1 Your Institution

Matters at the institutional level – which for our purposes mean either your school as a whole or your department – are those least likely to be in your control. However, an understanding of your particular institutional-level factors can help you to better navigate your particular teaching situation. Ideally, that understanding will also help you to better advocate for what you need.

We know that both the context (the culture of the institution and the situation driving the decision) in which a technology is adopted and the strategies employed by the stakeholders in order to influence that adoption are key components of the success or failure of implementation.  Research also makes clear that the best avenue for creating a positive culture around – and therefore a positive outcome of – change is to engage the relevant parties in the decision-making process.  Whether or not your institution has chosen to do so will dramatically impact your experience in adopting technology, so guidance for successfully engaging in each potential situation is broken out below.

There is, of course, a third option, which is that you as the instructor have the agency to choose your own technological solutions.  If that is the case, there is already a wealth of excellent information available for how to make such a selection (some of which is addressed in “Participating in Technology Selection”), so this resource does not go into any great depth on that topic. Instead, you may want to explore the University of North Texas resource, “Selecting Educational Technologies: A Checklist,” EdTech’s article, “Matching Edtech Products With Neurological Learning Goals,” and the Pickering Schools’ “Digital Content Evaluation & Selection Process,” which, while not aimed at higher education, is a fantastic and thorough resource with a great many valuable links. And then skip ahead to the “Your Course” section of this guide.

In an ideal situation, support for change management at the institutional level would flow from those with the most power and control to those with the least. Unfortunately, few of us are operating in ideal situations, even when our colleagues and administrators are working with the best of intentions. That being the case, the sections in Planning empower you to be a driver and advocate for the best practices, with the assumption that the institution itself may need a little nudge in the right direction.

Research supporting this section. 

Participating in Technology Selection

Involving teachers directly in the decision aligns neatly with the organizational development concept of employee involvement, something that is shown to increase positive outcomes across the board. Successful involvement in something of this nature involves three key elements: that participants be given the power to impact the outcome, that participants be provided with the information necessary to make an informed choice, and that participants be provided with any necessary training or skills to help facilitate the decision.

These are the things that your school or department can provide you to improve the process.  However, it is probable that they are also unfamiliar with the explicit and research-driven nature of these as best practices, in which case you may need to advocate for them.

This may mean that you encourage the decision-making body to involve more of the impacted instructors in some capacity – whether through voting, contributing options to a short list from which the group will make a final decision, sharing impressions on a pre-existing shortlist, or any number of other methods. Such involvement – so long as it truly effects the outcome rather than being merely a pretense – will help to foster important support for the final result. These efforts will also help to reduce the momentum and force of any objections that may negatively impact the implementation of the technology, because instructors will be more likely to feel that they have some ownership in the process.

As needed, remind those in authority that employee involvement in key decisions is not just a feel-good exercise – it directly correlates to improved motivation, communication, and capabilities. When employees are involved in decisions, the work they do that is impacted by those decisions is demonstrably more productive.

If at some point a small subset of the eventual users will be making a final choice of the technology to be implemented, the latter two elements come most strongly into play: ensuring that decision-makers have the necessary information, training, and skills to make the relevant determination.  This can be a prickly issue at places where someone in a position of authority – but without current teaching responsibilities in the relevant course – holds significant sway over the decision-making process. The relative technological facility of the decision-makers is also significant, not just because some may be deeply uncomfortable with digital tools and may push toward more minimal options to secure their own comfort, but for the opposite reason as well. Instructors with a great deal of technological facility may push for tools that are too demanding for the majority of instructors.  It is important for the committee to have an accurate sense of the skill levels of everyone who will be asked to use the tool (something a quick survey might reveal).

This is not to say that technology should be found that supports only one end of the spectrum or the other. Keep in mind – and remind the rest of the decision-makers – that there is likely to be a great deal of diversity in how instructors at your institution will use the technology – and that this is not a bad thing. Much as two instructors will take different pathways through the same textbook and bring their own pedagogies and skills to bear, so too will different instructors implement a digital tool. For this reason, it is a good idea to select technology that will offer flexibility and a degree of customization. This will allow a single tool to be successfully implemented by a larger number of individual instructors.

As an instructor, you are well aware that your students will also have different levels of digital facility and comfort, all of which need to be accommodated. Another significant consideration is the technology gap and the access your students may – or may not – have to computers and reliable internet connections. Do you need a tool that functions effectively on a cell-phone?  Is it important that your ebook be downloadable so that students can access it from places with poor wifi?  Be sure to remind the committee that they will need to account for your particular student body and be prepared to provide for any existing gaps in access and support.


Best practices for selecting course materials – and research on the topic – could and does fill innumerable library shelves. To that end, if you are participating in the decision-making process, consider looking at the “Supporting Research” to find additional sources of information, as well as implementing some of the strategies in “Validating,” most notably “For Accessibility” and “For Security.”

As you’ll notice throughout this guide, many of the processes are cyclical and the validating you do at this early stage will be mirrored by the confirmation and reflection you conduct after using the technology you have selected.


You should also be aware that being asked to be a part of the decision-making process comes with burdens as well as benefits. You will likely be expected to be an advocate – or at least neutral – for the technology that is ultimately chosen and will likely be asked to take on the role of expert or trainer. If you are in favor of the tool that was chosen, this will likely be a simple matter of sharing your reasoning with your peers and helping them to benefit from your enthusiasm and experience.  If your preferred option was not selected for whatever reason, you may find yourself with something of a manager’s moral quandary.

