Faculty Leading the Way in Innovation: The Dawning of a New Era

This past month has revealed the incredible reality that the profession of teaching has entered a new era of embracing innovation and technology.

by Mike Mathews / April 16, 2018

On April 09, 2018, Oral Roberts University was privileged to receive the 2018 Ellucian Technology Award for the impact that technology has had on students around the world. As part of the ceremony, we were greeted with a handshake and photo with Former Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden. I greeted Biden with a pair of small virtual reality glasses to clip on her smartphone the next time she teaches. To my amazement she said ‘Mike, thanks but I already have a pair, and I will be using them in my class on Friday.’

Biden still teaches at Northern Virginia Community College and is ready to use virtual reality to convey the message to her students. Her words reminded me that during the past few years, professors, teachers and instructors have been openly embracing the incredible amount of innovation that is readily available. In fact, the last five national awards that Oral Roberts University has won have occurred because our faculty have embraced the latest innovations with incredible results.

I do not want to publicly reveal Biden’s age, but lets’ just say she is 50+. This same 50+ age group of faculty at Oral Roberts University has openly embraced augmented reality, virtual reality, avatar trainers, teleportation robots, artificial intelligence, machine learning and zoom technology. In fact, 70-year-old professor Dr. Arden Autry was proud to say that he was the first professor to host a 600+ student class in the new Global Learning Center and reach three simultaneous locations in Pakistan via teleportation robots and livestreaming and capture lecture technology.

I maintain that using the phrase "disruptive technology" was a negative way to try to "scare" or "shame" professors into using the latest digital fad or technology. I found that faculty are very receptive to embrace technology that enhances student engagement and success — once I shifted my personal mission statement as a CIO within education to become a helpful phrase. My personal mission statement in a form of a phrase is … "As a CIO, my mission is to help people survive and thrive in a digital society." This change of words and mission has paid incredible dividends, while allowing faculty to see me as a friend and servant. Each technology-based innovation award that ORU has received, has the proven metrics of success that include retention, student engagement and student success. This means, that faculty are directly involved, engaged and leveraging the transformation of technology; versus causing disruption.

Fresh on the heels of the great news at ORU and Biden’s usage of virtual reality glasses, is the powerful news around the world about the Faculty at Oxford University’s starting the first blockchain university, called Woolf University. This news, accompanied by the well-written white paper, is being led by faculty. That’s correct … one of the most transformational technologies is being led by faculty.

There is a fresh and new dawn on the horizon of digital transformation. As a technology leader, I would like to encourage all CIOs and technology leaders to openly acknowledge and embrace the fact that faculty, teachers and instructors are creative — and when they see technology as not purposely disruptive, but creative and helpful, they will prove to be leaders in this space. 

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