Copyright 1997 CAUSE. From CAUSE/EFFECT Volume 20, Number 3, Fall 1997, pp. 36-44, 48. Permission to copy or disseminate all or part of this material is granted provided that the copies are not made or distributed for commercial advantage, the CAUSE copyright and its date appear, and notice is given that copying is by permission of CAUSE, the association for managing and using information resources in higher education. To disseminate otherwise, or to republish, requires written permission. For further information, contact Jim Roche at CAUSE, 4840 Pearl East Circle, Suite 302E, Boulder, CO 80301 USA; 303-939-0308; e-mail: [email protected]

Preparing Faculty for Instructional Technology: From Education to Development to Creative Independence

by Karen L. Smith

Technology has entered academia as an attractive, even seductive addition to or replacement for the face-to-face learning experience. Often, faculty choose to add technology to their courses because it is available, because peers are doing it, or because administrators expect faculty to create distributed options for the courses. Lately the choices are made because technology has a clear place in the process of achieving desired learning outcomes. This article examines theoretical and methodological tools that can help faculty design flexible learning environments that incorporate appropriate technologies to meet individuals' needs and course or curriculum goals.


As this millennium nears its end, higher education is faced with enormous challenges brought about by increased demands from corporations for employees who will require less training. These employees of the 21st century must be skilled at working in teams, have learned how to learn, be able to effectively solve problems and to process and apply information, and have a high level of expertise with a variety of technologies. The teacher as primary source of knowledge no longer suffices in a world where knowledge doubles every seven years and 10,000 scientific articles are published every day.1

An education process that pushes students to the center changes the teacher's role to one of facilitator, guide, and coach. It places emphasis on students as active participants in the process of finding, organizing, analyzing, and applying information in novel ways to solve problems. Students become part of a learning community where they collaborate to discover information from a variety of sources, including peers, teachers, experts, real-world data, simulations, and experiences. Ultimately, they apply that information in novel ways to solve problems, communicate ideas, and continuously add to their knowledge base.

In response to this external pressure, educators have recently jumped on a cooperative- or active-learning bandwagon. Based on research, this popular approach offers cooperative activities such as "think-pair-share" and "jigsaw" techniques as a means of placing students in the center of the learning process. However, this methodology ignores the needs of receptive, analytic, linear learners who may be disadvantaged by an active approach.

This article suggests that a single approach will not suffice and that teachers must be well versed in current research from cognition and learning theory in order to understand how learning occurs and to create their own, eclectic techniques. It falls upon the teacher to constantly recreate the instructional process and offer a variety of choices for approaching information and tasks in order to meet learners' ever-changing, individual needs.

A firm theoretical foundation offers teachers a starting point from which they can build a series of learning opportunities, responding to all styles and encouraging a wide range of strategies in order to encourage successful learning. Innovative classroom approaches plus access to appropriate technologies will lead to the creation of new learning environments that are flexible and provide a custom education for each student, regardless of class size, time and distance constraints, previous preparation, and personal factors. Selection of "appropriate technologies" is defined by desired learning outcomes and students' needs to tackle tasks according to their individual styles and strategies, not an imposition of technology because it offers a fun or flashy approach to learning.

Modifications to the face-to-face environment create additional opportunities for interaction at a single place in a single time. The addition of technology supports places the learner at the center of a process that removes the confines of the traditional classroom through access to information, interactions with peers and experts, and opportunities for simulated and real experiences.

Figure 1 employs a fractal model informed by chaos theory to demonstrate that within a learner-centered process, students can create infinite combinations of people, opportunities, and information within the confines of finite resources.

Figure 1: The learner-centered process
Figure 1

Rather than depend on a single set of materials and activities within a content area, all learning becomes interdisciplinary as students expand on prior knowledge, pursue interests, combine information in new ways to solve problems, and reach new understanding of old knowledge. Learning becomes a dynamic, customized pursuit of new solutions rather than the acquisition of a preconceived package of facts. It becomes possible for learners to discover what even experts do not know. Thus learners become teachers even as experts remain perpetual learners within the new recursive cycle of exploration and discovery.

