September 7, 2005

Professors and the internet

Our associate Steve Jones and his colleague Camille Johnson-Yale have just released a fascinating report about how professors use the internet.

The work complements findings that Steve and his students wrote with Mary Madden for the Pew Internet Project in 2002 about how college students use the internet.

In the new report, Steve and Camille report on the findings of their survey of 2,316 U.S. faculty in 48 institutions. The sample is quite diverse and stacks up pretty well with the demographic breakdown of the overall U.S. professor population when it is compared to U.S. Department of Education data. However, it is not a random sample, nor should it be considered the same as a representetive sample of the entire faculty population of the country.

The report starts at an obvious point by noting that professors are heavy users of the internet, compared to the general population. The remainder of the report has positive and negative findings. On the up side, most faculty interviewed for this research say their use of the internet and email have increased their communication with students and improved their interactions. On the down side, many professors worry about the internet’s impact on plagiarism. Further, the professors in this sample reported mixed results about the internet’s impact on students’ overall performance.