How to Successfully Adopt New Technology in Higher Education

We’re all drowning in logins. So how do you get professors and students excited about another login? How do administrators get faculty and students to successfully adopt new technology in higher education

That’s the very question Kelly Hodges asked herself as a Specialist in Curriculum Development at Michigan State University’s College of Education. “We’ve got lots of tools that people log into at MSU’s College of Education, so another tool might send people over the edge,” explains Hodges. 

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Facing such odds, Hodges devised a strategy that worked. Taking a leaf out of her book, here’s a model for administrators to successfully adopt new technology in higher education

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1. Start With a Small Pilot in the Spring 

The key is to start small. In the past, MSU’s College of Education implemented new technology by purchasing 200 licenses and telling faculty the new technology was available. This strategy led to poor student and faculty adoption. 

Seeing this implementation plan wasn’t working, Hodges devised a new plan in 2018 while testing out a new technology for video feedback, GoReact

With GoReact, Hodges set up a small pilot during the spring semester. It was so small that the pilot only included two people: a faculty member and an assistant graduate student. 

2. Evaluate the Technology 

Doing a small pilot program in the Spring is the perfect way to really evaluate new technology in higher education. In fact, when Hodges started this pilot program with GoReact, MSU’s College of Education had been searching the market options for video feedback technology for three years!

The Spring pilot program with GoReact in 2018 let Kelly Hodges know that they had finally found the right technology. Hodges explained, “nothing was as powerful, as intuitive, and as inexpensive as GoReact . . . . That one pilot convinced us that if we got GoReact in front of people, they’d quickly see the power of it.” 

3. Define an Intermediate Scope

The next step is to get it out in front of people—but don’t make the crowd too big. Instead of expanding from a small pilot to the entire college, plan an intermediate scope. 

Hodges knew the importance of setting an intermediate scope. That’s why she only assigned GoReact to fourth year students in the elementary program for GoReact. This included about 200 hundred students enrolled in nine sections. And because all the sections were from the same course sequence, faculty leadership defined and built major tasks and projects with GoReact across the year. 

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Remember, Keep it Small 

As with any promising new technology, you’ll see a lot of useful applications. In fact, Hodges immediately knew GoReact would be useful for students in the final full-time internship year. While you can see the potential, it’s important to keep it intermediate.

Select the group with the greatest need for the new technology 

Although fifth-year students could benefit by using GoReact, the University supervisors in the fifth year could do more as far as classroom observations. “But the fourth year experience for students was spending four hours a week in a school, and no one ever saw it except for the mentor,” explained Hodges. “We had no idea what was going on out there, so we focused on just that fourth year, and just the elementary part of the program.”

technology in higher education

4. Create a Program Directive 

Perhaps one of the most common sticking points when it comes to successfully adopting new technology in higher education. And that’s exactly what Hodges had observed. In the past when the College of Education bought 200 licenses, not many faculty bothered with the new technology because of the startup cost of figuring it out. 

And Kelly Hodges admitted, “I’ll take credit for this next step.” She recommended a little push—a program directive: “We made a rule in the program, starting in 2017 and 2018, that every teacher candidate in the fourth or fifth year of the program must do at least one video per semester.”

This directive nudged faculty to use the technology and tackle the accompanying hurdles—like permissions forms. 

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The Secret: Let Instructors See the Problem

A directive also helps faculty experience the problem you’re trying to solve. This point by Hodges was poignant: 

“We needed to establish with the faculty that there’s a problem with the current system. Because if we start buying things and people don’t understand what problems it helps solve, they won’t use the new technology.” 

In other words, with the directive, some of the faculty had access to GoReact and some didn’t. That meant some had to use the existing technologies on campus: Google Drive, Kaltura Mediaspace, uploading video directly to the LMS (Brightspace by D2L), or the assessment management system (Via by Watermark). 

The key is that all of these options had hurdles like permissions forms and learning the steps. But by giving the directive during the intermediate pilot, MSU built-in comparison with GoReact. It added GoReact’s value over other options.

5. Effective Training 

To remove friction for faculty, provide the necessary training. That’s why Hodges set up training with all faculty and instructors when they implemented the intermediate scope with GoReact. 

What really sold the new technology was the well-placed timing of the training. She planned a training for instructors a couple of weeks into the semester. This allowed them to see how the main assignment of their course could benefit from this new technology. Hodges recalled, “By the end of that one-hour training, people had set up a course, set up an activity, and started putting things in it.”

Easy-to-use technology is also helpful. And that was the case with GoReact. Hodges told me that “I had one faculty member say, ‘This is the first piece of educational technology that has actually made my life easier.’” 

technology in higher education

6. Experiment with Small Groups

While you’re working on an intermediate application of a new technology in higher education, also think about the future. Experiment! 

In addition to the fourth year students doing their mentorship class, Hodges gave a few more faculty members accounts with GoReact so they could experiment applying the technology to different courses. These experiments helped her find the most promising next steps in expanding GoReact in the College of Education. 

A Success Adoption of New Technology

MSU’s College of Education just completed the intermediate scope of implementing GoReact at the end of the spring semester in 2019. While Hodges views this year as an intermediate pilot, she knows she’s succeeded because of the glowing reports from faculty and graduate students using GoReact. Another marker of success is the fact that faculty in the secondary program and in other years of the program are already asking her, “When do we get to use GoReact?”

It takes a careful strategy to successfully adopt new technology in higher education. But it can be done. Click To Tweet

As Kelly Hodges story illustrates, it takes a careful strategy to successfully adopt new technology in higher education. But it can be done. Just start small, be patient finding the right technology, give faculty a nudge with a program directive, expand use incrementally, and provide proper training. If you do these things, you’ll also have faculty impatiently waiting to use new technology.  

If you found this article helpful, you should also read How to Guarantee Success Adopting New Tech on Campus.

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