Leadership & Governance

Trustees Say They Lack Good Information on Technology, Survey Finds

October 08, 2013

Nearly three-quarters of college and university trustees say that online learning will be "important" or "essential" to their institutions within the next five years, but only about one in five say their boards are prepared to make decisions about educational technology on their campuses, according to the results of a national survey released on Tuesday.

The survey, conducted by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, points to a potentially troubling disconnect in higher education. Despite a lot of talk among college trustees about the need to harness technology to improve student outcomes and cut costs, only about one-third of trustees are getting information on the issue that they consider excellent or even good, a report on the survey states.

While most board members complained about the quality of information they had received about online learning, more than half of the trustees who responded to the survey said they remained confident their institutions had a "solid strategy for using technology to provide instruction/classes."

More than 2,000 board members, about 15 percent of those surveyed, responded to the association's questions.

Most of the men and women who serve on college boards do not consider themselves technology experts, the report notes. A majority of college trustees are between the ages of 50 and 69, and, "if given the choice, are more likely than not to ask their kids (or grandkids) for help with electronic devices."

Asked about the potential for massive open online courses, or MOOCs, trustees expressed optimism and concern in nearly equal proportions. While 57 percent agreed that MOOCs "have great potential to make a positive impact on higher education," 56 percent said MOOCs "could threaten the business model of my institution."