Technology adds the tools that facilitate access to the people, content, strategies, activities, guidance, and opportunities to apply new information that make learning a personal process. Technology adds the ability for students to chose how, when, and where they participate in the learning experience and to bring together a vast wealth of learning resources, including people, places, and things to which they might otherwise never have access.

Learning styles and strategies

Table 1 summarizes some of the possible learning styles that students bring to the common learning experience. However, not all learners are equally proficient with all styles. Guidance, opportunity, and practice can help them acquire new ones and expand their potential for success in a variety of situations. Since multiple styles are dominant in learners to varying degrees, teaching to styles is a daunting task in a traditional, teacher-centered, face-to-face classroom. Teachers, as the sole information source available to students, would be forced to bring in materials and approaches that simultaneously present information from the global perspective as well as the detailed perspective, offer concrete experiences as well as discovery options, and present facts in a non-linear and linear fashion. Preparation for a single class would require teachers to create multiple lesson plans and to accumulate a library of material on each topic. Clearly, this is impossible for one person to accomplish for even one class let alone for an entire course or curriculum.

Table 1: Contrasts of learning styles
Field Dependent: global, external motivation and rewards Field Independent: details, internal motivation and rewards
Analytic Reasoning Dynamic: discovery, intuition Innovative Reasoning Common Sense: concrete, experiential
Visual/Auditory: reception Tactile/Kinesthetic: hands-on participation
"Right-brained": non-linear processing "Left-brained": linear processing
Serialist: sequential Holist: hierarchical
Abstract Perceiver: analysis Concrete Perceiver: experiences
Reflective Processors: reflection Active Processors: application

Traditional, lecture-based approaches to education emphasize receptive, reflective, abstract, analytic, and linear learning styles. A collaborative, learner-centered approach offers opportunities for all learning styles to succeed, provided adequate information delivery, analysis, and application opportunities are made available to students. Adding technology-supported learning options improves and greatly expands the ability to accommodate style variations. Table 2 suggests a few technology-supports that accommodate different styles, offering students the opportunity to benefit from dominant ones while learning to use new ones.

Table 2: Sample technology supports for learning styles
(learning styles are in bold)
Field Dependent/Independent
  • presentation software
  • tutorials
  • Web searches
Analytic/Innovative Reasoning
  • simulations
  • tutorials
Dynamic/Common Sense Reasoning
  • collaborative discussions
  • simulations
  • models
  • multimedia supports
  • tutorials
  • organization software (outline, flow chart, spreadsheet, etc.)
  • decision software
  • collaborative discussions
  • tutorials
  • organization software (outline, flow chart, spreadsheet, etc.)
  • decision software
  • collaborative discussions
Abstract/Concrete Perceivers
  • presentation software
  • simulations
  • models
  • experiences, role playing
Reflective/Active Processors
  • presentation software
  • simulations
  • models
  • experiences, role playing

Research has shown that, in addition to the individual styles, successful learning, task completion, and problem solving depend on the implementation of a variety of strategies. O'Malley and Chamot suggest three different types of strategies through which learners tackle knowledge acquisition opportunities: metacognitive (thinking about and planning for learning), cognitive (active participation in the learning process) and social/affective (interaction with others and control of affective factors).2 While this research emphasizes foreign language learning, the strategies are global and apply to all learning environments. Awareness of the need to enable a variety of strategies creates a new dimension of complexity for teachers in traditional classrooms, especially when faced with providing opportunities for students to plan for learning.

Passively hoping that learners will be able to activate appropriate strategies without guidance is insufficient to ensure successful learning and development of the ability to trigger the strategies as part of lifelong learning skills. Instead, strategy development and application can be actively included in learning opportunities. While there is no evidence that adding technology to an existing curriculum can improve teaching or learning, there is anecdotal evidence that technology can improve access to communication opportunities and information. We can hypothesize that appropriate technologies enable teachers to provide students with choices as to when, where, and how they access people and information. These choices allow students to apply a variety of strategies that help organize and advance the learning event.

Table 3 adapts strategies described in O'Malley and Chamot and offers one possible set of contrasts between how students can apply these strategies in a face-to-face environment versus one that is technology enhanced. By seeking a "best fit" between face-to-face and technology enhanced options, teachers open the door to personalized learning -- and to success for every learner, regardless of background and individual differences.

Table 3: Sample learning strategies
Strategy Traditional/In-class techniques Technology-enhanced techniques
Check personal comprehension level
  • ask questions
  • check work against answer sheet, model simulation
  • keep journals, logs
  • take and review notes
  • consult peers, experts through computer-mediated communications
  • participate in electronic learning dialogues
  • compare work to simulated and real-world models, interact with tutorials
Decide in advance to focus on particular tasks and ignore distractions
  • set personal deadlines
  • establish a plan to complete exercise
  • conduct library search
  • scan texts for key information
  • plan for important events
  • follow steps in software lesson
  • outline online search process
  • avoid surfing
  • scan databases to identify relevant information areas
Decide in advance to focus on specific information
  • create a checklist of priorities, goals
  • work in small groups or with partners to outline process
  • explore Web and make selections
  • consult peers and experts
  • plan scripts, designs for new simulation, modeling activities
Develop personal objectives and select appropriate strategies
  • list personal goals
  • match goals and activities
  • determine progress & personal success
  • use teacher's feedback to assess effectiveness of strategies
  • share personal goals with peers and experts
  • seek advice on selecting strategies
  • search Web for guidelines, plans, etc.
Applying rules / guessing
  • solve problems
  • complete experiments
  • rank possible solutions
  • vote
  • consult peers, experts electronically
  • work with real-world models
  • interact with tutorials
  • vote electronically and analyze results
Use reference materials
  • refer to textbooks, handouts, teacher-supplied data, library materials
  • use electronic libraries, listservs, online tutorials, Web-based information
  • consult archives of discussions
Write down key words and ideas
  • takes notes, create tables, draw diagrams
  • bookmark and organize Web sites
  • create Web-page summary of findings
  • use information organization software (outline, flowchart, etc.)
work with classmates to solve problems, help build confidence
  • small-group activities, team experiments
  • service learning experiences, build learning communities with peers
  • electronic collaboration with e-mail, real-time chat sessions, etc.
  • role-playing, simulations, modeling
Provide personal support and instruction
  • individual and small-group interactions
  • peer editing and critiques
  • individual work with teacher
  • interaction through computer-mediated communication
  • role playing and simulations

Of course, it is possible for students to engage in every action listed as an online technique inside the traditional face-to-face class. The difference is that in the face-to-face class the teacher is responsible for finding, organizing, delivering, coaching, coaxing, and responding. In the online environment, the students choose what is important and must justify the choices through successful learning or initiate another search/organization/application effort. Experts come to the face-to-face class through visits and other infrequent or extraordinary means. In cyberspace, all experts are within reach, as long as they are willing to connect. Online might not be easier, and it might not cost less, but it does transfer control to the learner, and it does open up a universe of learning possibilities.


Technology adds choices as to how, when, and where students access learning opportunities. Thus, technology can reduce barriers imposed by affective factors (I'm tired, I'm hungry, I'm distracted by personal problems) on a single time, place, and mode of learning. Learners gain access to people, information, and experiences as they choose to come to class and enjoy a traditional social experience or select online learning options. Learning becomes a personal experience combining personal interactions with media supports and online learning and communication activities. Illness and personal crises no longer remove learners from the education experience. Instead, they remain connected to peers, experts, information, and experiences through threaded conference discussions, video records, and real world data simulations in an anywhere, any time frame of access.

