The 6 Biggest Challenges Of Using Education Technology

In an unplanned series of sorts, we’re showcasing a couple of posts about the 2013 NMC/EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative Horizon Report for Higher Education. We’ve already talked about the key trends in the report, but it also addressed another important topic when it comes to classroom technology – the challenges involved with implementing new technologies.

The Horizon Report identified six broad challenges to implementation which span the widest range of users – while recognizing that there are many significant local barriers that present their own challenges as well. They’ve taken some of the obvious issues such as financial limitations and physical limitations (getting wifi through the thick bunker-like walls of some 1940’s buildings, for example) and looked more specifically at the nature of higher education and how that presents challenges to implementing new technology.

In these six identified challenges, we seem to come back to the idea that technology for the sake of having technology is not enough; the technology needs to have a purpose for both teachers and students, and it needs to be the right choice for the institutions, teacher, and students involved.

The Challenges

Faculty training still does not acknowledge the fact that digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession.

Teachers needs to be learning how to use the technology themselves, too. Where formal training lacks, professional development needs to step in, and does in many cases. But integrating the how-to of technology with the how-to of teaching needs to happen.

The emergence of new scholarly forms of authoring, publishing, and researching outpace sufficient and scalable modes of assessment.

The traditional approaches to scholarly evaluation don’t always match up with the more ‘modern’ forms of research (things that include social media use, online collaborations, etc). Though these things often happen in the real world, the academic decision makers who deem what is acceptable and what is not haven’t caught up yet.

Too often it is education’s own processes and practices that limit broader uptake of new technologies.

Things like the promotion and tenure process don’t lend themselves well to integrating technology – that is, if you’re working towards tenure and your field of specialization isn’t education technology, figuring this stuff out is not on the top of the priority list (or even encouraged).

The demand for personalized learning is not adequately supported by current technology or practices.

Though most of us know that one-size-fits-all learning is an outdated idea, and technology can help each learner get exactly what they need, but many of the technologies and metrics to figure out what that ‘thing’ they need is are just beginning to develop.

New models of education are bringing unprecedented competition to the traditional models of higher education.

MOOCs are huge – and proponents are constantly touting the advantages, but we need to assess both the pros and cons of these new learning models and look at how they fit in with existing models of learning and assessment, too.

Most academics are not using new technologies for learning and teaching, nor for organizing their own research.

How can you teach using digital methods and expect students to use the if you don’t bother to try? The overwhelming attitude in higher education (according to the report) seems to be that these sorts of forays into technology bring the focus to the technology rather than on the material at hand, and so there is no expectation or drive to do so.


All that said, it seems as though the report is calling for two major things: 1) A change in attitude at the higher ed level, and a willingness to adapt existing processes to allow teachers to integrate new technologies in their classrooms and 2) Better methods of teaching teachers how to use technology.

Do you teach at the higher ed level? We’d love to hear what you think!


  1. bnleez

    February 15, 2013 at 6:33 am

    I’m currently conducting research that addresses better methods of teaching teachers how to use technology. I feel this must come before seeking change in attitudes among educators (i.e., school cultures) regarding the use of technology for pedagogical and life-long learning purposes.

    • Joe

      February 19, 2013 at 11:38 pm

      I would appreciate being put on a mailing list to see your research when you have finished it.


  2. Rik Hilborn

    February 20, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    Great post! I do Research and Consulting in the area of technology and I’ve seen these issues in most industries. Hopefully people will become willing to spot these and take steps to move forward.

  3. Hubert Gabel

    February 21, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    I am implementing a newly developed curriculum, with the sole purpose to have teachers being prepared for their students. It would be a shame if they both would miss the finesses of newest technology possible.