Get Users on Board
- By Linda L. Briggs
10 ways to smooth a new technology introduction on campus and get buy-in from faculty and students.
INTRODUCING NEW TECHNOLOGIES to faculty, staff, and students can be a challenge—many are simply too busy or don't see the point of mastering yet another tool. At San Diego State University (CA), Instructional Technology Services Director James Frazee and Associate Director of Instructional Technology Services Jim Julius have developed a number of techniques that their department has used to successfully bring new technology into SDSU learning environments.
Move quickly, before preferences are staked out. Deciding on a technology standard early can help avoid cases of faculty who have already settled on a favorite tool and are reluctant to change.
Include students, faculty, and staff in the technology selection process. Regardless of the product, it's important to consult with representatives of everyone who will use the tool.
Do the product research. Early in the process, spend time on the phone to find out what other schools are doing and saying about the technology at hand. Next, pull together a faculty focus group to rank the list of criteria you have gathered. Usually, this group will add features you overlook.
Save time by skipping the pilot if you can. Some pilots take lots of time, so consider something quicker. You may be able to organize presentations around a number of products, and gather feedback directly from interested faculty users.
Get creative to gather feedback. It's not easy to convince faculty or students to take the time to test a product and offer feedback, or to participate in focus groups or other information-gathering forums. Instead, why not go directly to the classroom, to gather student feedback in real time?
Take your input to the vendor. Whatever students (or other focus group users) say about the product at hand, take these reviews to the vendor to provide bargaining power in negotiations.
Don't forget integration issues. Once you've selected a product, remember the next step: integration. Be sure you discuss with vendors how their product will integrate with course management and other legacy systems.
Keep the initial group of adopters small. When early adopter numbers are small, users can get plenty of help from IT staff. They then pass on their positive experiences, enthusiastically talking up the product to others, sharing best practices, tips, and surprises with their peers.
Be ready to transition support when you reach a tipping point in adoption. As the technology becomes adopted more extensively, think about moving users to a type of support that is less hands-on and intensive for IT staff. At SDSU, technologists usually set up simple e-mail listservs to handle these issues. IT support staff monitor the list, but don't often have to interject; faculty members support each other.
Remember your goal. If the objective is student adoption, it doesn't matter how many faculty have embraced the technology. A tiny percentage of faculty using a technology can still impact a huge percentage of students.
This article, "10 Tips for Injecting New Technology Into Your Campus", ran on our website on March 26, 2008.