Report Finds Majority of Faculty Technologically Stressed
Computer anxiety is surpassing traditional faculty troubles, according to a new national survey of faculty
WASHINGTON — As college students research papers on the Internet and manipulate numbers on spreadsheets, their professors are feeling a little less in tune with the newest computer trends.
Two out of three professors say they are stressed trying to keep up with the emerging technology, surpassing traditional troubles such as publishing pressure and teaching loads, according to a new national survey of faculty.
Researchers say college professors may not be using new technology because it scares them — which, in turn, means they never learn how it works or how to handle it calmly.
“The level of stress resulting from information technology is quite likely a reflection of the time faculty invest in computer use,” says Linda Sax, a researcher who directed the faculty survey at the University of California-Los Angeles.
Nearly nine in 10 college instructors agreed that “student use of computers enhances their learning.” But only 35 percent use the Internet to conduct research and just 38 percent use technology to create class presentations.
By contrast, 87 percent use computers to send e-mail, and 85 percent use them to write memos or letters.
The 34,000 faculty members surveyed by mail in the 1998-99 academic year came from 378 of the nation’s two-year and four-year colleges and universities.
The survey suggests that colleges, much like the nation’s elementary and secondary schools, have a way to go in preparing teachers for their technically savvy students.
“We are seeing a generation that has practically grown up with computers as a part of everyday life — whether it’s at home or in their K-12 classes,” says Harlan Leebo, a UCLA spokesman. He notes that 80 percent of last year’s freshmen arrived with their own computers.
UCLA does not require students to have computers, but other higher education institutions do. And some schools even offer counseling for students who suffer from computer anxiety.
But professors might not be getting such help. According to the survey, “technology-related stress” was only topped by meeting household responsibilities, not having a personal life and other time pressures.
It even surpassed traditional stresses. Sixty-seven percent of faculty said they felt regular stress keeping up with information technology. That beat the 62 percent stressed by their teaching loads, and only 50 percent who said they were stressed by research or publishing demands.
Older faculty, those age 65 and older, were less likely to use the technology and more likely to report that computers caused them stress. The 1999 survey also found:
Little change in faculty diversity since the first survey 10 years ago — 92 percent of current instructors are White, compared with 90 percent in 1989.
College staffs are aging — 32 percent of faculty are 55 years or older, compared with 24 percent in 1989.
More faculty are satisfied with their jobs — 75 percent this year compared with 69 percent in 1989.
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