What does successful adoption look like?
Successfully engaging your students may be the most obvious success factor, but it’s often not that simple. It is important that students feel supported and that new resources enhance their learning experience rather than burden it. Success here should consist of measurable results, whether that’s assessment-related, increased NSS scores, or just general student feedback. Of course it’s also important that resources are valued as an alternative by teaching staff. Digital learning solutions shouldn’t contribute to unmanageable workloads but help alleviate them - for example freeing up marking time so support can be given to students that need it most.
The University of the Western Cape partnered with LearnSci to integrate pre and post-lab solutions to build confidence for students with limited lab experience. Their success in adopting our resources helped students complete practicals more quickly and led to positive feedback, with over 30,000 activities completed by students in the first few months.
With that in mind, here are five tips to ensuring smooth and successful integration of new resources:
1. Have specific goals
Don’t just invest in resources for the sake of it. Make sure they are solving a problem or addressing an issue that you face - that way, you can measure success more easily and be confident that it was a worthy investment.
Ensure that your goals for digital solutions are in students’ best interests. For example, digital resources open up many opportunities for student learning, but it’s not in students’ best interests to replace all curriculum activities with digital solutions. Often resources such as our LabSims are designed to enhance existing sessions, rather than to replace labs altogether.
If evaluating how digital solutions could fit into your course structure seems too big a task (innovation can be time consuming!), a simple place to start is to find inspiration in what others have already done. Considering how others have succeeded can help you make the leap. Communities such as DryLabs or other online spaces are a good place to find discussions from academics surrounding issues that are on your mind. Our recent Teaching Innovation Awards display a range of innovative practices where educators have found success, which act as great inspiration for new ways of using digital resources.
Coventry University’s School of Life Sciences identified student engagement and performance in practical labs as needing improvement, so partnered with LearnSci to produce a tailored solution. After implementing pre-lab simulations and post-lab Smart Worksheets, they saw a significant increase in confidence and preparedness for labs, as well as higher quality practical lab reports. Read the case study.
2. Don’t start from scratch
Take advantage of what’s out there already. Developing new sets of high quality learning resources yourself can be expensive and time consuming. These have to be designed, developed, reviewed, tested and rolled out consistently. By not reinventing the wheel, your time can be better spent engaging directly with your students, understanding their needs and facilitating individual or group feedback sessions.
Opt for resources that can be used in a flexible way and easily integrated within both a face-to-face and blended learning experience. This means you’ll introduce enhancements that will bring benefits, no matter the context in which students are engaging.
Many of you will have a technology enhanced learning (TEL) team at your institution. Reach out to them and make use of their expertise in this area. They might not have time to develop brand new resources and solutions but they can support you and steer you in the right direction, towards specialist Higher Education resources. For example, our Smart Worksheet Collection and LabSim libraries have been built by experts in science and technology, and designed specifically for Universities.
3. Good support is essential
If you are considering implementing resources in partnership with an educational technology provider, ensure that they truly understand your needs and challenges. This way, they can provide a solution that addresses your short and long-term goals, so you can make the most of the resources.
Internally, getting the support of your department helps to advocate for resources, increasing usage and the impact that they can have. By championing the resources both within and outside your department, fellow educators can be encouraged to get on board.
Your educational technology provider should support you in this process, by being present to answer questions and discuss how best you and your colleagues might use the resources. Our dedicated Partner Support team runs effective onboarding training, ensuring that you are confident in best practices as well as the logistical aspects of implementing new solutions. Not only this, we make sure to maintain support throughout the year, being on hand to help with any issues, take suggestions for future developments, and help you make the most of your resources.
Getting buy-in from other (or even your own) departments and demonstrating the worth of investing in resources may be difficult, so clear examples of success are helpful; instances demonstrating other educators’ successes such as staff and student satisfaction can increase confidence that the same can be done for other students. Our collection of case studies provides examples of success in varying contexts, from using resources to benchmark new students, to ensuring students are confident and prepared before lab practicals.
Throughout the implementation of digital resources, student approval is vital in maintaining internal support. Collecting feedback throughout the year and ensuring student voices are heard is important, so that you know what’s working and what isn’t. However, we know this can be time consuming. That’s why we’ve run a student survey, which details feedback from students using our resources across the world. If you’d like to get involved with future surveys, get in touch - we’d love to partner with you.
4. Substance over style
There are myriad digital resources out there with impressive technology, so ensure you choose one with solid pedagogical roots.
Do the resources have clear learning objectives, encouraging active learning? An emphasis on pedagogy means you can help students in a tried-and-tested way, improving their learning experience. Although a technologically flashy resource might seem tempting, it’s much more important that a solution has clear and effective pedagogy first and foremost. Pedagogically sound resources are designed with student learning in mind, so are more likely to help meet your goals such as student engagement.
For educators, these resources should not increase your burden and make teaching more complicated, but rather improve teaching experience and free up time for more important activities.
Teaching Innovation Awards winner Dr Bhaven Patel introduced custom Smart Worksheets to the Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences group at London Metropolitan University. These were developed to increase students’ employability skills and demonstrate inclusive assessment. Not only did they achieve this, but test performance increased significantly and attainment gaps were diminished: clearly demonstrating the efficacy of the Smart Worksheets that had been designed with strong pedagogical principles in mind.
5. Accessibility matters
It’s not only vital that resources are accessible to all students, but also that they are inclusive. Students have diverse needs, and all should be able to engage and benefit from digital solutions, with clear opportunities for learning and progression.
Be mindful of resources’ hardware and software requirements - resources that only run efficiently using certain devices or platforms will leave some students without access. It goes without saying that resources should comply with accessibility standards, too. Check for WCAG status - read more about this here.
During lockdown, De Montfort University’s forensic science department created an immersive 360-degree virtual interactive crime scene, as students could not access the on-campus crime scene house. Students praised the digital solution for its inclusivity, as both written and audio instructions were incorporated.
So, when considering digital resources, keep the experience of students with disabilities or additional needs in mind. Their learning experiences are just as important as those faced by the rest of your students!
When used in the right way, digital learning resources benefit student learning experiences, as well as improve teaching experiences. Solutions such as LabSims and Smart Worksheets reduce marking burden, increase student confidence, and provide timely and useful feedback. Book a free demo or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org to explore digital learning opportunities for you and your students.