experience, like the provision of etextbooks as part of course fees, as a student experience enhancement and students receive better value for money too - something which only 4 in 10 students currently perceive, therefore improving student satisfaction.
Similarly, Kortext gives lecturers a great way to offer a more interactive teaching experience, without moving too far from existing teaching habits. Designing lectures around interactivity is a great way to drive engagement, learning and indirectly satisfaction.
"68% of students complain when grades are lower than expected"
Academics spend much of their time reading, marking and grading work. Once grades are finalised, they will rarely be altered by a lecturer, even if a student feels their grade is too low. But in preventing students’ surprise, research by Jantti and Cox, 2014 could be shared with students, which shows that the more students engage with online course learning materials, the more grades improve. By providing students with the learning tools to improve their own grades, this becomes one less problem for academics to be concerned with.
"Over 50% of lecturers feel they don’t have enough time to prepare for lectures"
Between teaching, marking, administration and research, academics don’t have an awful lot of time left for preparation. With Kortext, lecturers can easily connect students with sections from the etextbooks without having to spend hours preparing and pasting in quotes or diagrams into presentations. Lecturers can annotate texts, share notes with the students, and highlight key quotes live in the lecture, too.
Whilst many of the problems identified by the Times Higher Education Teaching Survey can’t be solved by technology, it can certainly ease the weight of the challenges faced by lecturers on a daily basis. Holistic technological solutions aligned with pedagogical models will always be most effective in our opinion.