May/June 2001 // Commentary
Technology's Impact on the Faculty: A Perspective
by Richard Hoffman
Note: This article was originally published in The Technology Source ( as: Richard Hoffman "Technology's Impact on the Faculty: A Perspective" The Technology Source, May/June 2001. Available online at The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

Last fall, my wife and I took our daughter to start her freshman year in college. Our car was loaded with the goods vital to freshmen: jeans, CDs, t-shirts, a favorite pillow, and a loaded PC—a long way from the portable typewriter I took to college.

If the technology available to students has changed dramatically in the last few decades, the same is true for the technology available to professors. With these changes have come fundamental changes in the way professors work. My first exposure to computers was in graduate school, with a mainframe that used punchcards fed to it by an operator. I got my first PC in 1988 after twelve years as a faculty member. The technologies I employ so readily in 2001 are mostly less than a decade old, and I have used them for about 40% of my professional life. As I describe below, these technologies have completely changed the way I approach my work.

Classroom Teaching

My PC is indispensable in preparing notes and spreadsheets for class use. Presentation software such as PowerPoint allows one to integrate text with graphs, charts, and pictures. It is a good way both to manage one's ideas (through notes pages) and to integrate other learning tools such as Internet examples or short video clips of the material all in one presentation without having to switch to another piece of software or apparatus. Furthermore, faculty can control the information to be presented in the form of individual words, sentences, and whole slides with the click of a mouse.

I took advantage of this technology in an assignment I gave involving a computer simulation (Keys & Wells, 1997), in which groups of students competed as multinational firms in four world markets. Each group made relevant company decisions and coped with tariffs and exchange rates. Using this simulation via the Internet, our class competed against other schools from Brazil, England, Pakistan, South Korea, and the United States. As indicated by their course comments, my students found these simulations to be useful. One student wrote that the simulation was "a great learning tool; I think every business student should use it." Another said it was "a good way to apply what we are learning in class."

The Internet's interactivity is especially suited to higher education (Katz, 2000). E-mail sends messages worldwide, library resources across the globe are widely accessible, and course Web sites disseminate information widely and rapidly. My students have found the Internet to be an excellent source of information for both short country reports (brief, two-minute oral presentations of the geographic, socio-cultural, economic, and political aspects of a country) and term projects. I have developed course Web sites (linked from my home page) that provide syllabi, instructions for assignments, exercises, reading materials, and links to other international business resources. These sites save paper, are readily accessible by students, and can be updated.

Last year, students in my graduate international business seminar gained hands-on experience with e-commerce by developing competing Web pages for a South Korean firm that was seeking to enter the U.S. market. When the firm evaluated the sites, though it found all of them to be useful, it picked the site with the simplest design as its basis for an English language Web site.

Similarly, a colleague of mine has used distance technology to hold joint class sessions with our partner school in France. The six-hour time difference, coupled with the unreliability of the technical connection, made such collaborations too difficult to use regularly. Nonetheless, it was a worthwhile experience for students, and such transnational courses are predicted to increase with technology improvements (Downes, 2000).

Textbook publishers have also embraced computer technology by providing PowerPoint slides of each chapter, course Web page services, exercises, and additional information all on their Web site. (See, for example, McGraw-Hill's Power Web and interactive Web exercises.) Another feature is computerized custom publishing, which allows faculty members to assemble their own texts with chapters, articles, and cases from the publisher's sources. Other companies design Web pages and provide platforms that faculty can use to place an entire course online, such as the International Center for Distance Learning or Blackboard.

Distance Teaching

Computer technology has also enabled me to teach at a distance. In the summer of 2000, I supervised twelve off-campus interns, largely using the Internet and e-mail. In 1999, I supervised a graduate student's independent field research in Chile, using e-mail for all correspondence, drafts of survey questionnaires, and interim and final reports. We used telephone conferences to handle more difficult issues. In the past, such "courses" were either avoided or involved much less faculty-student interaction.

Currently, a colleague and I are developing a completely Web-based graduate international business course (using WebCT) that provides course content, external links, testing and grading, and e-mail and chat. We will teach and manage the course totally online.

Technology has changed my teaching, and largely for the better. For one, it has forced me to organize more carefully the material I present in class. For another, students learn better when they interact with and process information rather than just hearing it (Sproull & Kiesler, 1991). In the past, I used overheads to present selected tables or figures. Now each module I teach is accompanied by a full set of slides that serve as an outline of the lecture as well as provide tables and figures. Students get verbal and visual stimuli to reinforce the material, and they can see how the material is organized. Cassady (1998) has shown that students find computer-aided lectures clearer and more interesting, or in the words of one of my students, "Visual aids keep the class awake and attentive." The use of technology also encourages higher learning (Burge, 1999). I now devote more class time to discussions, cases, and video exercises because I can present the material more efficiently. (Less time lecturing seems to be a relief to students who have never found me an inspiring orator!).