As part of the selection committee, there is likely a tacit agreement that you will support the group’s decision and champion it among your colleagues.  If you are not happy with the result, this can feel disingenuous, as you advocate for the use of something you do not agree with.  While you may be more reserved in your support, however, your proactive efforts on behalf of the tool that was selected can still make a positive difference in the experience of your peers when they use it.  You do not need to say that you unilaterally love the tool that was chosen, but you can and should let your peers know all of the reasons it was selected and what the expected benefits should be. You can transmit key information and point toward crucial resources without offering a resounding endorsement – and without offering disparagement as well. Use your privileged position on the committee to support your colleagues and do your best to be either neutral or positive when discussing the tool.

Research supporting this section. 

Being Assigned Technology

It is very often the case that you will find yourself teaching with educational technology that you yourself did not select.  Making the best of things is a well-known fact of the profession, but there is still a lot you can do to make life easier for yourself and your students.

A good starting place is to ask for specific and concrete details about why that particular technology was selected. What are the expected benefits? Did those making the selection have any reservations and, if so, what ameliorating circumstances arose? Ask them about expected levels of support – from the company providing the tool, from the college IT department, and from the institution (college or department) itself.  The more information you can get up front, the easier it will be for you to implement the tool and the less time you need to waste repeating the discovery work that has already been done.

If training is being provided on how to use the new technology, be sure to attend. Scheduling conflicts happen, but you will always get more out of walking through the tool with someone who can immediately answer questions. Along with asking questions about how the tool works, consider asking questions about why specific design decisions were made or how the tool can support your particular pedagogical approach. The trainer may be able to save you time and the answers may help you to implement the tool more effectively than if the training is focused only on the technical aspects of the usage.

If you cannot attend in person and the training is recorded, be sure to set aside some designated time to go through it. If training is not being provided, see what resources the company has available on their website. There is likely a quick-start guide and may be additional videos and resources to help get you started.

Start as early as you can and just play with the tool. While this is a time-dependent recommendation, it’s a great way to get an early sense of any workarounds you may need to share with your students. More importantly, it’s a way to discover what about the tool excites you and what you think will engage your students. Get your pedagogical juices bubbling!

After exploring the tool without any particular goals or uses in mind, settle in for some thorough planning. Consider how the tool will integrate into your existing course or what new activities may be supported. (See “Your Course” for more on planning the specifics of your implementation.) You should also consider the context of your usage, including the goals of the institution in assigning this technology and the functionality in the context of the larger ed tech industry. Does the tool provide functionality that is becoming standard, much the way that course management software is fairly ubiquitous? To what degree were instructors and education scholars involved in its creation? It will also be beneficial to consider the context of your particular implementation. Is this a test-case for the technology, or is it intended for long-term usage? The answers to all of these questions can help you to form a clearer understanding of how you want to implement the tool and the depth of investment you want to make in doing so.


One vital thing that your administration, no matter how supportive, cannot give you is an open mind. If you are being assigned a specific tool to you, you may be bringing a lot of frustration and even resentment to the beginning of your implementation experience.  Those feelings are completely valid. To the extent possible, however, you want to try to approach the new tool with an open mind. If you are stuck using it anyway, you want to do your best to get the most you can out of the experience for yourself and your students.

Research supporting this section. 

Ask for Support

Explicitly. And probably repeatedly. Many times throughout this guide we encourage you to advocate for various things — best practices, different technologies. Of them all, this is the most important.

Be as specific as you can when you are asking for support. What you need may be more information, it may be someone to fix the wifi in your classroom, it may be permission to implement the technology a little bit at a time or on a slightly different schedule. If you think there is something that would make your technology implementation run more smoothly or be more effective, ask for that support and keep asking. And don’t forget to “Point to the Literature” when petitioning your institution for what you need.

It is also worth remembering that there are resources beyond your institution that may further your efforts.  Along with the wide array of tutorials and other information available online, consider whether you may be able to leverage your professional network or state or local resources.  If you are trying to fund the use of a new tool, for instance, or provide the necessary technology to one or more of your students, you may want to look into what grants are available or whether a business in the area might offer funding or a sponsorship. If you are working on developing activities with a new tool, ask some colleagues how they are getting on and what discoveries they may have made.

Research supporting this section. 

Point to the Literature

Educational technology is no longer in its nascence and there is a lot of research at your disposal (for instance, in the Appendix of this document) to leverage in requesting the support you need from your department. One of the benefits of working in higher education is the increased likelihood that making a research-backed case will succeed.  To that end, for each recommendation in this guide, you will find supporting literature in “Supporting Research,” which can also be accessed through the links at the end of each section.

The beauty of this recommendation is that it works at every stage in the process, from asking your institution for additional support to convincing colleagues to explaining your pedagogically-driven technology implementation to your students. And it even helps to keep you going, as you bolster your own confidence and reflect on your own practices with the weight of scholarship behind you.

Research supporting this section. 

Pick Your Battles

A lot has been said in this section about how to advocate, how to lead when you are not in a decision-making role, and how to navigate what at the end of the day boils down to workplace politics. While all of that is good and valuable, it is clearly not your top priority – and it may not even break the top five depending on what else is going on in your life, at your school, and with your students.

That is to say: pick your battles. This guide offers a lot of advice, but you don’t want to find yourself trying to implement all of it – especially not your first time incorporating a new technology into your course. Try to focus your energy on the areas where you feel you can make an actual impact and let the rest go. There will always be future opportunities to participate in a selection process, push for more support, or make your scholarly concerns heard.  You know best what is feasible at any given juncture, but sometimes it’s helpful to have an explicit reminder that even if you can do it all, it’s usually not the best use of your time and energy.

Research supporting this section. 


The Change Management Guide to Incorporating Educational Technology Copyright © by Sherry Mooney. All Rights Reserved.

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