GtCNN Study: A Balanced Approach is Key in Implementing Technology in the Classroom

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Technology and next generation learning are revolutionizing the classroom. From online courses that let computer algorithms grade thousands of student assignments in no time, to smartphone applications that measure and promote student well-being on campus – technology is pervasive in academia and may be leveraged for several purposes.

Gateway to College National Network is interested in understanding students’ attitudes toward, and practices related to, technology-supported education and next generation learning in order to inform the design and implementation of these strategies in the classroom. The Understanding Academic Success Initiative, funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, provided Gateway with an opportunity to gather this information. Several research questions were used to guide this analysis; here we focus on one that informed the findings associated with online/hybrid course intake:

  • What implications does student access to technology have for technology-supported education and/or courses that rely on online curricula? (Student attitudes and experience with use of technology for courses, campus environment/offerings)

GtCNN partnered with Pacific Research & Evaluation to collect data from nearly 600 student responses to a survey administered to new Gateway to College students, and more than 200 responses to surveys administered to returning students. Here are a few of the notable findings from the study:


  • Approximately two-thirds (66%) of students surveyed indicated that they do not skip classes when course lectures are available online.


  • Survey respondents reported internet searches (85%) and listening to audio and watching videos (85%) as the primary means through which they like to learn.


  • Nearly three-fourths of respondents (73%) reported they have not taken any online courses since beginning Gateway to College (GtC), compared with 69% for hybrid courses.


  • Students were asked to indicate whether they completed or dropped the most recent online or hybrid course in which they were enrolled. Respondents reported a relatively high rate of completion, with 83% of online respondents and 89% of hybrid respondents completing their most recent course.

  • Similar to respondents enrolled in online courses, slightly over two-thirds of respondents in hybrid courses agreed that their college/GtC offered sufficient infrastructure (69%) and technical assistance (68%) for the courses.

While the findings lean toward acceptance and positive outcomes associated with technology-supported education, there are several obstacles to favorable implementation. The financial barriers with high costs of up-to-date computers and high-speed internet connections prohibit low-income students from taking full advantage of the online courses. Additional fees tacked on to online course enrollment act as a further deterrent. In a 2010 study, Jaggars found that low-income and academically underprepared students face negative effects when it comes to online learning with regard to grades, passage rates, persistence and withdrawal.[i] It is often attributed to a lack of self-direction, self-discipline and help-seeking skills necessary to succeed in an online learning environment.

Improved access to technology may benefit some students, but it will not solve issues of lacking the skills or knowledge to leverage it as an academic tool. Training and structured practice will need to follow so that students are able to effectively utilize the tools they are given.

As evident from the survey findings, Gateway to College provides useful assistance, often in the form of a face-to-face teacher for students enrolled in online or hybrid courses. This offers valuable support for academically-underprepared students and prepares them to succeed in other online or hybrid coursework.

In conclusion, it may be beneficial for the students and the programs to begin by adopting a balanced approach – one that involves moderate amounts of information technology integrated in their coursework along with adequate infrastructural support and training from faculty.

You may access the full report here: Gateway to College Student Technology Survey


Kriti Agrawal is a Data Analyst, and has been with GtCNN since June 2015. She is responsible for designing and supporting extensive data collection systems and providing related support to our partners through online training modules, group training webinars and individualized technical assistance. Read more.

[i] Jaggars, S. S. & Xu, D. (2010). Online learning in the Virginia Community College System. New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center.

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