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Professors and Students – Do they use the Internet differently?
First Monday has a nice summary of some research done by Steve Jones who is Professor of Communication at the University of Illinois–Chicago, and Adjunct Research Professor in the Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. He was first President and co–founder of the Association of Internet Researchers and a Senior Research Fellow at the Pew Internet & American Life Project and Camille Johnson–Yale who is a doctoral candidate in the Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.
“This paper reports on findings from a nationwide survey of Internet use by U.S. college faculty. The survey asked about general Internet use, use of specific Internet technologies (e–mail, IM, Web, etc.), the Internet’s impact on teaching and research, its impact on faculty–student interactions, and about faculty perceptions of students’ Internet use. There is general optimism, though little evidence, about the Internet’s impacts on their professional lives. The findings show that institutions of higher education still need to address three broad areas (infrastructure, professional development, and teaching and research) to assist faculty to continue to make good use of the Internet in their professional work.”
Here’s a half dozen teasers from the report:
“1. College faculty are active users of the Internet. Nearly two–thirds (60 percent) of the respondents to the survey stated they use the Internet from four to 19 hours per week. Another 40 percent reported being online for 20 or more hours.
2. College faculty have logged many years online. Over four–fifths (82 percent) of college faculty respondents reported having used e–mail between six and 15 years. Fewer than five percent have used e–mail five years or less, and they are heavily represented by respondents over 55 years of age. Some 92 percent reported accessing e–mail at home, and 89 percent access it at work. Yet, a significant number, one in five, reported using public locations like labs or Internet cafes for e–mailing.
3. In terms of quality, two–thirds of instructors surveyed felt e–mail had improved their communication with students, while only six of the 2,316 reported that it had worsened their communication.
4. When asked whether the quality of their students’ overall work had improved with use of the Internet, nearly half (42 percent) of college faculty felt their students’ work had worsened in quality and another 24 percent were undecided. Just 22 percent felt the Internet had improved students’ work.
5. Most (83 percent) faculty surveyed felt they spent less time in the library now that they have access to the Internet than before. However, as one faculty member pointed out, libraries are — still — the corner stone of the research process. “I know that people believe that use of the Internet is impeding people’s frequency at the library (which I know it is), but it is not because of sheer laziness. It is also because one is able to access scholarly journal articles via the library’s Web site.”
6. Faculty attitudes can also be an obstacle to change. One respondent wrote, “Using the Internet for classes takes time. I might use it more if we had better support on campus and/or if I had teaching assistants.” But another noted, “I don’t think most faculty in my department successfully exploit the Internet’s possibilities.” Both statements are likely true and illustrate the bind in which faculty may find themselves. According to one respondent, “Faculty use of the Internet is only limited by their knowledge/ability and by their imaginations,” but institutional and professional barriers may limit their use of it, too.”
This is worth reading. Combine it with their Pew 2003 study, The Internet Goes to College, and you find complementary reading.

Posted on: September 26, 2005, 11:10 pm Category: Uncategorized