By Nicole Barbaro, Senior Communications Content Manager, WGU Labs
Successful EdTech research in the classroom requires faculty adoption; without their support the research can fail. If the primary EdTech users – faculty – aren’t actually using a product, there is no way for EdTech companies to evaluate how their tech is impacting students’ experience.
So what can EdTech leaders do to help support faculty participation in EdTech research?
To find out, WGU Labs conducted a focus group session with faculty from our Research Advisory Council, going directly to the source to identify what they need to fully participate in EdTech research in their own classrooms. Based on our findings, EdTech companies should do these four things when working with faculty to do research:
- Have dedicated support staff for faculty and their students
- Hire prior faculty as UX researchers
- Understand faculty course planning schedules
- Leverage faculty networks to boost participation
Have Dedicated Staff for Faculty and Their Students
Implementing new EdTech into a course is difficult. When we spoke with faculty they communicated the need for EdTech companies to provide support for them during the implementation process. Faculty must find dedicated time to learning how to best use EdTech in a way that will add value to their pedagogy and their students’ learning experience. But when problems arise during integrating the product within their course, or they need assistance on how to best use the product, experts at the company need to be both readily available and easy to contact.
Faculty also require support for their students. Part of faculty hesitation to use EdTech in courses arise from faculty not having the expertise to help students through EdTech issues. Companies that can provide in-depth and on-demand support during “non-business hours” will have a leg up on the competition for winning over faculty.
Hire Prior Faculty as UX Researchers
It’s difficult to understate the importance of having staff within edtech companies that have a direct line to the classroom. There are a great deal of faculty that are looking to make a career transition, and companies shouldn’t ignore these candidates with non-traditional credentials in EdTech. Faculty’s experience in the classroom – designing courses, working with students, understanding challenges edtech products must surmount – is highly valuable job experience that is difficult to find in a traditional tech career path.
Faculty have a lot to offer EdTech companies, from research expertise, instructional design, and needs assessment of both faculty and students who are using EdTech products.
Understand Faculty Course Planning Schedules
Faculty are often thinking about course design and needs long before they craft their syllabus. When EdTech companies are working with administrators to launch a new product, the goal should be to cause as little disruption to course planning as possible for faculty.
It may be worth prioritizing the fall semester for EdTech research, rather than the spring semester. January start dates are busy and faculty should have the full holiday break to, well, take a break. The fall semester allows for greater lead time that faculty can use to plan for the semester and better integrate the new product effectively in their course.
Leverage Faculty Networks to Boost Participation
Faculty have trusted social networks from which they learn about new EdTech and best teaching practices. Understanding that faculty trust these networks to communicate opportunities provides an actionable approach to gain buy-in from faculty.
Identify early adopters of EdTech on the faculty that are highly motivated to participate in research opportunities. These EdTech leaders can spread the word about EdTech research opportunities among their peers. Faculty get too many offers and emails to keep up with, so they are most likely to respond to EdTech research opportunities from someone they know and trust.
Pedagogical EdTech products can have a positive impact on students’ classroom experience, but gaining faculty support for EdTech evaluation research is crucial to have a real impact. Thoughtful planning and design by EdTech companies can make for successful EdTech implementation and evaluation.
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