A guide to successfully adopting technology-based learning

Technology has compelling benefits to offer education but adopting it can present some challenges, says Elliot Gowans, VP at D2L

Technology has compelling benefits to offer education, but adopting it can present some challenges. It takes time to adjust to any new way of working, not least a transition that shifts teaching from a 100% paper and classroom-based delivery to a blend of traditionally and digitally delivered content. Yet, students respond well to virtual learning environments and in the long run they free up more of tutors’ time to spend interacting with students, so it’s worth planning to overcome any obstacles upfront.   

A virtual learning environment (VLE) administers online learning; it provides a flexible learning environment where courses can be built and content can be accessed. Students that use digital platforms to work, learn and play respond well to managing coursework, assignments and evaluations digitally.

In fact, not-for-profit organisation Jisc found that around seven in ten students believe that when technology is used by teaching staff, it enhances their learning experience. There is an opportunity to be met though, as despite student enthusiasm for technology-based learning, Jisc’s later research revealed that 40% of further education students and 46% of those in higher education would like their learning provider’s VLE to be used more by tutors.

Overcoming barriers

If student expectations are to be met and the benefits of technology gained, the challenges of effectively adopting a VLE must be overcome. These challenges include resistance to change, which is a very understandable concern. After all, educators are under continual time pressure, not only to deliver courses but also to prepare lessons and evaluate student progress.

It can be hard to see where the time to learn a new system and get it up and running will come from and while it’s true that time will be needed upfront to successfully adopt the technology, in the long run a VLE can make life easier for tutors; it can save them time on course delivery so it’s an investment worth making.

Change is a big deal and most people are naturally reticent about it. Add to this the reluctance of some to engage with technology, and a VLE can seem a daunting proposition. It’s important to understand these reactions and work with staff to air their concerns. If staff feel forced into the decision they will resist the change and the implementation will suffer.

Being clear about the benefits of a VLE, including the scope it provides for handling repetitive tasks, thereby freeing up tutors for more student time can help ‘sell’ the concept. It’s also important to commit to training and support upfront and to follow through on those commitments to help reassure concerned staff.

Four tips for successful technology adoption  

With the adoption challenges that may be faced in mind, here are four top tips for a successful VLE implementation:

 1.       Set goals – clear goals and objectives for the adoption provide a benchmark for measuring success. By knowing what you want to achieve with the solution, you’ll be able to assess progress throughout initial implementation and measure the benefits delivered over time.

 2.       Plan – an adoption and integration plan should include time upfront to create course content as well as a phased implementation and usage ramp-up. An investment of effort in the planning and design stages will save time later on as tutors and students reap the benefits of always-on access to course materials, assessments and progress reports.

 3.       Communicate – effective communication helps facilitate all change programmes and this is no different with the introduction of a VLE. Keep staff informed and make sure that communication is two-way. Involving staff advocates in this can help bring on board those less confident with the technology.

 4.       Collaborate – once an implementation is underway, the extent and speed of its adoption will depend to some extent on the influence of early adopters and the early majority. Determining who these opinion leaders and change agents are can be more significant to the outcome of the programme than the actual implementation activities of the education technology leaders. Many questions can be answered and concerns addressed through peer collaboration.

For more tips and guidance on how to successfully adopt a VLE, download this free white paper.

Elliot Gowans is VP EMEA at D2L