The main challenge schools, academies and multi academy trusts face when rolling out a new technology or platform is user adoption.
Typically, a core group of tech-savvy teachers and staff embrace the new technology, while others are left behind.
This results in various, separate solutions being used within the school, with learning resources scattered across different places and servers and – ultimately – your school not making the most of the technology it has invested in.
But the key reason for this isn’t usually the platform or technology itself. Instead, it’s a lack of a clear, long-term plan and strategy.
Switching to a brand-new technology isn’t easy; it’s a significant change for all involved. But we must make sure that we bring everyone along together on the journey to ensure higher user adoption and avoid leaving anyone behind.
Of course, a further problem has also been born in 2020. Covid-19.
Many schools were forced to adopt tools like Microsoft Teams and SharePoint for short-term gains due to school closures and remote teaching.
While this placed a plaster over the problem and gave students the short-term support they needed to learn from home temporarily, the rushed approach didn’t take into consideration the potential long-term impact of the technology.
We now need to take a step back and think about a long-term strategy so that the technology you’ve invested in serves your staff and students for years to come.
Moving to the cloud isn’t brand new for 2020. Schools have been adopting Teams and SharePoint to reap the benefits of centralised resources, lower server costs and enhanced learning for years.
Whether you already have Teams and SharePoint, or if you’re new to cloud-based learning, now is the time to implement a long-term strategy for your new technology. And here’s how you can do that.
- Communicate your vision to the school.
- Give key people ownership over the project.
- Set a long-term plan.
- Set milestones and key dates.
- Deliver hands-on training.
- Measure your success and resolve issues.
- Adjust, adapt and adopt.
Communicate your vision to the school.
Introduce the new technology to your staff to let them know what your vision is and what the new way of working will look like.
It’s crucial to outline your key reasons for switching to the new technology by explaining clearly the benefits to the school, to staff and to students. Weaving it into your school ethos and culture further strengthens your argument and helps to get more people on board with the idea.
Three things to keep in mind when communicating your vision:
- What does the new reality look like?
- What are the benefits to the school?
- How does this fit in with the school ethos and culture?
Here’s an example of how a school has tied in their new technology with their school ethos:
Give key people ownership over the project.
Select a group of champions who work with you on the project to help with the planning stage and drive user adoption within their department.
This stage is important because having representatives from each area of the school not only enables them to have a sense of ownership over the product but also encourages other staff members to use the technology as it rolls out.
A typical project team might look like this:
- Curriculum representatives for Teaching and Learning.
- MIS Manager.
- Head of Digital Strategy.
- IT Support Team.
What do they do:
- Plan and own product.
- Showcase benefits to staff.
- Provide training support.
- Curriculum Lead from each department.
What do they do:
- Drive usage in their departments.
- Showcase benefits.
- Provide cascaded training.
Set a long-term plan.
The planning stages are vital to save time, money and ensure the new technology works well for everyone who will be using it.
Use spreadsheets to map out what you need the software to do for your school.
For SharePoint, a central space is essential to avoid unnecessary duplication of work and files, scattered resources and information siloes.
It’s easy to fall into the habit of everyone creating their own sites, with no central governance, and we’ve found this has been a common problem for schools who were compelled to rush adoption as a response to coronavirus.
If this sounds like you, don’t panic. Now is your chance to get everything in order and avoid more work in the future.
The key concept to keep in mind when planning is to think about the long term and how you can scale up your use of this technology year after year.
Here is an example of how a simple plan for SharePoint for schools might look like:
SharePoint home page.
Whether you’re a member of staff or a student, you can access published news and information about the school here.
Sites for publishing information to large groups of people. Content is there to be consumed, rather than co-authored – for example, staff briefings, library services and policy documents.
Secure areas only accessible to small groups of people who need access. For example, finance and administration .
It’s essential to keep this a flat, simple structure that is easy to scale up.
All of your long-term resources are stored here. It’s a central place that has resources stored so they can be used year after year.
There’s a tendency to use Class Teams for this, which works for one academic year, but as soon as that ends, teachers need to duplicate all the content to another Class Team.
Storing all resources in SharePoint not only reduces the duplication of work, but also unlocks further opportunities. Departments can share resources, co-author documents and Heads of Departments can check the quality of the learning resources.
Used for collaborating and communicating with other people. For example, department groups, the finance team and Class Teams.
One crucial thing to remember is you don’t have to get it right first time. It’s a process, and by listening to feedback, you’re able to build a solution that works for everyone in your school.
Set milestones and key dates.
User adoption doesn’t happen overnight. There’s no quick fix, and it’s an ongoing process.
Break up your long-term plan into milestones, helping users have something to aim for, as well as to celebrate progress.
For example, it could be that you set your file servers to read-only by a specific date, allowing staff to have a deadline for when they need to move their resources to the cloud.
Three things to remember when setting milestones:
- Be realistic – it’s not going to happen overnight.
- Be flexible – milestones can be pushed back or brought forward, depending on your school and staff.
- Get feedback – listen to your users and adapt your approach.
Deliver hands-on training.
Support staff by delivering quality, hands-on training.
Avoid one huge webinar presentation and get people involved using the software.
Deliver training to small groups, not everyone at once. Think about how you’d teach a lesson to students.
Split up teaching and non-teaching staff to tailor the sessions as much as possible to the audience. Teaching staff need to know about some features that non-teaching staff won’t use – for example, Assignments in Teams.
Grouping by ability helps to make sure no one gets left behind, and you’re not training staff on tools and features they’re already confident using.
Three things to keep in mind when delivering training:
- Don’t train once and stop there, refreshers might be needed.
- Be open to feedback and adapt your process.
- Do your students need training too?
If you’re stuck on where to get started with training, we have some free training videos that are specifically geared towards schools.
Measure your success and resolve issues.
Evaluate your progress and measure user adoption as you move through your plan.
You can do this by getting feedback from staff and regularly talking to your champions to spot any barriers and challenges users are facing.
Microsoft Forms is a great way to do this. You can create a quick survey to see what areas you need to improve on. And, with Microsoft Teams , you can see who is using the software and – more crucially – who isn’t.
Three areas to monitor when you measure user adoption:
- The key challenges people are facing.
- The features that aren’t being used by staff.
- The staff/departments who aren’t using the software.
At Cloud Design Box, we have our own analytic dashboard to help keep track of teacher user adoption with Teams assignments.
Adjust, adapt and adopt.
Once you have collected feedback and data showing your user adoption progress, it’s essential to adjust and adapt your process to suit your school’s needs.
This is different for every school, but for example, it might be that you need to adjust training to suit the ability of your staff, or, alternatively, focus on a specific area where a large percentage of staff are struggling.
Three keys things to keep in mind when adjusting your process:
- Be realistic.
- Don’t be afraid to go back.
- Keep checking user adoption and adapt accordingly.
By staying realistic, setting clear goals and adjusting your process, you’ll be able to get everyone on board with your new technology.
Do you need help with user adoption or a Teams solution that helps save teacher time? Contact us for a chat:
Telephone: 01482 688890