November/December 2003 // Faculty and Staff Development
Promoting Faculty Adoption of Technology at Wake Forest University
by Steven Wicker and Beth Boyd
Note: This article was originally published in The Technology Source ( as: Steven Wicker and Beth Boyd "Promoting Faculty Adoption of Technology at Wake Forest University" The Technology Source, November/December 2003. Available online at The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

Wake Forest University (WFU) in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is a liberal arts school with approximately 3,900 undergraduates that has an encompassing technology program based around laptop computers. This technology program was developed within the Plan for the Class of 2000 (Wake Forest University, 1995). Prior to the plan, there were few campus technology standards. Further, if faculty members wanted to use specialized software in their classes, they were virtually left alone to support themselves. There were, of course, grassroots efforts to share ideas and knowledge, but campus administrators wanted to provide a more comprehensive environment for supporting such efforts.

To facilitate the computer-enhanced curriculum, a major goal of the plan, the campus infrastructure was enhanced with additional network wiring and the installation of multimedia classrooms. Each entering first-year student was issued an IBM ThinkPad. To promote campus standards of hardware and software, the faculty were also issued the same machines. With this plan, everyone had a common basis of hardware and software with which to work. It should be noted that the plan not only included a technology aspect, but also provided for hiring more faculty members and increasing scholarship availability.

At the onset of the plan, the faculty of the university were concerned with a potential technological burden. At their request an entire group of technical staff was added to the academic branch of the undergraduate school. The faculty wanted this assistance so their time would not be consumed with learning about the new technologies that were coming their way (Wake Forest University, 1995). Some money was allocated from the university endowment for initial start-up funding for the plan; continued funding for the plan comes in a combination of increased tuition, gifts, and grants.

This article reports on some of the programs WFU has used to encourage its faculty to adopt technology. The circumstances around the development the WFU technology program are quite unique. Thus, it would be next to impossible to duplicate in all its features. We do not offer these reports as a blueprint to be followed; rather, we offer this information to promote a dialogue to uncover ways of getting faculty elsewhere to be receptive to using technology.

Academic Computing Specialists

The original plan called for the hiring of ten academic computing specialists (ACSs). These computing specialists were assigned to blocks of departments. For example, one specialist was hired to cover theatre, art, and music, while another was hired for history, politics, and philosophy. Each specialist reported directly to the dean of the Undergraduate College and to the chairs of their respective departments. Along with computer expertise, each specialist had a degree, preferably advanced, in at least one of the areas to which they were assigned. This requirement ensured that the specialist would have an understanding of the discipline of the faculty members with whom they worked.

These individuals provided assistance to faculty members in the integration of technology into their teaching and also provided support for departmental-specific computing needs. These specialists are required to provide support for a wide range of computing needs, from providing simple assistance for general computer applications to the development of in-house computer programs. For example, the Art Department now maintains a lab with specialized software for the creation of digital art. Additionally, these specialists are charged with keeping abreast of emerging technologies in their disciplines and reporting their findings back to their faculty counterparts.

Over time, several changes were made to the organization of the ACSs. The group was expanded to fourteen members and the departmental assignments were rearranged. More significantly, a career path was implemented for this group. The career path that has been established is a three-tiered system of instructional technology specialists, consultants, and analysts. This system seeks to reward the accomplishments of the technology specialists and to acknowledge their desire to grow within the university.

The faculty members have responded very positively to the instructional technologists. One reason is the fact that the instructional technologists reside in the departments in which they work and are readily accessible. Faculty members see their technologists on a daily basis, and feel they have a primary person to turn to for advice on technology issues.

Computer-Enhanced Learning Initiative (CELI)

As mentioned above, prior to the plan faculty members shared ideas about technology through grassroots efforts. In the fall of 1997, WFU received an anonymous grant to assist with these efforts. This grant, which ran through the spring of 2000, allowed for the development of the Computer-Enhanced Learning Initiative (CELI). CELI was charged with fostering the development of effective uses of computers in instruction. The CELI team consisted of six faculty members, and each member served as director of the team for one semester.

