The Four Crucial Steps to Ensure a Successful Technology Implementation

March 16, 2022 Watermark Insights

At increasing rates, higher education institutions are turning to technology to identify students who need the most support and help them succeed in their academic goals. Predictive analytics technology has proven particularly necessary and effective for historically underrepresented students, such as minority students and students who come from low-income backgrounds.

In order for technology solutions to be successful in assisting students and academic success coaches, it is imperative that higher education institutions successfully implement the most effective solutions for their unique needs and get comprehensive buy-in from stakeholders across the campus. Successful implementation of technology solutions involves a combination of institutional readiness and the appropriate technology.

To determine which student retention strategies and technologies will be most effective for a campus, institutions must take into account the make-up, unique needs, and capabilities of their technology and the student population.

Success Factors for Advising Technology Implementation

Recently, Advising Success Network (ASN) core partner EDUCAUSE and SOVA developed a readiness assessment tool for higher education institutions seeking to successfully implement advising technology. The Success Factors for Advising Technology Implementation guidebook is intended to help orient key stakeholders and selection teams to prioritized product capabilities and user-experience considerations, in order to support successful implementation of advising technology.

In preparing for the guidebook, EDUCAUSE and SOVA worked with eight learning teams consisting of one higher education institution and one student success technology team. Watermark, as an expert and thought leader in the field of student retention and success, partnered with Linn Benton Community College in Albany, Oregon as one of the selected teams to contribute to the development of the guide.

Watermark, working with the other learning teams on the project, developed a set of steps that should be taken in order to successfully implement a student retention technology program.

Core Principles

The core principles that should be considered when developing a student retention program for a learning institution include Overarching Principles, Design Features, and Campus Conditions.

The Overarching Principles should include a widely-shared commitment to the use of a technology solution to help students and success coaches achieve their goals. There also needs to be campus-wide buy-in for the implementation and use of technology and a broad understanding that successful implementation in both the near and long term will depend on concerted attention to both the technology and human aspects of a successful retention program.

The teams also identified Design Features that are crucial to successful technology implementation, including clear data requirements, adaptive functionality, and tailored implementation to support the unique needs of each institution.

Additionally, the teams identified several core principles regarding the Campus Conditions that need to be met in order to achieve a successful implementation, including an active commitment to the programming from senior administrators, skillful implementation leadership, and a strong culture of evidence.

Readiness Assessment

With the core principles of implementation identified, the learning teams collaborated to develop a readiness assessment that would provide guiding questions and thoughtful considerations that learning institutions can consider to assess where they are currently ready for successful technology implementation and areas where they need to fill in some gaps before technology implementation begins.

The readiness assessment includes questions that are designed to be directed at both the Executive Leadership and Mid-Level Leadership levels. The questions and considerations in the Readiness Assessment are intended to help institutions gauge the level of active support and willingness of the leadership teams to fully commit to a long-lasting and flourishing retention program.

Prior to implementation, it is also important for learning institutions to consider the current culture of their institution and assess the enthusiasm across the campus for implementing new technologies, because, ultimately, it is the people across campus who will be utilizing the data provided by the technology to develop successful and effective strategies and solutions for students. This means that Institutional Culture has a huge impact on how the adoption of technology improves student experience and outcomes.

Prior to implementation, learning institutions also need to glean whether or not there are any areas of disconnect between the Technology and the Data Ecosystem. “Dirty Data” (i.e. incomplete or incorrect data, duplicate records, different record fields from disparate sources…) can severely impact successful implementation.

Once an institution has determined that they are ready to move forward with the implementation process, the next step is to ascertain which technology will be best suited for the institution in order to achieve the greatest student retention and success numbers.

Product Capabilities and User Experience

Establishing a prioritized list of Product Capabilities will vary from institution to institution and department to department. In the guidebook, Watermark and the other learning teams highlighted the most common requirements, organized by involved stakeholders, including Advisors and Student Support Staff, Students, and Administrators. Some of the most common requirements include usability, progress tracking, alerts, customizable communication tools, and data reports.

Structured Dialogue

In the fourth section of the Success Factors for Advising Technology Implementation guidebook, the learning teams prepared a structured appreciative inquiry dialogue designed to support learning institutions and service partners in identifying key campus conditions and technology functions in anticipation of implementation.

The dialogues were designed to be facilitated in either three shorter sessions or one extended session consisting of representatives from the campus’ Advising and IT departments as well as representatives from the service provider’s Research, Leadership, and Implementation departments.

The structured dialogues include:

Discover - A summary of the high points regarding technology functionality and campus readiness for implementation.

Dream - What is the ideal situation for designing and implementing a successful program?

Design - What are the critical capabilities and campus conditions needed for successful technology implementation?

Each structured dialogue includes interview questions and high-point highlights to help synthesize ideas.

Collaborating with Watermark through the process of the readiness assessment, design, and implementation of a student advising technology program can help ensure the successful outcome of implementation acceptance campus-wide. Students, faculty, and administrators that embrace student advising technology have realized significantly increased results in student retention and outcomes. By using this guidebook, higher education institutions can take the first necessary steps toward implementing a robust and effective student success and equity program. For institutions ready to take student success to the next level, we recommend Watermark Student Success & Engagement software.

“It was incredibly valuable for the members of the college team to have deeper listening sessions with the Watermark team; it helped us understand Watermark’s mission and values and how those are woven into their product. Through our conversations, we were able to learn that we held many shared values about education, access, and student progression that have been instrumental in a positive relationship as we navigate implementing complex and nuanced needs into advising technology so that it works well for our institution and our students.”

— Leslie Hammond, Dean of Academic Foundations at Linn-Benton Community College

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