What does your university run on?
No, I’m not talking about coffee or donuts; I’m talking about educational technology.
Do you realize how many different software and hardware tools power your institution’s daily operations?
You may have even gone so far as to covet new EdTech products on the market or those employed at other institutions. Thinking about your own institution, you may have wondered who selected these tools and why. When serving or pertaining to your area, you probably wish your perspective and needs would’ve been taken into consideration.
I asked what your institution runs on to surface an underlying point: Many people do not understand the purpose of EdTech in their work. There must be a purpose — as technology is a tool, not a solution or a strategy unto itself.
To that end, we must know our purposes and needs, as well as all the possible uses for tools at our disposal. Yet, even if you’re envious of other institutions and their tools, you’ve surely overlooked features and usages for the tool you do have.
What follows are some considerations to fully leverage EdTech. Your institution made the investment, so you should look to get the most from these tools and their resources.
10 Tips for Tech
While these don’t have to be tackled in order, they are placed in somewhat of a progressive sequence from implementation to renewal.
1. Planning for start-up and upkeep
Make sure you are not only set up with the tool, but that you also have a maintenance plan for upkeep related to access and role changes, new users, and usage. Revisit this plan whenever people need a refresher on it or when new features become available. Be sure to make the plan clear and collaborate with all invested staff (and students!) when establishing it.
2. Read the resources
Explore your tool or its website for FAQs, troubleshooting resources, tutorials, and practice or field-related topics available for passive digestion. Keep an eye on the company’s social media accounts, as new resources may be announced there.
When you find resources that are helpful, share and promote them with your colleagues. Not everyone on your campus will take the time to find these resources on their own, but they’ll surely appreciate them.
3. Embed the elements
To help promote the tool and ensure that it gets used, you should formally include it in your departmental and institutional processes and practices.
This may include creating institution-specific resources on the tool or adopting the resources provided by the EdTech company. Be sure to mention it in any training sessions or presentations you offer on institutional procedures and best practices.
4. Participate in professional development
Take advantage of any webinars and presentations offered by the tool’s software provider. Use these sessions for building capacity, as well as in easing the burden to create internal resources when topics align.
And remember to ask the organization follow-up questions, as well as advice on who should attend the webinars. For example, they might offer great resources for students — or even be inspired to create something new — based on your feedback.
5. Engage the consultants
Don’t be shy in asking for advice, perspective, or recommendations from the professionals at the tool’s headquarters. They’ll know the spaces in which the tool could be used.
Plus, they’ve also seen successful practices utilized at other institutions using the same technology. They may even be former student affairs professionals themselves, and thus, truly understand the challenges you face.
6. Update utilization
As familiarity with tools increase, capacity grows, and new features become available, don’t be afraid to use tools in new ways. Look for efficiencies or advancements to reflect upon where you are or where you want to be in your practice.
Check on what’s possible with the tools you already have before seeking out yet another tool. Chances are, if you’ve found a process to be overly complex or messy, an EdTech company has developed — or is working to develop — a digital solution.
7. Navigate the network
Seek out, share, and learn from other member institutions and their practices. There can be great opportunities for collaboration and collegiality here, not to mention potential added benefits of data or example sharing facilitated by the software provider.
Conferences are great places for networking in this way, especially as professionals may present on their usage of EdTech. Social media can also be valuable in connecting with similar institutions located far away.
8. Share more than swag
Just as you may benefit from other in-network institutions, you should be a good ambassador for the tools that benefit you. Talk about the benefits and ways in which these tools aid your work with other people who may be facing the same challenges. These people may be at other institutions or at your own. Remember, your coworkers and students may not understand EdTech tools and their value as well as you do.
9. Consider your contract
As new features or tools become available, as well as when pricing changes occur, think about whether you are getting the most value for what you are paying.
Also, be sure you are leveraging all aspects of your contract and what it has to offer. Continually review your contract to see if there’s any feature or service you haven’t (yet) taken advantage of.
10. Remember your reasons
This may be part of the previous tip, but you should always maintain a perspective of your needs. How is your tech going to help?
What are you hoping to accomplish?
Go beyond “to improve my work” or “to support students” as your answer. Think more specifically and collaborate with your coworkers to create a shared vision, which ideally you’ll write out and refer to frequently.
And be sure to continually reassess your situation given evolution in campus culture or changes in the higher education landscape.
You likely are doing some of these, but not all of them.
As a former employee of an EdTech company, I know that far too many institutions are not fully leveraging the resources available to them through such tools and partnerships.
As such, don’t hesitate to ask questions. Don’t underestimate the technical and practical knowledge of EdTech staff, either. Treat the company as a partner, and think strategically about what you can accomplish together. They’ll be excited about your engagement and willing to devote resources to best meet your needs.
I hope you found these tips valuable. More importantly, I hope you can fully leverage the resources at your disposal to make your work easier and resourceful.