As higher educational institutions increasingly rely on technology to support students in achieving their academic goals, it becomes crucial to ensure a successful implementation process. Specifically, we will explore the four crucial steps to ensure a successful technology implementation plan.
To effectively leverage technology and provide targeted assistance, it is imperative for higher education institutions to adopt the most suitable solutions that cater to their unique needs. Comprehensive buy-in from stakeholders across the campus is vital for this process. Successful technology implementation 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 makeup, unique needs, and capabilities of their technology and the student population.
This blog will delve into the essential components of a technology implementation process, highlighting best practices and considerations that account for both the institution's characteristics and the student population.
Success Factors for Advising Technology Implementation
In collaboration with EDUCAUSE and SOVA, the Advising Success Network (ASN) developed a comprehensive guidebook to assist higher education institutions in effectively adopting advising technology. The Success Factors for Advising Technology Implementation guidebook serves as a valuable resource for key stakeholders and selection teams. The guide offers insights into prioritized product capabilities and user-experience considerations — crucial for a seamless technology implementation process.
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.
Together, they developed a set of steps to successfully implement a student retention technology program. Let’s delve into the latest best practices and insights to empower your technology implementation journey.
Step 1: Identify the Core Principles
The core principles to consider when developing a student retention program for a learning institution include:
- Overarching principles: To achieve a successful technology implementation, it is crucial to embrace a holistic view of advising and recognize its significance within a comprehensive student success strategy. A widely shared commitment to using technology solutions to help students and success coaches achieve their goals is essential. Successful implementation requires equal attention to both the technical and human dimensions of a successful retention program.
- Design features: Critical design features for ideal technology implementation include clear and concise data requirements and tailored implementation support to meet each institution's unique needs. It also includes intuitive functionality that adds value for advisors and staff, adaptive functionality that benefits students, and excellent dashboarding for effective action.
- Campus conditions: Creating the ideal implementation environment requires specific campus conditions. These conditions encompass an active commitment to the programming from senior administrators, the ability to provide clean source data, and skillful implementation leadership. It also includes a culture that embraces evidence-based practices and effective collaboration across silos and utilizes student-level data to drive actionable institutional improvements.
By understanding and prioritizing these core principles, higher education institutions can pave the way for successful technology implementation, aligning their efforts with technology implementation best practices and maximizing the potential of advising technology.
Step 2: Conduct a Readiness Assessment
With the core principles of implementation identified, the learning teams collaborated to develop a readiness assessment. Conducting a thorough readiness assessment allows higher education institutions to identify their strengths, uncover gaps, and lay the foundation for a successful technology implementation plan.
The readiness assessment includes questions designed for the executive leadership and mid-level leadership levels. Both are crucial during the implementation process. Those in executive leadership must understand the potential of the initiative and create a supportive environment within the institution, whereas those in mid-level leadership facilitate change management processes, build relationships with senior leaders and frontline staff, and drive collaboration across functional and technical areas.
The questions and considerations in the readiness assessment 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.
Institutional culture plays a crucial role in the quality of implementation and the impact of technology adoption on student experience and outcomes. 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.
It is, ultimately, the people across campus who will utilize the data provided by the technology to develop successful and effective strategies and solutions for students. Effective communication and a shared understanding of retention and student success strategies are paramount.
Technology and Data Ecosystem
Prior to implementation, learning institutions must address any disconnect between technology and the data ecosystem. This includes ensuring well-defined and accepted data definitions, assessing integration capabilities with existing systems, and considering data migration or workarounds if needed. Institutions should weigh factors of data best practices like accuracy, frequency of updates, and accessibility while aligning prioritized product capabilities.
Once an institution knows when to implement higher education technology, 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.
Step 3: List Product Capabilities and User Experience
When it comes to implementing technology solutions, prioritizing the right product capabilities is crucial. Establishing a prioritized list of product capabilities will vary. Each institution and department may have unique needs, but there are common requirements identified by stakeholders like 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. By focusing on these crucial elements, institutions can ensure a positive user experience and maximize the effectiveness of their technology implementation plan.
Step 4: Engage in Structured Dialogue
In the pursuit of successful technology implementation, engaging in structured dialogue plays a vital role. In 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.
These dialogues — conducted in either three shorter sessions or one extended session — bring together representatives from the campus’s advising and IT departments, as well as from the service provider's research, leadership, and implementation departments.
Each structured dialogue includes interview questions and high-point highlights to help synthesize ideas. 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?
By exploring the discover, dream, and design phases, these dialogues facilitate idea synthesis and lay the foundation for a prosperous technology implementation plan.
Improve Student Outcomes With Watermark
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 technology implementation acceptance campus-wide.
Students, faculty, and administrators that embrace student advising technology can increase 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.
Request a demo online to see how you can foster student success through technology implementation!
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