1. Clarify your vision and goals
Educators often use a “backward mapping” approach to planning curricula, which means setting an end goal and then choosing activities to help students reach it. Thompson says this process can guide an institution’s technology decisions, too. “Focus on the students’ needs first,” she explains, “and then determine how to get them there.”
Consider, for example, a 2019 critical skills survey by the American Management Association that found employers want potential employees to be competent in four areas: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. A college or university that’s dedicated to honing these “Cs” even—or especially—in this COVID-19 era can leverage technology solutions to help.
One way for a school to do this is to equip educators with tools that enable the all-important collaborating, connecting, and communicating with students in real-time and from any location. A device like Microsoft Surface, which is one part tablet and one part ultra-lightweight laptop, allows faculty to offer their students virtual, hybrid, or in-person learning models that promote continuity and accessibility—two vital aspects of teaching and learning in a pandemic.
It’s worth noting that 2-in-1s like Surface also support the diverse needs of lecturers, faculty, and staff. With educational demands shifting like never before, educators and administrators need technologies and tools that are compatible with both at-home and in-classroom systems. Because Surface is part of a suite of products that are versatile, portable, and synchronized, faculty can focus on teaching—instead of figuring out IT.
2. Get buy-in from stakeholders
Thompson recommends having a variety of stakeholders complete a survey to gauge their technology priorities and concerns. “Taking the pulse” assures faculty and staff that their opinions matter, and it also provides valuable feedback that may inform a school’s remote-learning decisions and investments.
Thompson notes a “pulse survey” she recently conducted at a university in Maryland, where faculty said they felt that more technology would add to, not lighten, their teaching load. That sentiment was echoed in a recent study by Educause that found while students say they want a blended learning environment, most faculty prefer face-to-face education. Thompson has a theory to explain such technological reluctance. “Ninety percent of faculty in higher ed are subject matter experts in their field—nursing, sociology, business. When you aren’t trained in pedagogy like K-12 teachers are, you focus more on getting the content into students’ minds and less on the tools for doing it.”
However, the quick transition to remote and hybrid learning has highlighted needs that only technology can address. “The pandemic has made it easier to get buy-in for online education from teachers,” says Thompson. Indeed, research shows that 75% of instructors feel that online teaching has made them think more critically about how to engage students. Another study indicates that pass rates for at-risk students increased by one third when educators combined technology with traditional face-to-face learning.
Such findings underscore the benefits of technology investments that will sustain a school based on its current needs—for example, when educators must quickly create an engaging, interactive remote classroom hub using a feature like Teams—and also based on what it may require in the future.