Students are more successful and satisfied with the electronic learning experience. Average test grades have increased 3%, and my course evaluations have improved 15% since I introduced these technologies.


Computer technology has been equally important to my research, particularly by making research materials more widely available. For example, my business school has launched a Global Programs Web site that provides resources on international business, and business schools abroad are developing searchable online databases, such as the World Competitiveness Yearbook compiled by Switzerland's International Institute for Management Development. Also, many university libraries make card catalogues and full-text articles available on their Web sites (one example is the library of Salisbury State). I now spend less time searching for literature and more time reading and interpreting it. My searches are less serendipitous and more comprehensive.

Computer technology also allows me to perform complicated statistical analysis. The two leading statistical analysis packages for academic research, SAS (Statistical Analysis System) and SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences)—powerful data manipulation, analysis, and presentation packagesare now available for the PC and no longer require sophisticated programming knowledge.

Technology is also transforming academic publishing. Today’s word processors can handle different styles, mathematical and statistical symbols, and routines such as tables and footnotes, meaning that authors find their writing time reduced. Many journals, such as the Journal of International Business Studies, require that authors submit an electronic and a hard copy of their final work. Manuscript revisions are more easily coordinated among co-authors using e-mails and faxes, and authors do not have to wait in the secretarial queue to produce a manuscript. MCB University Press has also instituted PeerNet, a peer-review system whereby reviewers receive manuscripts via e-mail and return their reviews on the Internet. I have participated in such a review and have found it to be effective. Furthermore, some publishers offer their journals online for a fee. MCB, for example, provides access to more than 100 journals. The use of technology in publishing will only accelerate as universities begin to require electronic doctoral theses (Moxley, 2000).


Service to the profession is more efficient with the use of technology. I can get conference information quickly and easily from the conference Web site. Contact with colleagues is easier via e-mail than with snail mail or by playing phone tag. Producing a review is simplified with word processing, and e-mail offers a faster turnaround time for the journal or conference.

Graduate students and faculty can now get online help in their research and professional activities. For example, in my field of international management, the Academy of International Business provides faculty placement, meeting notices, and a listserv on its site, and the Academy of Management's International Division provides information relevant to its members online.

Additionally, more than twenty federally-assisted Centers of International Business Education and Research (CIBER) have been established at major research universities around the United States. Each CIBER has its own mission. The one at Indiana University provides information on teaching methods and resources in international business. Purdue University's CIBER provides a clearing house for information on all of the CIBERs.


Technology has improved my teaching by forcing me to think about course material presentation, by providing more dynamic teaching materials, by enabling me to devote more time to class discussion, and by providing hands-on projects for students. Technology has also improved my research by speeding up my literature searches, which gives me more time to think about my projects, and by making statistical analysis easier. Professional information and services are more readily available and easier to perform using Web sites and e-mail.

Still, there have been some costs. Learning new technologies takes time and comes at the expense of other activities. One drawback to introducing new technologies in my teaching is that the extra time spent there slowed down my research activity. Maintenance time due to equipment and system breakdowns, or simply due to the need to update Web sites, is increased. My advice to the technologically challenged is to adopt new technologies incrementally, learning one new technology for one specific usesuch as picking a single lecture to convert to Power Point. It took me about three semesters to convert all of the lectures for one course this way. Be a follower rather than an early adopter of technology so that you will have colleagues to help you learn. For more complex technologies, such as Web courseware, work with a partner and wait until your university adopts a platform and offers training and support. These are the only circumstances under which I would consider developing an online course because such courses require more preparation prior to delivery (Brindle & Levesque, 2000).

Today's teaching and learning tools have expanded well beyond the use of voice, chalk, and pen. Professors of my generation will have to continue to adopt new technologies if we are to connect with my daughter's technologically savvy generation and those that follow.


Brindle, M., & Levesque, L. (2000). Bridging the gap: Challenges and prescriptions for interactive distance education. Journal of Management Education, 24(4), 445-457.

Burge, E. J. (1999). Using learning technologies: Ideas for keeping one's balance. Educational Technology, 1(6), 45-49.

Cassady, J. C. (1998). Student and instructor perceptions of the efficiency of computer-aided lectures in undergraduate university courses. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 19(2), 175-189.

Downes, S. (2000, May/June). The internet and transnational education. The Technology Source. Retrieved July 26, 2000 from the World Wide Web:

Katz, Y. J. (2000). The comparative suitability of three ICT distance learning methodologies for college level instruction. Education Media International, 37(1), 25-30.

Keys, J. B., & Wells, R. A. (1997). The multinational business game: A simuworld of global strategy, 4th ed. Little Rock, AR: Micro Business Publications.

Moxley, J. (2000, March/April). Academic scholarship in the digital age. The Technology Source. Retrieved August 21, 2000 from the World Wide Web:

Sproull, L., & Kiesler, S. (1991). Connections: New ways of working in the networked organization. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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