Administrators and faculty often fear that addition of technology supports can spell the end to on-campus, residential learning experiences. However, research suggests that availability of traditional plus virtual learning options will create new environments in which students make choices to customize the learning experience to suit their personal and changing needs. Thus, this technology-supported, choice-based model of education can increase access to education and experts. It can blur distinctions between courses, rendering separate remedial or advanced courses unnecessary. Through choices offered as extensions to traditional, face-to-face classes, high school students can join college students as well as lifelong learners in corporations in an on-going process that offers access to learning modules, courses, and entire programs.

Within the face-to-face classroom, choices enhance collaboration, decision-making, and problem-solving activities by removing the need for taking turns and giving everyone equal chances to perform. Teachers as guides, facilitators, and coaches interact more fully with students as the technology takes on repetitive tasks. Teachers participate in collaboration sessions, guide experiences, provide feedback, and mentor individuals while technology supports present key concepts and basic information, link students for recorded discussions, bring experts to the students, and offer opportunities to explore databases and real world information archives. In the smart classroom, presentation software, networked computers, simulations, models, and decision-making programs actively engage the students in a variety of activities or simply allow them to passively explore a canned presentation at their own pace.

Of course, addition of technology choices does not tend to save teachers any time. In most cases, development of a technology-rich learning environment involves far more time than does preparation of a traditional lecture. The emphasis shifts to design and development and away from lecturing, correction, and feedback as peers and the students themselves become more involved in exploration, discovery, and performance-based modes of evaluation and assessment. Students may also find that the technology-rich classes require more time as they become involved in information searches, online discussions and interactions, simulations, and experiential learning opportunities.

Online classes can be fun, personal, customized experiences that help students successfully process information and expand their knowledge bases. This claim is now supported by anecdotal evidence rather than extensive research. The University of Central Florida proposes to fill the current instructional research void by engaging in systematic evaluation and assessment of how new learning environments impact a variety of learning outcomes.

From research to development to independence

Instructional technology can be imposed on existing courses, materials, and approaches. Or faculty can learn to make appropriate choices in order to create new learning environments that apply research insights into memory functions, learning strategies, learner styles, personal interest, and motivation.

The University of Central Florida has created a model faculty education program and support infrastructure that engages faculty in a recursive process of research, design, development, and assessment that leads to research-based, technology-supported, student-centered learning environments. Figure 2 provides an illustration of the cycle of progress from application of current research through the creation of new knowledge that contributes to the growing body of research, thereby helping faculty design these new learning environments. Thus, the process constantly moves to a higher level as assessment projects yield new knowledge.

Figure 2: Cycle of Progress
Figure 2

Key to the success of this approach to faculty education has been providing teachers with skills and expert tools that ultimately lead to their independence as learner-centered curriculum designers. The faculty education paradigm progresses from awareness of our current understanding of learning and assessment, curriculum design, and instructional techniques to providing access to equipment and support personnel as part of a curriculum design and development process. Finally, it provides information on learning outcomes that will advance campuswide efforts to establish new evaluation and rewards procedures recognizing the value of appropriate instructional technologies in the teaching and learning processes.

The education cycle in Figure 2 is manifested in the relationship of the University of Central Florida's new Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning (FCTL) to members of the established instructional support infrastructure. (For a detailed description of the FCTL and its role at the University of Central Florida, please visit our Web site at

Within the FCTL, faculty are immersed in education and support opportunities for the purpose of completing a curriculum-innovation process that applies learning theories and innovative instructional techniques to face-to-face and technology-enhanced teaching and learning. This provides a firm foundation for curricular change and helps faculty incorporate appropriate technologies into their classes. Beyond the FCTL, the faculty receive support from four additional members of the partnership: the Distributed Learning Course Development Team, the Office of Instructional Resources, the University Library, and Computer Services. These groups surround faculty with a variety of support opportunities that enable them to turn their vision of learner-centered, choice-based environments into reality.

The Distributed Learning Course Development Team ( utilizes a combined approach of workshops and individual support options to guide faculty through the process of creating asynchronous learning environments. In order to maximize limited resources, the Course Development Team (CDT) unites instructional designers, programmers, and content specialists (the faculty) in a synergistic relationship that results in a professionally designed Web-based or Web-enhanced course that places the student in the center of the learning process. To date, the CDT has assisted faculty design and offers 47 courses. An additional 14 courses are under development for fall 1997.

