Campuses often buy edtech software on the hopes of promised results. But low adoption and poor utilization by front-line educators too often lead to edtech failure.
6 min read
The Edtech Stakes Are High
Universities across the country drop big bucks on education technology tools.
Recent reports put 2018 edtech spending for U.S. higher education at $12.8 billion. That’s a bit more than the annual GDP of Sierra Leone—and unfortunately much of that money gets wasted. One study claimed “65 percent of student licenses were not used enough to meet any goals set by the product companies or school districts” (Daniel Stanhope, PhD, and Karl Rectanus, 2015).
Adoption of edtech promises to deliver lower costs, better results, and high-quality student outcomes. In reality, edtech is often difficult, expensive, and never fully adopted at all. How can organizations ensure they get the promised benefits? They start by understanding why edtech adoptions fall apart in the first place.
Why Does Edtech Adoption Fail?
There’s been some great research on what blocks edtech initiatives from success. Here are six of the most common reasons.
1. Seeing the Forest for the Trees
Debbi Morrison of Online Learning Insights says, “The transformative nature of technology offers tremendous opportunity to improve learning outcomes, improve access . . . yet as discussed it’s challenging to accomplish given the complexity of such an undertaking . . . Most institutions fail to recognize the complexity of introducing educational technology into the classroom and curriculum” (Morrison, 2014).
New tech may require training, significant IT support (even before students start using it), compliance with FERPA and other regulations, and the navigation of University policies that didn’t contemplate this kind of technology. If complexity can derail your implementation, then naturally the less complex the tech is, the easier it will be to implement successfully.
2. Who Moved My Cheese?
Change can be tough just for change’s sake.
In Countering Adoption Barriers for Edtech Entrepreneurs, Barbara Kurshan of the University of Pennsylvania writes, “Some teachers continue to teach in the same way they have taught for decades, which they believe to be the ‘tried and true’ methods. For these teachers, technology isn’t part of their paradigm” (Kurshan, 2015).
Before educators will be motivated to adopt new technology, “First, they must be convinced of the need for a different mode of teaching to understand the full potential of educational technology” (Moser, 2007).
“Teachers may not choose to explore innovative ways to integrate technology because they may not believe that it would improve student learning. Since few teachers, particularly veteran teachers, experienced or even observed, the use of technology during their own K-12 schooling, they may have preconceived ideas about how technology should be used to achieve student learning.” (Kurshan, 2015).
Overcoming simple human resistance to change can be a key to seeing the benefits provided by new technology.
3. Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks?
Innovative educators are embracing what can be done with new technology—but not every teacher is an innovator.
Many feel there is a lot of collective wisdom in traditional methods that may be threatened by the novelty of a new approach, no matter how promising. This hurdle might better be described as a lack of confidence in working with technology. Moser wrote, “Many faculty lack the necessary technical and pedagogical competencies to successfully integrate educational technology into their teaching” (Moser, 2007).
However, it can be shortsighted to simply chalk this hurdle up to inflexibility. Research indicates it may also be due to experience and thoughtfulness from veteran educators. Kurshan explains, “Findings indicate that teachers with higher levels of confidence and competence in using technology are more likely to integrate it into their teaching” (Kurshan, 2015).
4. Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day
The time commitment to get everyone on board and up to speed can also be a challenge. Some tools require a significant time commitment for users to gain proficiency, so judging a tool’s effectiveness too early can yield a false signal of adoption efficacy.
Even proven technology may require a heavy commitment of time and support from the institution. Time is needed for training, engaging support resources like IT and instructional designers, and the seasonality of the academic calendar.
Withholding proper support can spell disaster for new technology initiatives.
Kurshan writes, “With pressure to provide support for teachers on how to implement new standards and curricula, topics other than educational technology are often given priority during professional development time” (Kurshan, 2015).
Adopters often need to steel themselves for the fact that, according to Morrison, “Course development takes time, as does learning the skills needed for implementing new teaching practices and methods . . . [Edtech is] complicated, but not impossible” (Morrison, 2014).
5. Once Bitten, Twice Shy
Weathering false-starts can also undermine future efforts.
“If early adopters experience too many setbacks, their negative reporting may lead to skepticism among the early majority, who will be tentative in their adoption of technology . . . As a result of this process, early adopters and the early majority will abandon use of technology, and the late majority and laggards will not even start adopting it” (Moser, 2007).
Those early adopters are critical. During the early stages is when campuses are most likely to encounter technical problems, support issues, setup misfires, and other struggles.
It can be much less expensive to over-support early adopters who go on to become internal evangelists than to overcome the negative social proof of tech pioneers who were left unsupported. Initial bad experiences can keep others from trying.
6. Moving at the Speed of Trust
Misalignment between faculty and administrator goals can hinder adoption, and more importantly, trust.
Writing on Quora, educator Dawn Casey-Rowe opines,
“Schools have a process for buying or subscribing to anything, and more often than not it doesn’t come from the person who’s using it, it goes top down. So, you’ll find schools employ devices and platforms that teachers and students don’t want or can’t use, wasting money in the process while you might be on fire to get a certain device, app, or platform and not be able to cut through the red tape. Effective edtech has to have value, not be a bunch of cluttery apps and gadgets” (Casey-Rowe, 2016).
Most edtech buyers are faced with the question, we know this will be hard, but is it worth it?
As fatal as these six concepts can be for edtech adoption, addressing them makes it much more likely that your adoption will be successful. Ensuring the technology gets used can be the key to addressing all six.
Imagine If Utilization Was a Foregone Conclusion
Although not always possible, proven and even existing utilization can dramatically lower the threshold of successful edtech adoption.
Chirag Kulkarni says, “EdTech is one of the fastest growing and needed technology sectors to make our schools more competitive, give our teachers the resources to succeed, and students the ability to grow” (Kulkarni, 2016).
And I believe him. In fact, the edtech company I work for is one of those companies that typically has utilization on campus beforehand.
Most universities purchase GoReact after it’s already been in use in at least one department on campus. At a minimum, there’s a neighboring university where GoReact is being used.
What this means is that most of the six hurdles are already resolved before the buying discussion even happens:
- Complexity is already simplified.
- Very little change in educator behavior is required since they’re already using the tool and have adopted it in their course curricula.
- Teachers who are just learning GoReact have the benefit of their peers who are already up to speed.
- Time commitments are drastically reduced.
- And using faculty have already weathered any technical or support issues so new adopters get a more streamlined onboarding experience.
- Most importantly, trust is intact. Administrators are lending support to instructors for tools they already know they need rather than forcing them to adopt something only vetted from above.
If you’re considering adopting GoReact on your campus, we’d love to speak with you. You’ll find that the problems of utilization and adoption common elsewhere are reduced and even nonexistent with GoReact. Click below to request a free no-hassle demonstration: