3 Key Steps for Successful EdTech Implementation
If there's one thing that can be said of every learning institution from kindergarten and elementary schools to secondary schools and universities, it's that they are each unique. The only thing you can count on is that your institution is as unique as your community, and that means that what works for your neighbor may not work for you.
There are, however, certain aspects of edtech implementation that are the same across the board.
Click here to listen to two educational experts discuss the pros and cons of the main edtech implementation strategies.
For instance, when it comes to making a system-wide change like adding a new LMS, it's helpful to view implementation as a process, not an event. Adopting any new system requires a cultural shift for your instructors and staff, and this takes time. You'll need to change hearts, minds, and processes as well as teach new skills.
Also, getting started means defining what success looks like for your institution and then reverse engineering how to get there. This is not unlike backward design when developing curriculum—you can only develop your plan once you know your end goal.
Which are Better: Top-Down or Bottom-Up Implementations (Why Not Both?)
Before diving into the three key steps to a successful edtech implementation, it's important to address the two main approaches institutions often take.
There are two main strategies for implementing technologies and change in an institution—top-down and bottom-up. In the video below, Adam Larson, Director of Educational Strategies at Schoology, and Dr. Will Deyamport, Instructional Technologist at the Hattiesburg Public Schools in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, discuss the pros and cons of each.
In general, a top-down strategy means that leadership chooses the path that an institution will take. This allows administrators to use their expertise to define the vision for the institution, though it can be difficult to get buy-in if the vision doesn't address the real needs of the product's users. High-quality training and a willingness to modify systems over time will help make a top-down strategy successful.
By contrast, a bottom-up strategy focuses on building consensus among educators to change the culture of the institution to embrace the new edtech product. This typically involves instructors, students, and other community members in defining the goals and choosing the right technology to support that learning. Drawbacks to this approach include users who don't understand technology and those who are unwilling to make changes to their practice.
While Adam and Dr. Will draw out these two approaches as distinct strategies, they agree that you don't just have to choose one of these polar opposites. In fact, the best option is to try and harness the benefits of both. Any institutional change needs leadership from a core group, often at the top, but all stakeholders, particularly end-users, need to be incorporated into the process from the beginning.
3 Key Steps to Ensuring a Successful EdTech Implementation
Regardless of your implementation approach, there are a few key steps to follow to ensure you're on the right track for success.
Step 1: Define Success
The first thing is to decide what success looks like for your institution. Where do you want to be as an end result?
Be clear and concise in this statement of your goal and be sure to explain to instructors the reason behind the implementation to help them buy in to your vision. For ultimate clarity, focus on the usage specifics rather than broad, lofty language.
Step 2: Plan for Success
Simply purchasing an LMS for your institution doesn't guarantee success—you need a plan to make it happen. It's not enough to just hand over the keys and hope for the best.
Instead, be sure to provide ongoing professional development and on-demand learning so that instructors feel supported in their work. It's also crucial to continually evaluate how well your edtech is working—and how your instructors feel about it—so you can use that data to make adjustments along the way.
Step 3: Work Towards Success
For real success, all stakeholders need to understand their role in working toward your goal. Be sure that everyone understands how they can make the new system work and where they can go for support if needed.
It's also crucial to be responsive to feedback to refine your processes and adjust your priorities as needed. Listening to and incorporating feedback from stakeholders—along with sharing their successes—will help boost morale and increase buy-in as you move forward.
Avoid Common Errors
As a final consideration, I wanted to cover a few of the most common errors institutions make that you should keep in mind before and during your implementation process.
- Not Getting Input from Staff—If your instructors don't have a say in the technology you choose, you could make a costly error in purchasing a product that doesn't meet their needs. A great plan starts with information gathering.
- Seeing EdTech as an End Instead of a Means—Technology makes many things possible in the classroom, but it's only a tool. It can't be effective unless it's used in service of a larger instructional goal.
- Failure to Adapt to Real-World Challenges—Once a new program is in place, it's crucial to listen to instructor feedback and continue to make improvements. If something's not working exactly as planned, it's only a failure if you fail to modify it.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to student learning and the forward progress of your learning community, there's too much on the line to gloss over these three crucial steps for successful edtech implementation. When you take the time to set clear goals and delineate your rollout process in the way that works for your institution, you'll reap the rewards of better outcomes for your faculty, administration and—most importantly—your students.