The Office of Instructional Resources ( provides a variety of support options for utilizing traditional and digital media sources. The OIR facilities offer faculty opportunities to learn to use interactive television as a teaching medium; to design and deliver visually enhanced presentations; and to create a wide variety of media-supported course materials. The state-of-the-art technology in the Digital Image Processing Lab and the Faculty Multimedia Center allows faculty to produce high-quality presentations and instructional materials.

The University Library ( staff members teach faculty new techniques for information access, management, and applications using electronic research tools. Classes in the Sprint Multimedia Lab offer faculty and students an introduction to text-based and Internet-based information access and management.

The Instruction and Research (I&R) Support section of Computer Services provides public access facilities, short courses and classes, test scoring, and other instruction and research assistance to faculty and students. Support personnel help faculty gain access to the UCF network and learn to communicate and share information using computer-mediated communication strategies.

The University of Central Florida's faculty education process begins in current research. Its purpose is to apply this existing body of knowledge to the creation of new teaching/learning strategies in order to increase our understanding of how learners reach desired outcomes. This means that the process will never end: as we gain more knowledge of how students learn and how we can support and encourage that process, faculty will repeatedly return to acquire new knowledge and new skills.

Through symposia, workshops, focus groups, and individual counseling efforts, faculty become aware of our current state of understanding of learning, assessment, and teaching processes. Collaborative learning and other hands-on activities encourage faculty to begin to modify segments of their lessons, classes, and curricula as part of these training sessions. Introductions to technology supports and their applications to the learning process motivate some to seek means of expanding their instructional opportunities to remove traditional barriers to learning.

Raising awareness and interest occurs across campus as well as within the FCTL. Each awareness session inspires more faculty to explore ways to incorporate technology supports into existing or new courses. To initiate curriculum innovation, these interested faculty are invited to enter a planning and design process within the FCTL. Teams of specialists in learning and assessment theory, instructional techniques and procedures, curriculum design, visualization, knowledge management, programming, and video distribution meet with the faculty to show them existing models and to help them combine content with learning objects and desired performance outcomes.

Together these experts create a course that is based in learning theory and incorporates innovative methods and appropriate technologies. Each project design phase also includes a research design component that outlines procedures for collecting baseline and experimental data to determine the impact of the new learning environment on factors such as student learning outcomes, time-on-task, student retention in the course, and student satisfaction.

Once the design phase is complete, faculty are assigned a mentor. The mentor assesses their support needs and assigns personnel and high-end development technology to their project. The mentor also reviews existing projects to determine how new and existing teams can collaborate to avoid duplication of effort and maximize resources. Once the development team is formed, the group works with the faculty to create a work plan designed to complete the project in a timely manner in order to avoid content obsolescence. Throughout the development process, experts in learning theory, methodology, curriculum design, and assessment/evaluation work with the team to help ensure that the emerging course will produce the desired learning outcomes.

As the project nears completion it moves to the refinement and delivery stage, seeking support from the Digital Image Processing Laboratory to refine the visual impact of the course materials. High-end graphics workstations allow faculty to develop animations and even virtual reality modules for incorporation into their courses. In addition, the faculty and their students use facilities in the library to test the new material before offering it to a larger student population. Faculty also use UCF's video classrooms as presentation areas where they share their project with audiences of peers, students, and support personnel for constructive critiques. Their support team helps them incorporate all pertinent suggestions to ensure that the final product is as polished as possible.

Once the new learning environment is available to the students, the UCF Distributed Learning Assessment Team launches a formal research project to examine its impact on learning outcomes and teaching strategies. We anticipate that results of these investigations will help show how the new environments can enable learning, thus adding to the general understanding of how learning occurs.


Although the project process is well defined, a number of challenges can impede its smooth implementation: time, access to technology, and tangible rewards.

