Draft Report and Recommendations from ACPA’s Task Force on Digital Technology

The following post originally appeared on the ACPA Digital Task Force’s website.  I have been proud to serve alongside some amazing colleagues on the Task Force this year and the following represents the initial draft report of the group.  Please consider giving your feedback on the original post so we can improve it.

Video from ACPA Video On Demand

by Ed Cabellon and Tony Doody, Co-Chairs of the ACPA Presidential Task Force on Digital Technology

On behalf of the entire ACPA Digital Task Force, we are pleased to share with you all our draft report document, featuring our introduction and emergent themes for higher education, and recommendations for ACPA. Before we submit our final report and recommendations to the ACPA Board of Governors, we are seeking your feedback, thoughts, and recommendations. It is important for college student educators across ACPA and all of higher education to provide perspective on things we may have missed, overstated, or understated in this initial draft.

Please keep in mind that our goal for the final report is to have it contain:

  1. Introduction
  2. Emergent Themes
  3. Recommendations for ACPA
  4. Limitations
  5. Recommendations for the Future of the ACPA Digital Task Force
  6. Executive Summary Reports from All Four Subgroups

If you would like to contribute your thoughts to this document, please do so in the “comments” section [on the original post here] by Tuesday, March 31st at 5pm PDT
. Our goals are to take this feedback and work with the Digital Task Force to create an executive summary report for review by the ACPA Board of Governors in April and complete the final report and recommendations by mid-June.

We are grateful to the Dr. Kent Porterfield, Dr. Cindi Love, Dr. Gavin Henning, Dr. Tricia Fechter, the ACPA Board of Governors, the ACPA International Office staff, and the members of the ACPA Digital Task Force who helped us get to this point. We are very excited for what is ahead!


Higher Education is at a crossroads in the digital age of the 21st century. Members of the academy at all levels utilize digital technology tools in the form of software applications, web 2.0 tools, social media, digital media tools, and programming languages to actualize the educational, social, and community missions unique to each institution. As leaders within higher education continue to explore and discover new ways to layer digital technology tools in their pedagogy, proven practices and emerging scholarship are laying a foundation for improvements in learning, communication, efficiency, and positive change. How will we continue to grow these efforts and the evolving knowledge base to best support our educational communities?

Digital Technology Task Force: Formation
The ACPA Presidential Task Force on Digital Technology was established in May of 2014 by Dr. Kent Porterfield, in conjunction with the ACPA Board of Governors and International Office. Ed Cabellon (Bridgewater State University) and Tony Doody (Rutgers University) were asked to co-chair the Task Force and charged to bring a group together to develop a multi-prong approach for educators. The co-chairs recruited a diverse cross section of scholars, practitioners, educators, administrators, and business partners to the Task Force and invited the core team to Washington, DC in July of 2014 for their initial meeting.

Digital Technology Task Force: Charge
Our primary objective was to advance the application of digital technology in higher education, informed by student affairs scholarship and practice, to further enhance ACPA’s influence and its role as a leader in higher education in the information age.

Digital Technology Task Force: Process
At the initial meeting in Washington, DC, the Task Force created charges for each of the four subgroups to actualize the overall vision created in Washington, DC. The four subgroups were named: “Proven Practices,” “Knowledge and Skills,” “Research and Scholarship,” and “Informed and Responsible Engagement with Social Technologies (IREST).”

Over a nine month period, the ACPA Task Force worked together to critically analyze the complex use of digital technologies in higher education. The Task Force created a centralized communication platform for the Task Force through its website in August of 2014 where each of the subgroups could share educational information related to their work. From there, the Task Force met monthly online as a large group and in subgroups to report out on updates using a video teleconferencing platform.  The initial findings were circulated through the Task Force and ACPA leadership for review before the group was able to meet during the 2015 ACPA Convention in Tampa, FL. Task Force members discussed and finalized recommendations specific to ACPA and highlight major themes emerging in higher education. The Task Force spent significant time and thoughtful debate on the content of the final report to identify six universal themes that focus on use of digital technology in all of higher education.

One specific charge of the Task Force was to modify Erik Qualman’s book, “What Happens In Vegas Stays on YouTube”, to a more college-focused version titled, “What Happens on Campus Stays on YouTube.” Updates were made, chapters were added, and the book was published eight months after the creation of the Task Force. The book was an important first step in creating a guide for students and educators to learn about digital and social technologies related to digital citizenship and identity development.

Executive Report: Purpose
The purpose of this executive report is to share the emergent themes for higher education leaders and to identify recommendations for how ACPA could lead in these areas.  Many of these recommendations will also be relevant for any higher education institution, organization, or association seeking to augment, expand, or get started in digital technology.  Upon review of the International Office and ACPA Governing Board and endorsement of specific measures, the Task Force will further recommend next steps for the future sustainability of digital and social technology efforts beyond the initial charges outlined nine months ago.


Synthesizing the potential impact of digital technology in higher education was a challenge welcomed by representatives of the ACPA Digital Task Force. Each member reviewed the subgroups’ draft reports, seeking to find commonality among the research and findings. The ACPA Digital Task Force leadership acknowledges the significant amount of time and energy that each subgroup invested, conducting meaningful research and assessment that yielded broad content with the following six emergent recommendation themes.

1. Integrate digital technologies that advance teaching and learning within higher education.
The Task Force recommends that higher education leaders establish academic partnerships that will advance digital teaching and learning. Interdisciplinary initiatives offer opportunities for research, scholarship and best practices to be inclusive of higher education administration, instructional technology, and research methodologies. A focus on integrating digital technology into teaching and learning beyond a cursory knowledge base forces the academy to examine its current practices and encourages those to discover modern approaches for the contemporary student.

2. Design training and development opportunities to enhance college student educators’ use of digital technologies.
The Task Force recommends that higher education leaders design training and development opportunities to enhance college student educators’ use of digital technologies. The time has come to centralize our collective knowledge bases and examine which digital technology practices have significance with regard to institutional type, including public, private, for-profit, four-year, two-year and those offering distance education options, including blended, hybrid, and online learning. Given the numerous, diverse pathways to a career in higher education in the digital age, college student educators require ongoing training to keep abreast of the shifting landscape.

3. Invest in the creation and dissemination of research and scholarship in digital technologies.
The Task Force recommends that higher education leaders invest greater time and resource toward the creation and dissemination of research and scholarship related to the impact of digital technologies on student learning, identity, and success. This growing discipline is worthy of its own standing within the research and scholarship community. Moreover, the academy must critically assess its delivery methods of current scholarship and how it may evolve to address the complexities and opportunities of the digital age.

4. Develop the infrastructure and resources appropriate to ensure sustainability and relevance in digital technologies.
The Task Force recommends that higher education leaders develop the infrastructure and resources appropriate to ensure sustainability and relevance in digital technologies. Given the pervasiveness and ubiquity of digital technology across the academy, organizational leadership must consider how digital technology skills and responsibilities are represented in all higher education job descriptions as well as in the leadership of the organization. This includes a movement towards dedicated staff division and cabinet leadership who have a strong fluency in digital technology in a higher education environment, with the ability to educate, guide, and inspire others. The influence of these leaders may be instrumental in advocating for necessary resources that support teaching and learning in the digital age.

5. Establish and grow strategic collaborations and partnerships to capitalize on existing resources for higher education.
The Task Force recommends that higher education leaders establish and grow strategic collaborations and partnerships to capitalize on existing resources for higher education. Reaching out to other higher education associations and organizations is necessary to gain an inclusive perspective on how digital technologies broadly affect the academy. A consortium of diverse perspectives across multiple organizations may be needed for more universal higher education adoption. As organizations across higher education overextend its financial and human capital, leadership must create meaningful opportunities for sustained collaborations.

6. Ensure equal opportunity to the resources necessary for full engagement with digital technologies.
The Task Force recommends that higher education leaders ensure access to the tools necessary for full engagement with digital technologies. The academy must ensure that all educators and students have access to high-speed internet while matriculated; that digital communication and technology tools are inclusive of all people; and that policies and guidelines reflect principles of social justice that educate and inspire all who engage in person and online.


ACPA is uniquely positioned to lead higher education in digital technology use both in and out of the classroom. ACPA members are interested and currently engaging in research, scholarship and best practices surrounding digital technology within student affairs and higher education. ACPA has the opportunity to work with constituent groups of administrators, faculty and students to disseminate knowledge related to digital learning and technology.

The Task Force’s emergent themes are broadly written to support the complex nature of higher education institutions in the 21st century. Yet, as ACPA considers how it will leverage its resources, both human and capital, to actualize these themes, the Task Force respectfully submits these nine recommendations with one important caveat–the Board and International Office must dedicate the necessary infrastructure. It is our firm conviction that without the adequate support and resources, members alone will not be able to sustain and advance these recommendations.