CELI attempted to foster the sharing of ideas in three ways. First, CELI sponsored field trips for WFU faculty members to visit other institutions to observe their uses of technology. Second, CELI invited speakers from other institutions to WFU to discuss what their institutions were doing with technology. Third, CELI awarded release-time grants to faculty members to pursue the use of technology in their teaching.

The main focus of the CELI initiative was the release-time grants. These grants allowed WFU faculty members to reduce their teaching responsibilities by one course for one semester in order to explore and design computer-enhanced learning materials for their classes. Grant recipients were required to participate in a series of luncheon meetings to discuss the progress of their projects. Also, they were required to present at a technology fair at the end of the semester which provided a public forum for the projects.

It was necessary for a department's chair to approve the release time because when a faculty member was released from teaching a class, the chair would have to find an adjunct to cover that class. At times, finding coverage proved problematic.Furthermore, even though grant recipients were released from teaching one course, they were not released from other duties such as committee work or advising, which did not allow this program to reach its full potential.

However, the program helped to foster significant efforts in the instructional use of technology. Projects funded under this initiative ran the gamut from encouraging late adopters to use tools as basic as PowerPoint to providing funding for video conferencing and more. For example, one English faculty member used CELI support to set up video conferences for her students with the Globe theatre in London. Another faculty member used CELI funding to develop an electronic database of 19th century art. For brief descriptions of other CELI-supported projects and activities, click here.

Student Technology Advisors (STARS)

An instructional technologist may be assigned to assist anywhere from 15 to 50 faculty members. Consequently, the instructional technologists may not be as readily available as some instructors may desire. A grant was obtained to hire student workers to assist faculty members with long-term projects that involve incorporating technology into their courses. These student technology advisors (STARs) are typically assigned to partner one-on-one with an instructor for one school year. The program tries to pair faculty members and students with similar interests, and the STAR is expected to be available to the assigned faculty counterpart for 10 to 15 hours of work per week.

One of the goals of this program is to encourage faculty members to explore new technology and its potential for their teaching; therefore, technical ability is not the primary factor for choosing a student as a STAR. The program allows for the training of a student in a particular technology to assist an instructor with a project idea. Furthermore, the STAR is not hired just to help relieve a faculty member from mundane tasks; their pairing entails a collaborative relationship.

STARs and faculty members have worked on projects that range from PowerPoint presentations to developing new Java applications. For example, STARS have been used to teach faculty members how to use the Blackboard course management system to place class materials online. Another STAR developed a Java-based interactive circuit tutorial in the Mathematics and Computer Science Department. The initial grant for the STAR program has ended, but WFU continues this program with internal funding. For brief descriptions of other STAR partnerships and projects, click here.

Culpeper Foundation Grant

WFU also received a three-year grant in 1999 from the Charles E. Culpeper Foundation to establish a summer program for technology adoption (Cox, 1999). This program, while similar to the CELI initiative, differed in the fact that the faculty members worked on their projects over the summer rather than being released from teaching responsibilities. The goal of the program was to provide its participants with incentive, assistance, and ideas for incorporating technology into classes to improve educational outcomes. The Culpeper program was coordinated by one faculty member—unlike CELI, whose leadership changed each semester.

The six-week summer program sponsored workshops open to all faculty members and provided stipends to a maximum of twelve faculty recipients. The stipends gave $2,900 for the recipient's time to pursue an independent project, and an additional $1,200 for the purchasing of software or computer accessories. At the conclusion of the summer work, a stipend recipient was expected to submit two copies of a final report to the dean of the Undergraduate School. Recipients were also expected to give a poster presentation at the fall technology fair.

Using funds from a Culpeper grant, a faculty member from religion developed a digital archive of slides from archeological excavations in Israel. In this same program, a computer science instructor explored the use of small robots in an artificial intelligence class.

