Successfully launching new technologies begins with an implementation plan that outlines roles, responsibilities, tactics, and success metrics.
Implementing new technologies that support teaching, learning, and student success is no small feat for any institution, especially endeavors that span an entire campus. Understanding who will use the tools and how they will be employed is critical but is only part of the journey toward successful deployment and, ultimately, widespread adoption.
At the University of Central Florida (UCF), we believe that launching new technologies begins with an implementation plan that outlines roles, responsibilities, tactics, and success metrics. It is critical that the introduction of new resources is seamless. We want students, faculty, and staff to engage with new technologies because they experience the added value in teaching and learning. This is when transformation happens.
Over the last several years, UCF has developed a series of interconnected technology tools and systems to holistically support student success, including increasing graduation rates and timely degree completion, as well as ensure students have a robust and well-rounded academic experience. That work includes four large-scale projects:
- myKnight Audit (PeopleSoft Advising Audit)
- myKnight STAR (EAB Student Success Collaborative)
- mySchedule Builder (College Scheduler)
- Pegasus Path (Smart Planner)
Our project implementation team — made up of representatives from across UCF, including colleges, advisors, faculty members and units, such as Student Development and Enrollment Services — knew at the outset that we would only get one chance to launch a new tool successfully. Thus, our team spent a significant amount of time upfront developing a deployment strategy that would meet the needs of the project team, end users, and other stakeholders. We also sought to capture learnings along the way, remaining flexible so we could make refinements as the work progressed. To date, we've completed about 75 percent of our implementation plan. Our most significant takeaway is that it takes a village — an entire university community — to create, deploy, and sustain a technology-driven culture shift. Here's how we did it:
Begin with the End in Mind
At UCF, preparing our students to succeed is at the center of all that we do. We want them to complete their degrees on time and then begin their careers or attend graduate school. To determine the best way to help students achieve these goals, we conducted an environmental survey to understand where we are, where we need to be, and how to get there.
Not surprisingly, we found that students needed assistance navigating the complexity of higher education, and we could help them by creating a clear pathway to successful degree completion. We took a 21st-century approach by leveraging multiple technologies to build a student-centric solution. The four tools that we created were geared to students, faculty, and advisors.
Engage Stakeholders Early
We shared our findings and solutions with the UCF community and began to evaluate our options. Along the way, we reiterated the undertaking's vision. Administrator, faculty, and staff involvement ranged from awareness to active participation. We wanted everyone, regardless of their role, to be advocates for the new student planning and advising tools. For example, all UCF leaders, including the provost, were engaged in the process and allotted funding and dedicated IT resources to the cause. To underscore the importance of the undertaking, the strategic deployment of technology was identified as a student success initiative that would enable UCF to fulfill its commitment to enable students to unleash their potential. Making students the center of these undertakings garnered university-wide stakeholder support.
Decide Before You Buy
As with any major purchase, it's critical to determine what you need and the features you want. We wanted to get it right, so we devoted a significant amount of time selecting the best solution. Multiple stakeholder groups were involved in the process. We articulated the must-haves versus the nice-to-haves. We were adamant that the tools "talk" with each other and integrate with existing systems, such as PeopleSoft.
Create an Integrated Implementation Strategy
Success does not happen in a vacuum. To benefit from the expertise of multiple stakeholders, project meetings were combined. This approach also maximized team members' time, as many of them were engaged in multiple projects. Next, we agreed to stagger the introductions of the tools. Time was spent defining action items, roles and responsibilities, a timeline, and measurable goals. Our purpose was to limit the number of resources introduced at the same time in order to avoid information overload. As a result, we increased the adoption rate because we provided end users with the opportunity to learn the new systems in a methodical way.
Be Mindful of Initiative Fatigue
Even though everyone agreed that the multiyear, large-scale initiatives were important, the reality of adding these responsibilities to already "full plates" was problematic. For example, during the rollout of the myKnight Audit, we realized that advisors were feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of onboarding several tools at one time. The lessons learned during the degree audit deployment shaped the implementation plan for the Pegasus Path. For that system, advisors had the opportunity to interact with the tool early and were given time to enter and vet information. Additionally, colleges received funding to help them devote additional resources to the project.
Keep the End User in Mind
The needs of the end users guided our work. Using technology is intuitive to students. They grew up with mobile devices, Xbox, and Google. The majority won't plan with a paper and pencil. We garnered their feedback through focus groups and made students ambassadors of the new technologies. These students were given initial access to the tools so they could share their insights and become early adopters.
UCF has accomplished a great deal. We've celebrated our successes and learned from our mistakes along the way. We will continue to share information and solicit feedback from stakeholders; although most of the rollout has concluded — we are in the final stages of implementing the Pegasus Path — our commitment to creating innovative solutions that drive student success continues.
Elizabeth A. Dooley is Interim Provost, Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning, and Dean of the College of Undergraduate Studies at the University of Central Florida.
Maribeth Ehasz is Vice President of Student Development and Enrollment Services at the University of Central Florida.
© 2018 Elizabeth A. Dooley and Maribeth Ehasz. The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License.