by Nicole Barbaro, PhD, Sr. Communications Content Manager, WGU Labs
Successful EdTech research in the classroom requires faculty adoption; without their support the research can fail. If your primary EdTech users – your faculty – aren’t actually using a product, there is no way for administrative teams to evaluate how the EdTech impacted students’ experience.
So what can administrators do to 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, administrators should do these five things when forming an EdTech evaluation plan:
- Give faculty a voice in EdTech decisions
- Make time for faculty involvement
- Respect faculty course planning schedules
- Leverage faculty networks for communications
- Provide appropriate compensation
1-Give Faculty A Voice in EdTech Decisions
If faculty are your primary users of EdTech, you need to involve them in sourcing decisions. No one knows what they need more to teach their best and support student learning than faculty who are in the classrooms working directly with your students.
However, EdTech vendors typically sell directly to you, the administrators, not faculty. That means faculty are often not looped into the conversation until after deals are signed. It’s worth asking faculty annually (through trusted networks, see point 4) what their unmet pedagogical needs are when sourcing new EdTech deals. If faculty have a voice in these institution-level decisions, they may also be more inclined to adopt and champion EdTech solutions, resulting in a more successful implementation.
2-Make Time for Faculty Involvement
You know your faculty members are busy. They must make time for service, and perhaps research, in addition to their teaching responsibilities. Part-time faculty often have other full-time work they are engaged with as well. These limitations mean that faculty have little to no additional time to devote to participation in EdTech research, which can involve sitting for user interviews, completing surveys, implementing a product into their course plans, or assisting with design and analysis.
According to our focus group, faculty had two suggestions to provide the needed time to participate in the research process.
One option is to offer faculty a reduced course load for a semester in exchange for working with EdTech vendors and administrative project teams. This available time would then be reallocated to integrating the EdTech product into their existing course plans, ensuring adequate training for themselves and their students, and completing interviews and other research requirements.
Alternatively, for less intensive research plans, teaching assistants could be provided to faculty to help relieve the additional tasks associated with participating in EdTech research. The teaching assistants could support students in using the new product, track data, and support the faculty in other ways as needed depending on the product.
3-Respect Faculty Course Planning
Faculty are often thinking about course design and needs long before they craft their syllabus. Administrators’ goal should be to cause as little disruption to course planning as possible when designing EdTech evaluation plans. One option is to involve faculty in research who are teaching many sections of the same course during the term. The “one course, many sections” model can be more efficient for faculty to integrate a product in one or all of their courses.
It may also 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 product in their course.
4-Leverage Faculty Social Networks for Communications
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 and pedagogical innovators on your faculty that are highly motivated to participate in research opportunities. These EdTech leaders can spread the word about EdTech research opportunities among the faculty. Other trusted sources, such as your campus teaching and learning center, can also be a good channel for communicating opportunities and increasing faculty participation.
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.
5-Provide Appropriate Compensation
Would you sit for an hour long interview with an EdTech company with no compensation? Probably not. And faculty won’t either. Faculty should be appropriately compensated for their participation in research.
Our College Innovation Network team at WGU Labs engages faculty across the country to participate in surveys and interviews about their experiences with online learning and EdTech. For a 15 minute survey, we offer a $25 gift card; a 30 minute video interview offers a $40 gift card.
The scope of the EdTech research will determine what compensation is appropriate. For intensive projects, the compensation may be a reduced course load to reallocate that time for research engagement (see point 1). For one-time surveys or interviews, compensation may be a gift card or other monetary exchange.
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 by administrative project teams and addressing faculty needs can make for successful EdTech implementation and evaluation.
The College Innovation Network at WGU Labs is dedicated to supporting institutions throughout the full life cycle of EdTech implementation, from needs identification to research evaluation. Interested in joining? Find out more: https://wgulabs.org/cin-institutions/