The faculty seemed more receptive to the Culpeper grants than the CELI grants for a number of reasons. First, the stipend gave them the ability to obtain hardware and software without taxing their departmental budget. Furthermore, by working on technology projects over the summer, faculty members felt their normal semester duties were not encumbered, and this eliminated the need to find the adjunct coverage that was necessary for the CELI grants.

Copyright Policy and Faculty Response

Much effort has been expended by WFU to promote the adoption of technology by faculty. This is evident from the variety of programs that the university has implemented. With all of this support, faculty have come up with many innovative and original instructional materials and tools. Only recently has WFU addressed the issue of copyright regarding these technological works. It was felt that the policy for technological works should mimic the policy regarding all other intellectual works. Thus the ownership of these works resides solely with the author, except in a few well-defined cases such as "work for hire" scenarios (Committee on Information Technology, 2000).

It is also important to verify that WFU's efforts have been fruitful. Anecdotally we know that each of the programs discussed here has been successful to some degree. However, there is also evidence to support this from internal faculty surveys. These surveys indicate a rise in the use of technology by faculty in the past few years. For instance, the internal survey in 1995 reported that 34% of respondents never used technology in any aspect of their teaching (Office of Institutional Research, 1996). That number decreased to 13% in the 1998 survey (Office of Institutional Research, 1998), and to 3% in 2001 (Office of Institutional Research, 2001) (see Figure 1). Further, in the 2001 survey, 87% of respondents reported that the computer initiatives had "at least somewhat" changed the nature of their approach to teaching.

There was also a rise in the use of computers for classroom presentations, from 45% reporting some use in 1996, to 63% in 1998, to almost 80% in 2001. (See Figure 2.) These reports also indicate that the computer initiatives increased the faculty's communication with students between 1998 and 2001—a question not even asked on the 1996 survey. No doubt the various initiatives have been successful at WFU, and incentives for WFU faculty will continue to increase, allowing future exploration of technology use in the classroom.


As discussed here, WFU has tried and continues to use different approaches to promote faculty adoption of technology. There is no magic bullet that is 100% effective, but each approach has had some success because each approach has touched different segments of the faculty. In our experience, we have noticed that faculty members have been more receptive to the ACSs and to the Culpeper grants. They like the ACSs program because they like the idea of having a technology person on hand in their departments and having this help readily accessible; they do not have to seek out technological help in a different division or building. Further, faculty members were more receptive to the Culpeper grants than to CELI because the setup better fitted their schedules. By working on their projects over the summer, faculty members did not experience difficulty in their regular semester responsibilities, and there was not the added complication of finding adjuncts to cover courses during the semester. One thing that is important to keep in mind is that regardless of how you are promoting technology, as faculty members see their colleagues using technology they become more open to trying new things. Of course different institutions have different circumstances; therefore, it will always be necessary to use more than one approach to maximize faculty willingness to use technology.

[Editors note: This paper is modified from a presentation at the 2002 Stop Surfing Start Teaching conference in Myrtle Beach, S.C.]


Committee on Information Technology. (2000). Copyright Policy. Retrieved September 18, 2002, from

Cox, K. P. (1999). Grant supports Wake Forest adoption of technology. Retrieved June 27, 2002, from

Office of Institutional Research. (1996). In-house faculty survey results 1995. Winston-Salem, NC: Wake Forest University. Retrieved September 16, 2002, from

Office of Institutional Research. (1998). In-house faculty survey results 1998. Winston-Salem, NC: Wake Forest University. Retrieved September 16, 2002, from

Office of Institutional Research. (2001). In-house faculty survey results 2001. Winston-Salem, NC: Wake Forest University. Retrieved September 16, 2002, from

Wake Forest University. (1995). Plan for the class of 2002: Final report of the program planning committee. Winston-Salem, NC: Wake Forest University.

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