There are a few steps instructors can take to prepare for better student buy-in for exam software--and the key is communication.

7 tips to secure student buy-in for new learning tools


There are a few steps instructors can take to prepare for better student buy-in--and the key is communication

Keep in mind that second to fourth year students very likely have devices already, and they may lack funding to purchase a new one at this point in their degree program. There are a couple of solutions to this. First, you can have funding available for those students who don’t have the resources to replace their devices. Second, you can partner with your library or IT department to offer back-up or loaner devices to students. If you pursue either of these avenues, it is important to clearly communicate these policies so students are aware of the resources available to them.

Communication with IT

Involving your information technology (IT) department is a necessary step in tech adoption, not only to organize back-up device programs, but also for software troubleshooting and managing potential integrations. Because IT plays a key role in classroom tech support, they should be included in all aspects of the purchase process as well as the implementation of the software.

The knowledge that IT brings is a key driver of student success, because they are often the ones interfacing directly with students to manage backup devices and field software questions. Hopefully the software you purchase has a direct support line, but there’s an added benefit if your in-house team is acquainted with the software and can handle common troubleshooting steps when students come to them needing assistance with their device.

Making sure that IT is aware of MSRs before purchasing software will ensure that the technology is compatible with any current devices located on campus as well. Assuming there are any integrations with the new software, having IT attend implementation meetings and maintain contact with your consultant can speed up the process of integration and streamline setup for faculty and students.

Intentional Communication to Promote Buy-In

Student buy-in can be difficult, but taking the time to clearly communicate — early and often — will make the process of implementing your new software easier and more enjoyable. Here are a few approaches to ensure effective communication:  

  1. Work with student organizations to distribute internal communication throughout the implementation process.
  2. Keep in mind that your language in communication is the key to getting students on board. You never want to come off as confrontational or imply that cheating is the main reason for switching. If cheating is the main reason for purchase and you want to communicate this, focus on how the product will improve equitable testing by leveling the playing field.
  3. Be sure students understand all the benefits of using the new software — things like getting scores sooner, receiving more detailed feedback for exams, redirecting faculty attention to students by minimizing grading time, and decreased error threshold on marking and selection. You know the software is an improvement for the students–that is why you are purchasing. But making sure students know the value add is key.
  4. Be intentional in your communications to ensure students feel included and informed. This is especially important for returning and more senior students, as transitioning from a former software to a new software can increase anxiety about testing and prompt questions about how the change benefits them.
  5. If you are intending to do a phased implementation of the software, consider starting with new students and allowing those established students to graduate out, rather than adjust policies in their final year. This decision will depend on the nature of your program and other considerations at your institution.
  6. Allowing students to use the software before administering high-stakes exams will also increase buy-in. This helps them become acquainted with the software rather than encountering it for the first time during a summative exam. Students need to know how the software works, what tools are included in the exam process, and make sure the technology is compatible with their device. Consider giving students multiple opportunities to test the software through practice exams and quizzes to get them comfortable before taking a high-stakes exam.
  7. Be sure students know who to reach out to if they have software questions or issues. IT involvement gives students a reliable support channel while taking the load off faculty, who may not be as tech-savvy. Besides IT, distributing your software’s support contact information will give students another resource when things do not go as planned. As with any technology implementation, there will always be a few students who struggle more than others. If these students know who to contact to get the assistance they need, then you will have more buy-in. 

Switching exam software can be challenging for all involved, but if you follow the key communication guidelines outlined here, you will have a smoother transition that benefits your students first and improves the experience for all stakeholders. The top priority is communication, and making sure that communication is clear, often, and intentional.

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