Getting Administrators and Colleagues on Board With an Adaptive Learning Project
You have a unique challenge ahead of you. You know valuable learning tools are emerging and your institution needs to keep up with educational trends. But working within a budget, juggling your day-to-day tasks, and trying to have meaningful conversations with people short on time is not easy. How do you convince multiple education professionals to invest in adaptive learning tools and materials (available from numerous online sources, including Wisewire), which may be an unfamiliar approach to student learning?
Gaining support for any initiative in higher education will always be contingent on whether the idea is best for students. It’s important to completely understand the benefits of adaptive learning tools for individual students and be prepared to describe these benefits to key stakeholders. In addition to basic questions, leaders will have their own specific areas of concern—likely related to the area they’re responsible for within the university. For example, every leader will be interested in costs associated with your proposal, but an institution’s Chief Financial Officer will have a long list of detailed questions on the topic.
Each department within an educational institution has at minimum an indirect connection to students, if not a direct one. Keeping students happy is a generally accepted goal for department heads, though it isn’t always possible. Many situations will arise where you won’t be able to make every student happy, but adaptive learning tools may be one way to help relieve students’ stress in and out of the classroom.
There are a variety of options for adaptive learning tools, and most have data available that can help you identify and explain their benefit to each of your team members. As an example, consider alta, Knewton’s fully-integrated adaptive learning courseware. Of the 10,000 students who used alta in its development phase, 87 percent achieved mastery in their course. Perhaps more significantly, of students who struggled with an assignment, 82 percent ultimately achieved mastery. Can you imagine sharing these kinds of successful results with people in your organization who genuinely care about student success?
Knewton’s courseware is just one example—and maybe it isn’t the one you’re considering. Whatever program you’re exploring, be sure to uncover and share the measurable stats that speak to a positive student experience.
Image and Marketing
Colleges and universities are continually evaluated based on how in-tune they are to the latest trends in their field of study and in learning approaches in general. Through social media and other aspects of an institution’s digital presence—messaging you control as well as user-generated content—your audience knows exactly how up-to-date your institution is. Adaptive learning tools can be exactly what’s needed to demonstrate that your institution is on the cutting-edge of education.
To begin the process of evaluating how adaptive learning tools can positively influence your online image, complete a brief competitor analysis, exploring how each program compares to its competitor in the areas of effective content delivery, student satisfaction, and graduate feedback.
- List your three strongest competitors. When people are considering your institution but don’t enroll, where do they end up?
- For each of these competitors, consider which programs are most popular. Often it isn’t the school as much as it is an area of specialty that causes one institution to be chosen over another.
- Once each of the institutions and its most valuable programs have been identified, dig in and explore how their curriculum is presented. Do they market an innovative approach to education?
Once you’ve collected this data, take time to carefully review what you’ve learned. Does anything surprise you? Did you uncover any ideas you could put to use in your own institution?
Cost and ROI
When educating and persuading others, facts, research, and statistics can be your greatest resources. And this topic—cost and return on investment—is the perfect place to leverage that kind of data for two reasons. First, relevant data are easily measured—even if it takes a little creative thinking to get to that “easy” measurement. For example, you can calculate the cost of the tool and the number of students using the tool, and set a period of time, so the expense will likely be easy to factor. Your options for measuring positive results will vary greatly depending on your goals. You could track student progress and even cost savings associated with the improvement of individual student learning. You could also track engagement on social media, calculating the value of reaching new potential students because of the conversations about your use of the adaptive learning tool. Second, if the person you’re talking to is interested in ROI, this approach is the ideal way to meet them where they are and use language that resonates with them.
The greatest challenge, of course, is uncovering the right data. To ensure data you use is perceived as valuable, keep the following tips in mind.
- What metrics are important? How can they be most accurately measured (percentage of increase, comparison to industry norms, etc.)?
- What industry standards apply to the situation?
- What real-world examples can bring data to life?
When key stakeholders you’re speaking with respond well to statistics, research, and numbers, give them what they are looking for! But don’t be afraid to provide additional information—like your own interpretation of the data—in addition to the measurable facts.
Key stakeholders are also likely to inquire about faculty impact. In many institutions, faculty feel overworked, so leadership is often hesitant to make changes that would add a perceived or real increase to faculty workload. Questions that are likely to come up include:
- What are the advantages to faculty of using the new tool?
- How many faculty members (and how many individual classes) will be affected by this proposal? Consider positive outcomes as well as challenges. Will a lot of people benefit? Will a lot of people be inconvenienced?
- Will this create more work (prep or in the classroom) for the faculty?
- What will the learning curve be for the faculty—will they need to devote an extensive amount of time to learning this new tool?
- Are the faculty even interested in adding this to their courses?
There are a few ways you can get meaningful answers to each of these questions. You should carefully consider your work environment and select the best fit for your team.
- If appropriate, poll the faculty prior to your meeting to see how they feel about adaptive learning tools.
- If a broad survey doesn’t feel right, try speaking privately to a sample of the faculty.
- Use feedback from previous surveys and faculty requests if their concerns or requests are related to the tool.
- Share comments from faculty at other universities who have used the tool you’re considering.
Make a Plan
Your goal is to share what you know about adaptive learning tools with decision-makers in your organization. Knowing the benefits of the tools and the priorities of the people you’re talking to will allow you to present an effective case for integrating adaptive learning tools at your institution.