ECAR Study of Community College Faculty and Information Technology, 2020

Introduction and Key Findings

Woman sitting at a table using a laptop


In 2014, the EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR) began conducting research on higher education faculty and their technology experiences. Studying faculty in the aggregate across different types of colleges and universities offers a landscape view of how they experience IT resources. However, varying institutional characteristics can have an impact on how faculty think about and use technology in their roles as teachers and/or researchers. In 2019, ECAR published ECAR Study of Community College Students and Information Technology, 2019 (the first such investigation since 20071) to shed light on the technology experiences of students at community colleges, which serve a large proportion of minority, first-generation, lower-income, and adult learners.2 In this report, we now turn our attention to the faculty who teach the more than 5 million students enrolled in two-year and AA institutions. Community college (CC) faculty have situational contexts that differ from those of their peers at four-year institutions: they work with more students who are from underrepresented groups, have families of their own, and are often underprepared for college. In addition, many two-year and AA faculty spend more time teaching than conducting research, and more work part-time and on non-tenure-track contracts than their counterparts at other types of institutions.3 This report highlights findings related to community college faculty use of and attitudes about technology with regard to:

  • Key demographics of the faculty members in this study
  • Campus technology use and support
  • Overall technology experiences
  • Learning environment preferences
  • Student success tools

Of the 9,521 US responses included in ECAR Study of Faculty and Information Technology, 2019, 1,828 responses (19%) were from faculty from 44 community colleges.4 Responses were analyzed to better understand their technology experiences in terms of the student populations they serve and how some of those experiences compared with those of their peers at other institution types. The results summarized in this report can be used to identify and examine ways higher education IT, teaching and learning centers, and other campus units might use technology to address the unique needs of community college faculty. Recognizing and attending to the varying circumstances of two-year and AA faculty can reveal opportunities to support them further in their teaching and related work, which also benefits students. Readers who apply these results should address the specific context of each institution on the basis of its population, structure, vision, and culture.

Key Findings

  • Community college faculty rated technology-related professional development and individualized consultations highly, but many faculty did not use support for services that could benefit students. Fewer faculty used technology support for finding and using open educational resources (OER) and web conferencing than they did other support services available at their institutions. Although community college faculty used support more than their four-year colleagues to make courses accessible to students with disabilities, around a quarter of faculty in this research had not used this service in the past year.
  • Relative to four-year faculty, a larger proportion of community college faculty prefer teaching fully online or mostly online courses. This preference might reflect community colleges' continued emphasis on online and blended courses, as well as students' desire for online instruction. Overall, however, a majority of community college faculty still prefer to teach in face-to-face learning environments.
  • A majority of community college faculty prefer to conduct nearly all teaching and learning activities in environments that are mostly or completely face-to-face. The top assignments or activities that these faculty preferred to do face-to-face or mostly face-to-face were student presentations, labs/demonstrations, student conferences, and lectures. Faculty prefer to issue assignments and distribute syllabi and course materials online or mostly online.
  • Community college faculty encourage or require laptops and tablets in the classroom more than other devices but tend to ban or discourage smartphones. Faculty technology bans are strongly and positively associated with faculty's perception of whether they could be better instructors if they integrated mobile technologies into their teaching. Faculty who didn't think that leveraging a device in the classroom would make them better instructors more often banned that device. Training faculty in integrating technology in their teaching results in fewer bans of student devices in the classroom.
  • A majority of faculty found online student success tools useful…when they used them. Most faculty reported that they had used these tools when they were available. The exception is tools that offer guidance about courses students might consider taking—38% of faculty had not used these tools when available. Suggestions about new or different academic resources for students (e.g., tutoring, skills-building opportunities) were rated highest in terms of usefulness.

More Faculty Study Resources

Access the full report about faculty and information technology, along with related resources, on the research hub.

© 2020 EDUCAUSE. The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License.

Citation for this work
Joseph D. Galanek and Dana C. Gierdowski. ECAR Study of Community College Faculty and Information Technology, 2020. Research report. Louisville, CO: ECAR, May 2020.


  1. Judith Borreson Caruso, "Impressions of Community College Students' IT Experiences," research bulletin (Boulder, CO: ECAR, 2007).

  2. Jennifer Ma and Sandy Baum, Trends in Community Colleges: Enrollment, Prices, Student Debt, and Completion, College Board Research Brief, April 2016.

  3. These contracts include multiyear, indefinite, and/or less than one-year terms. See "Data Snapshot: Contingent Faculty in US Higher Ed," American Association of University Professors, October 11, 2018.

  4. For the purposes of this study, community colleges were defined as institutions that (1) have the Carnegie class of AA and (2) are two-year institutions. In this study, two institutions met one or the other but not both of those criteria; they were included after verifying their community college status.