  1. Develop THREE publications over the next 18 months focused on practice and scholarship related to digital technology for use by practitioners and scholars.
    – Develop and publish an educator/facilitator companion guide for “What Happens on Campus Stays On YouTube.”  (This guide is critical to actualizing digital technology practices on college campuses and could frame the content for both curricular and cocurricular environments.)
    – Develop and publish an educator/facilitator guide for the proposed ACPA/NASPA “Technology Competency.” (This guide will be critical to helping educators actualize the new competency on their campuses.)
    – Publish a one-time special Journal of College Student Development (JCSD) issue related to digital technology to encourage new empirical work. (Accelerate the publication window to ensure content keeps pace with rapid pace of research and technology.)
  2. Create a high-quality, online, nimble publication that features innovative content related to how the use of digital technologies affect student learning, identity, and success.
    – Recommended content includes peer reviewed journal articles, essays related to promising practices, videos and podcasts of new digital technology work, responses to recently published work, information graphics, and discussion spaces to promote interaction. The use of Open Journal Systems (OJS) from the Public Knowledge Project is suggested as a versatile, cost-effective solution.
  3. Encourage a robust research agenda about digital technologies, including how to inspire the culture of research that encourages faculty and future doctoral students to engage in this research and explore new methodologies.
    – Catalyze a growing research agenda through incentives, such as grants through the ACPA Foundation, to develop new scholarship as identified in the task force research agenda.
    – Construct a modern platform for content development and curation, including a potential digital repository/clearinghouse for all ACPA areas and commissions (e.g. NACADA Clearinghouse).
    – Foster partnerships with other associations and researchers that are developing similar scholarship.


  1. Create digital technology teaching modules that can be infused into (packaged) curriculums throughout higher education.
    – Partner with key graduate level faculty from higher education (or related) programs to discover what digital teaching modules could lay the foundation for future implementation. Begin with small pilot programs across various in-person, blended, and online programs.
    – Connect technological competencies in the classroom with effective global citizenship.
    – Develop a rubric that could naturally connect with leadership, management, and cultural learning outcomes that may inspire faculty to incorporate into their pedagogy.
  2. Identify key higher education associations, organizations, business partners, authors, scholars, researchers and change agents to strategically partner with.
    – Begin with associations such as EDUCAUSE, Online Learning Consortium, WCET, SXSWedu, Council for the Advancement of Higher Education Programs (through ASHE).
    – Additionally, explore appropriate K-12 educational organizations and Centers for Teaching and Learning groups to discover bridge programs and joint education ventures to begin teaching digital and social technology earlier in the educational process.
    – Grow strategic business partnerships in digital technology (e.g. Erik Qualman and mStoner).
    – Include these partners as potential members on future iterations of ACPA digital initiatives.


  1. Create two new positions, one for the International Office (IO) and one for the Governing Board, fluent in digital and social technologies.
    – The new IO staff member could be focused on information management, assessment, and digital communication, publications, and marketing.
    – The new Governing Board member would be someone from the ACPA membership that could provide knowledge, expertise, and perspective around digital technologies. Alternately, the new IO staff person could serve in this role as an ex-officio member.
    – It is important to note that this/these person(s) would need to be fluent and not just literate in digital and social technologies. If ACPA wants to achieve a heightened level of sophistication, fluency is critical.
  2. Create an annual assessment infrastructure for digital technology use.
    – Develop and disseminate an organization-wide audit to identify strengths, weaknesses, trends, and opportunities for growth and success in digital technology and communication through focus groups, surveys, and qualitative interviews with membership and international office staff.
    – Create a new digital technology rubric based on new ACPA/NASPA Technology competency.
  3. Create and lead a new Digital Technology Consortium in Education and invite all to the table for broader conversations and inclusivity on broad policy, program, and infrastructure initiatives.
    – This may be how the ACPA Digital Task Force evolves from its current form. Additionally, ACPA must consider creating a digital technology implementation team to actualize the various approved projects, led by a member of the IO central office or designee.
  4. Thoughtfully include access and social justice language within all of its digital technology and social communication policies, practices, training and resources.
    – ACPA should conduct an assessment of all digital technology publications, policies, and procedures to ensure accessibility and social justice language is included.
    – Develop a higher education guide informing recommended practices towards intentional access and inclusion related to digital technology and social communication.
    – Develop initiatives and programs that are flexible enough to accommodate as wide a range of individuals as possible. Specific examples include creating  accessible web pages; captioning and/or narrating all videos; and providing sign language interpreters where appropriate.

We hope this initial draft gives some insights into our work these last nine months. Thanks so much for your thoughtful feedback, in advance, and we look forward to sharing our final report and recommendations in June!

{addendum} Send Ed and/or Tony your thoughts directly if you would rather provide feedback via email.

What are your initial thoughts on this report? What pieces are we missing or need more explanation and/or development? Would you structure the report in this or some other way?

Leave comments and feedback on the original post here.

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