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Earning faculty buy-in around educational technology culture

Topics in Higher Education

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So. You’re making new decisions about technology, logistics, and workflow that will require your college or university to embrace a new educational technology culture. It sounds wonderful on paper, but getting the faculty behind the project can be tricky. More than 70% of change initiatives fail—but they don’t have to.

To earn faculty buy-in around changes to your educational technology culture, consider the following guidelines.

Explain the plan straightforwardly and transparently

What do you mean when you envision making investments and changes that require a change in educational technology culture? Are you talking about more online courses and a better website? Or are you talking about: streamlining all the various systems in use on campus, making academic committee work digitized, providing faculty and graduate students with academic portfolio software for their long-term career development, keeping a single source of truth for faculty activity reporting, and other fundamental shifts in how technology affects scholarship, teaching, service, and the mission of the institution?

Whatever the goals are, make sure to state them plainly. Transparent plans ensure that no one is left agonizing over their future or obsessing about the worst case scenario. This also assists faculty members with less experience or technical skill: leave no faculty members behind! Empower them with information and you’ll demonstrate to them that you want and need their support.

Listen carefully

You’re making changes because you care about this institution and you want to make it even better, right? Critical to adopting a healthy approach to your school’s educational technology culture and practices is to draw upon feedback—and your faculty are the ones working directly with students and department staff. Use their knowledge to your advantage. Don’t shape your goals without their valuable input.

Highlight the specific benefits for them

This is the fun part, because this is how your faculty will get excited about some potentially frightening changes to their work life. The change initiatives moving your institution towards a more robust educational technology culture is going to mean exceptional benefits for your faculty. You might set each of them up with individual academic portfolio software where they can collect, curate, and share their academic work. They’re going to be empowered by paperless committee software so they can see how much simpler their lives will be when they’re working on a campus with a flourishing educational technology culture. It’s in the faculty’s interest for you to maintain a central faculty data hub where they can find collaborators and save a ton of time producing reports.

Making sure faculty understand how your school’s growing educational technology culture benefits their individual work is an indispensable component of earning faculty buy-in. Even your most cynical skeptics are likely to appreciate this kind of transparency.

Emphasize the role of faculty in the new culture and how you’ll get there

A lone administrative leader in higher education can hardly bring about a strong educational technology culture all on their own—nor is that ultimately a good model. You know you’re going to need faculty buy-in, so don’t be shy about telling them so. Obviously, the administrative necessities of the institution benefit from an enthusiastic educational technology culture on campus—but your school’s faculty, students, and peers nationwide will also be able to do what they do more effectively. As the school rises to meet changes in the world around it, prospective students will see your institution as a more desirable option.

Faculty play a role in all of this, though, because without them these changes will only penetrate the surface. Their input and feedback will help administrators manage policy appropriately as the culture of educational technology evolves. So don’t be evasive or distant. Tell the faculty how central their role will be in bringing educational technology into the core culture of the school.

Find an advocate among your stakeholders

One leader will have a harder time getting buy-in from the entire faculty body. If you can, find an advocate among the faculty who is a technophile and understands the mission. This kind of ally can be a powerful force in a change initiative; sometimes it just comes across better from within the faculty.

What to take away

Every institution of higher education needs to work hard to ensure that it continues to serve its mission in a changing landscape of funding, tenure expectations, student populations, big data (at times overwhelmingly big), and new technological options. As the research indicates, it’s advocacy from front-line personnel that wins the day. Earning faculty buy-in, in other words, is the key to making your educational technology culture a success.