Increasing demands on faculty time make it difficult for professors to commit the effort necessary to develop new learning environments. The reluctance of regents and legislators to recognize the intensive time commitment required to research, design, and implement a course change has led to reduced access to release time for curriculum innovation.

Understandably, these groups protest the need to remove faculty from the classroom to create a new course. This has led to a heavy dependence on graduate students and computer experts for the design and programming phases of project development. The role of faculty as director rather than participant in this process can have at least two negative consequences: 1) a gap occurs between the vision and the final product, and 2) new courses become so dependent upon graduate students and computer experts that when the support personnel is no longer available, the project dies.

For this reason, a goal of the UCF instructional innovation process is to support projects that can become models and even replicable tools for curriculum design. The first projects apply theory-based course design techniques as well as innovative instructional methods and approaches. Support teams work with faculty to understand course goals, desired learning outcomes, and relationships that students must build with peers, experts, information, and the discipline. The resulting curricula lead to customizable templates that accept unique content into an instructional template that promotes collaboration, problem solving, and other student-centered learning activities. Templates merge face to face with technology-enhanced teaching options to provide the greatest teaching and learning flexibility possible.

Two projects supported by the FCTL involve the development of interdisciplinary learning communities for the College of Arts and Sciences and cohort groups for the honors program that transform the nature of the face-to-face class and its relationship with on-line, distributed learning options.

Limited access to technology, both to workstations and the Internet, is a barrier that impedes the implementation of a wide variety of technology-supported choices for courses. While we have taken a centralized support approach as well as offering grants to help faculty purchase labs and individual development equipment, the gap between the haves and the have-nots is still great and threatens to impede our progress.

Finally, the lack of a widely accepted promotion and tenure/continuing review system that recognizes and rewards both teaching excellence and teaching innovation has prevented junior faculty, those who tend to possess the highest level of technology skill, from becoming part of the transformation effort. We must provide valid and reliable research-based evidence as to the impact of new learning environments on student outcomes before department heads and deans will be willing to encourage their faculty to participate in ongoing innovation efforts. Ultimately, such evidence must inform substantive changes to existing policies in order to acknowledge and reward teaching innovation.

Moreover, the catalyst for instructional innovation extends beyond the confines of academia. Development and design of new courses no longer rests in the hands of academic institutions alone. Response to corporate pressure for new learners requires that higher education partner with corporations, not only to create new learning experiences but to create new tools that help transform the way we conduct research and organize the learning experience. The University of Central Florida is working with Disney, Kodak, and other corporations to design such a process for collaboratively creating new learning environments.

As faculty across colleges and even across universities begin to collaborate to develop theory-based learning environments, the body of research will grow, validating the need to transform the way we deliver higher education. Together we can employ the UCF's model of a recursive research/development process to evolve beyond the lecture paradigm, meet individual needs, and create a dynamic new education system for the coming century.

For further reading:
Anderson, John R. The Architecture of Cognition. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1983.
Anderson, John R. Cognitive Psychology and Its Implications. 2nd. Ed. New York: Freeman, 1985.
Claxon, Charles S. and Patricia H. Murrell. "Learning Styles: Implications for Improving Educational Practices." New York: ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report, No. 4.
O'Neil, John. "Making Sense of Style." Educational Leadership, 48.2, (month 1990): pp. 4-9.
Ostrander, Sheila and Lynn Schroeder. Super Memory: The Revolution. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1990.
Richey, Rita C. "Design 2000: Theory-Based Design Models of the Future." ERIC Document 373752 , 1995.
Schmeck, Roland K., Ed. Learning Strategies and Learning Styles. New York: Plenum Press, 1988.


1 David C. Forman, "The Use of Multimedia Technology for Training in Business and Industry." Multimedia Monitor 13, 1987, 22-27.

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2J. Michael O'Malley and Anna Uhl Chamot, Learning Strategies in Second Language Acquisition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).

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Karen L. Smith ([email protected]) is the Director of the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning at The University of Central Florida. the table of contents

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