Panel Dicusses the Impact of Technology on Teaching and Productivity

Stephen E. Delong

Such technological developments as the World Wide Web have the potential to change higher education in a simple but profound way: Lecturers will no longer be the arbiters of knowledge the have been."

Technology and the Future . . . What will teaching be like in the future at the University and other campuses, given recent rapid advances in technology? One thing seems clear: the lecture format may soon become less prevalent. That possibility was one of the points which emerged from a panel discussion on "Learning Productivity in a Research University: Implications for Faculty" held at a recent deans' retreat at Alumni House.

The panel discussion explored the issue of how new technology is changing the way students are assimilating information at Albany and other campuses nationwide.

"We talked about how our faculty will be teaching in the future, and about how the lecture format may not work as effectively for a new generation of students who are coming in with different learning styles," said Judy A. Genshaft, interim vice president for academic affairs. "Our professors will need to be ready to teach in the most efficient and creative way, and that will mean relying on the use of technology as an important teaching tool."

Among those making presentations were Stephen E. DeLong, associate vice president for academic affairs/information systems and technology, who said that such technological developments as the World Wide Web — offering access to an almost infinite amount of information — have the potential to change higher education in a simple but profound way: "Faculty members standing in front of the classroom will no longer be the arbiters of knowledge they have been for six to eight centuries . . . and therefore in many disciplines the lecture as a principal mode of instruction may survive with only a trace of its former glory."

Cy Knoblauch, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said that the development of World Wide Web software has "rendered the lecture obsolete because you can get information in such a richness (from the Web) that it supersedes the information students would normally get in the lecture and lets you move directly to discussion, the laboratory, and other areas."

Knoblauch said that technology has raised a whole new set of questions about how students learn and how faculty should present information. "We have students coming to campus who are highly literate in the technological area," he said. "Their expectations may be very different from those of students of the past."

Genshaft said a nationwide dialogue on campuses has only begun on the impact of technology on teaching and its implications for faculty productivity.

"The faculty is going to be needed to guide students in the responsible use of technology, to provide direction, and to shape the whole learning and discovery process," Genshaft explained.

The deans also heard presentations on the budget, the Campaign for Albany, and Project Renaissance, the University's new pilot project in residential learning and living. The retreat was held Oct. 13.

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