Implementation is one of the most underestimated, yet crucial steps in ensuring the effectiveness of education technology in the classroom. As many education leaders know, there's a lot of room for error when it comes to successful education technology implementation. In order to avoid those pitfalls, there is a series of critical steps that must be taken to ensure this process ultimately provides value by making the end user's job easier, not more difficult.
Despite the best intentions and planning, education technology implementations often do not deliver the anticipated value. The three large predictors that an implementation failure include: the lack to review the school's entire edtech ecosystem, such as buying computers without considering software licensing or network load; failing to have a complimentary change management program in place that involves all appropriate stakeholders, such as the managers and users of the technology; and not critically reviewing implementation outcomes, continuously tweaking the process to specifically shape it to address unmet needs.
In my experience, there are a few critical steps that predict a successful EdTech implementation. The best practices required for smooth and intuitive implementation are: defining expectations and success metrics, using a single capable vendor, and ensuring voices of all stakeholders are considered prior to selecting, purchasing, installing and employing the technology.
What are the Key Implementation Steps, Considerations and Best Practices?
Every decision maker and stakeholder involved has a role in the implementation process and therefore, the primary consideration for education technology companies should always be to understand and prioritize the pedagogy outcomes of the process. With an understanding of the various student, teacher and district needs, we can better grasp the ways the technology will be utilized as well as how student success and desired outcomes will be measured.
A well-designed implementation must incorporate several key elements. Research is required to determine the methodology for measuring success. It's important to begin by considering the desired outcomes of the implementation, keeping in mind how the end users will experience and engage with the technology.
Clearly articulating the vision, requirements, and expectations of what the technology is going to deliver to the end users with the leadership team is essential as it establishes realistic, unified goals and sets the program up for success in the long-run. Using a single vendor is important because it creates one point of accountability and a person or team who can project manage the deployment o f the technology, whether that be software or hardware or network infrastructure. The vendor can also provide a support system should any issues arise. Ensure a proper change management process is in place where the end-users and stakeholders are involved from the beginning so that their needs are considered prior to implementation. This is key because when it comes to employing the solution, this step creates a stakeholder group that's familiar and on board with the goals and anticipated outcomes of the implementation.
Measuring Success and the Cost of Implementation Gone Wrong
The root of accurately measuring implementation impact, and overall success is three-fold: first, decide what you want to do, then choose what criteria will be used to measure success, and decide the corresponding metrics associated with positive outcomes. This up-front planning will highlight aspects of the implementation process that may not have been considered previously, such as data gathering, general training, and support for creating lesson plans.
When schools' technology investments don't result in successful adoption, the school loses money, time and the opportunity to drive better learning outcomes in students. To learn why some schools successfully transform teaching and learning with technology SMART Technologies Inc. partnered with researchers to initiate the global study, "Teaching, Technology and Learning: Understanding the Interconnection." According to the findings, successful schools prioritize pedagogy, software and hardware - in that order - and are supported by effective implementation planning. The real cost of ineffective technology implementations can be astronomical. The average school can avoid an additional $191,503 annually by implementing their technology effectively, based on avoiding costs of $370 per student in a school of 350 students.
Although the planning for EdTech implementation may seem simple, one of the most common hiccups is the solution not being critically analyzed to ensure the EdTech utilization is providing value to the end-user. For example, a computer without a network connection still holds value in its computing abilities, however, a similar device with a network connection has much greater value and just so happens to make someone's job much easier. Hence why the prerequisites for implementation are necessary to avoid procuring technology that does not provide a significant improvement in how the person does their work and ultimately finds success.
What the Future of Implementation Looks Like
When considering the system as a solution, it's likely we will see more people leveraging the broader existing ecosystem and associated standards such as the cloud, networking, and multiple devices, among others. Conceivably, the natural ecosystem will be utilized for everything from lessons to grading, generating overall student advancement. Reason being, technology that offers the most seamless integration and minimizes time-consuming customization saves time and is therefore preferable.
From a product development standpoint, it's important to capture the metrics and data that prove the solution is delivering results in a tangible way. EdTech vendors that prioritize pedagogy and positive education outcomes will likely yield more successful implementation results than their counterparts.
Successful technology implementation requires awareness of common industry pitfalls, considering expectations, meeting needs and establishing measurement processes with a forward-thinking perspective. New technologies should be intuitive and help users accomplish their goals. This is especially true with education technology, which requires seamless classroom and lesson plan integration to ensure the technology is near invisible to both teachers and students.
With a career in technology spanning over 20 years, Nicholas Svensson has garnered valuable experience during his tenure at various companies, including leading telecom and space hardware providers. As Vice President, Product Development of SMART Technologies, Nicholas has been leading cross-functional teams consisting of engineers, technologists and scientists to develop and launch numerous SMART products. Prior to his current role, he held various positions at SMART, including Vice President, Hardware, Vice President, Education Solutions and Vice President, Operations. Nicholas holds an undergraduate degree in applied physics from the University of Waterloo and a master's degree in System Design and Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.