IRC Faculty Survey
December, 1997
Final Report

Background

The last formal survey undertaken to assess faculty members’ use of information technology was completed during the spring semester of 1993. Since that time, the Faculty has voted to establish the Information Resources Council (IRC)and to modify the all-College curriculum. In the legislation of April 1996 in which the latest curriculum changes were authorized, the Faculty requested that the Council make available to students and faculty a comprehensive listing of opportunities afforded students for use of information technology. In attempting to meet this mandate, it became apparent to members of the Council that so much had happened since the last survey to change the nature of the academic landscape (in particular, the use of web resources in and out of the classroom) that another survey was needed. During the fall semester of 1997, the Council authorized a smaller sub-group to work on the instrument and the methodology, and the committee adopted the recommendations of the subgroup in November 1997.

Methodology

Although the 1993 survey provided much useful information to the community, it suffered from the problem of a poor response rate (approximately 35%). IRC members felt it important for the current survey effort to gather information from all members of the faculty if possible, and they developed a methodology specifically aimed at increasing the return rate. The Dean of the Faculty also supported this goal and approved the use of departmental secretaries to assist with the project. A relatively simple instrument was developed, and the secretaries were invited to an information/training session in early December. The Dean and the Assistant to the Dean addressed the group, explained the importance of getting full participation, and asked for cooperation. The secretaries were instructed to interview each full time member of their department, complete a survey form for each individual, and return the completed sheets within two weeks. This was a daunting task, given the time of year, but the response was extremely healthy. A total of 216 forms were collected, approximately an 85% response rate. The members of IRC are confident that they have a representative sample of the population, and that the distribution of responses is indicative of the current state of faculty uses of information technology.

Demographic Information

The survey form collected information regarding several demographic variables. These included: department, rank, self-reported level of expertise, and gender. These variables were used for analytical purposes and demonstrated that the survey population matched the entire population fairly closely. Assistant professors are slightly under-represented, while "other faculty" (those who identified themselves as holding a position not classified in one of the three tenure ranks or in the visiting category) are slightly over-represented in the results.

 

Variable

Survey %

Population %

N=

216

254

Gender:

 

 

Female

50%

49.2%

Male

50%

50.8%

Rank

 

 

Full Professor

20.9

20.4

Associate Professor

30.2

31.1

Assistant Professor

15.8

20.5

Visiting Professor

8.8

7.9

Other

24.2

20.1

Expertise

 

 

Beginner

25.0

 

Intermediate

44.9

 

Advanced

25.5

 

No Response

5.6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Results

The survey instrument asked individuals to indicate use of specific types of information technology by checking all applicable items. The categories of use included: in-class, student assignments, class preparation, scholarly publications, communication with colleagues as part of research/scholarly activity, and other professional uses. The results therefore generated a matrix that displays the percentage of "yes" or "used" responses by application and by use. Additional cross tabulations were completed to analyze the data further. What follows is a brief descriptive analysis of the results obtained.

Approximately 65% of the faculty respondents indicated use of at least one of the applications for in class work; 72% indicated use of at least one application for student assignments; and 72% indicated use of at least one application for class preparation use. This overview perspective indicates widespread use of a variety of applications for the three primary teaching purposes. The more detailed perspective is displayed in the chart below:

Survey Results

N=216

Item

Teaching:

Scholarship:

Other Prof

Numbers=% who use:

In Class

St Assignmt

Class Prep

Pubs

Comm w/ Coll

Web pages

29.6

34.7

39.4

32.4

38.0

35.2

E-mail

32.9

47.2

34.3

38.9

91.7

46.8

Discussion lists

13.4

12.5

14.8

12.0

33.8

15.7

Chat rooms

3.7

4.6

2.8

1.4

3.7

3.2

News groups

10.2

8.8

11.1

14.4

23.1

20.4

On-line bibliog. resources

23.6

35.6

43.1

54.6

23.1

26.9

On-line full text

15.7

19.0

25.5

31.9

12.5

17.1

Presentation software

18.5

12.5

15.7

8.8

5.1

8.8

High-end graphics

6.9

6.5

10.2

11.1

5.1

7.4

Data sets

10.2

11.6

8.3

13.9

5.1

7.9

Local database

9.3

11.1

15.7

16.2

10.6

12.0

Application specific

26.9

24.5

26.4

25.5

10.6

17.1

 

It is also useful to note the percentage of faculty members who indicated that they used the application in at least one of the three teaching related settings (in class/student assignments/class preparation).  

Application

% using for at least one of the three teaching purposes

Web

54.6

Email

67.1

Discussion Groups

25.9

Chat Rooms

5.5

News groups

17.6

On-line bibliographic resources

54.2

On-line full text resources

34.7

Presentation software

22.7

High end graphics

13.4

Data sets

15.2

Local databases

19.9

Application specific software

34.3

Cross Tabulations

The following variables were used to analyze the data by categories: gender, rank, department (recoded into a division scheme), and expertise level. The results noted below were found to be statistically significant at the .05 level or higher. 

The comparison of responses by gender indicated that significant difference was found in only one item:

  • 30% of female respondents indicated use of the web for communication with colleagues, while 46% of male respondents indicated use of the web in this category.

