Navigating the Waters of Rapid Technological Development in Higher Ed

Keeping up with the great pace of technological change is a perennial problem for Instructional Technologists in Higher Education. If I may generalize, Liberal Arts colleges, such as the one at which I'm employed, tend to judiciously evaluate technology and applying it thoughtfully with a lot of consensus and buy-in. This is as much an effort to navigate the waters of rapid technological development in a mature, sustainable way as it is an effort to reduce costs.  Though the pace of technological change seems overwhelming ("We don't even have TIME to do this?" is a common reaction,) I'm reminded of advice I once received from Andrea Nixon at Carleton: "Just start. Do something. Anything. Just. Do."

Evaluation of technology usually costs little more than staff time (which isn't an inconsiderable expense) so it's usually not difficult to evaluate a variety of technologies for eventual use on campus without committing to some broad rollout. This also permits us to examine more and different tools. (I think you'll also find that solutions become easier to evaluate over time because you arrive at a conceptual understanding of what classes of tools do, so it's easier to spot differences and similarities.)  Indeed, I believe it's part of our job as Instructional Technologists to evaluate technologies and think about how they can be used in a variety of contexts on campus. To make this possible, I think it important for IT organizations to emphasize the importance of such evaluations in Instructional Technologists' workloads and to give them time and money to do so. Also, to give them a forum for reporting out the results and having broader conversations with people who would be affected by or who would use the technology if it's adopted.

But I do think any DEPLOYMENT of technology should be done judiciously, especially if the deployment of said technology will occur across an entire campus. Here are some things I attempt to do to make such deployments successful: 1) Whenever possible, I try to build bridges and partnerships across campus to create a more broad adoption of a tool (e.g. a videoconferencing suite that teachers, career center staff, alumni staff, and Help Desk support personnel can use), 2) I try to get peers to talk to each other about the technology (e.g. a teacher demonstrating a technology used successfully in their classroom to another teacher), 3) Articulate exactly why the tool will be beneficial and add unique value to a variety of contexts on campus and who else believes the same, and 4) work with support personnel to evaluate the impact the deployment of the technology will have on their work and get their buy-in (or heed their advice and reject the tech if support would be unsustainable. Or, if demand is high enough, ask if we can change our environment to accommodate the tech.)