On the other hand, rank seemed to make a difference in several of the items. In order to evaluate the association of rank with the responses, the entries for "other faculty" were removed from consideration, leaving the three tenure ranks and an aggregated category for visiting faculty. Two different patterns emerged: one in which the assistant professors’ responses were significantly different from the other ranks, and a second in which the visiting faculty responses were noted as significantly different from the responses of those in tenure ranks. It is important to note that some of the cells in which rank showed significant difference were also cells that had lower use percentages. The N’s in these cases were smaller than those found in other cells.

  • Assistant professors were more likely to indicate use in the following categories, several of which are associated with publication and presentation software, major concerns for tenure-seeking faculty:

 

Category

Asst. Professors %

Other Ranks %

Presentation software for communication with colleagues

21%

All others = 0%

Presentation software for class preparation

38%

Full = 9%

Associate = 12%

Visiting = 21%

Use of presentation software for publication

24%

All others less than 10%

Use of data sets for publication

32%

All others less than 12%

Use of graphics for publication

29%

Full = 9%

Assoc.=5%

Visiting = 21%

Use of on-line full text resources for student assignments

32%

Full = 18%

Assoc.=22%

Visiting=0%







 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

** Note that in two of the categories (bold), visiting faculty use was fairly close to the assistant professors’ use.

  • Visiting faculty were more likely to indicate use in the following categories, three of which relate to other professional activities. Note that full professors were most likely to make use of email for other professional activities, followed by visiting faculty.

 

Category

Visiting %

All Other %

Use of local data bases for class preparation

37%

Full=18%

Assoc.=8%

Asst=24%

Use of local data bases for other professional activities

26%

Full=18%

Assoc=5%

Asst=3%

Use of on-line bibliographic resources for other professional activities

 

42%

Full=33%

Assoc=15%

Asst=29%

Use of email for other professional activities

53%

Full=62%

Assoc=35%

Asst=38%


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Departmental differences reflect disciplinary peculiarities, and therefore further analysis was completed at the more aggregate level of division. (See the division coding chart at the end of this report.) The definition of this variable is less than clean in Skidmore’s case, since divisional distinctions has not been built into the way the institution conducts its routine business. Skidmore has created departments, which sometimes combine faculty from more than one area, making it difficult to create distinctive divisions. (The Library faculty were left uncoded and removed from these analysis.) The distribution of the responses matched the distribution of the overall population fairly closely, as noted in the table below.

Division

Survey %

Population %

Humanities

36%

40%

Social Sciences

14%

15%

Natural/Mathematical Sciences

23%

21%

Preprofessional

27%

24%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This admittedly somewhat artificial categorization did generate interesting results, however. It made the most sense to group these findings by type of application (i.e. what was being used). Not surprisingly, social science and natural/mathematical science faculty respondents were more likely to make use of data sets when compared with their colleagues in other divisions. Other findings include the following: 

  • Natural/Mathematical science faculty were more often likely to make use of special applications software. 

Use of Spec. Application Software for:

Natural/Mathematical Sciences %

Other %

In Class

51%

<= 21%

Student Assignments

60%

< 25%

Class Preparation

60%

<= 21%

Publications

55%

Social Sci=33%; all others < 20%

Communication with Colleagues

23%

< 15%

Other Professional Activities

30%

Preprofessional = 27%; all others < 15%

 

















 

 

 

In the three teaching related areas, the natural/mathematical science faculty members were more likely to make use of presentational software. In the area of student assignments, both natural/mathematical science and preprofessional faculty made more use of this type of software than did their colleagues in the other divisions, although the use numbers in both these categories were quite small across all divisions. 

Use of Presentational Software for:

Natural/Mathematical Sciences %

Other %

In Class

32%

<= 20%

Student Assignments

23%

Preprofessional = 18%; others <= 10%

Class Preparation

32%

<= 18%











 


 

 

 

  • Differences across the divisions were also noted for use of the web

Use

Humanities

Social Sciences

Natural/Mathematical
Sciences

Preprofessional

In Class

27%

43%

32%

14%

Student Assignments

32%

47%

51%

23%

Class Preparation

33%

50%

53%

32%

Publication

25%

50%

36%

23%

Other Professional Activities

24%

33%

36%

52%

 









 

 

 

 

 

 


 

  • Other miscellaneous findings are worth noting: 

Application and Use

Humanities

Social Sciences

Natural/Mathematical Sciences

Preprofessional

Discussion Groups for Comm. With Colleagues

51%

30%

26%

13%

On-line Bibliographic Resources for Student Assignments

30%

53%

47%

30%

On-line bibliographic resources for publication

53%

73%

68%

30%

On-line full text resources for student assignments

11%

37%

21%

21%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

One other finding is worth noting. In almost all categories, expertise level was associated with higher use. This may be an intuitive finding, but it is clear that as faculty become more familiar and adept with software applications, they tend to make more use of these resources both for classroom work and for scholarly activity.

Listings of the names of the special software identified by the respondents as well as the classes in which respondents use various applications are included below.

fac97survey-2.html ß Supporting documents and list of all curricular software reported by faculty.