Implementing AT: overcoming the hidden obstacles

You have considered your options, calculated the risks and the benefits, and made the decision to implement AT at your institution.

So what’s next?

Before you get started, there are some things you need to consider. Questions like…

What are the obstacles you might face when implementing AT?

Do you plan to completely replace traditional accommodations?

Which AT solution is the best one for your students?

As we’ve written elsewhere, how you answer these questions could make or break your new program. So we wanted to find out exactly how institutions have gone about implementation and how it’s worked for them.

Getting the Stats

In our State of the Nation survey, we asked Higher Education professionals for their views on using Assistive Technology. We asked What tools have they implemented? Was it a success? and What were the biggest obstacles they had to overcome?

We found that 92% of our survey respondents had trialed Assistive Technology, with 81% believing it was a success at their institution.

What options are available?

There are a huge range of options for institutions, and it’s important to find the AT solution that will benefit your students the most. Our survey respondents highlighted the different types of AT they had trialed at their institution and the most widely used AT solutions ( by percentage of respondents who have used them) are:

  • 86% Screen reader/magnification
  • 84% Digital recorders
  • 82% Note taking software
  • 81% Smart digital pens

Despite there being a large uptake of the above options, others were very rarely used:

  • 17% Online AT and study skills training platform
  • 32% Lecture capture system
  • 32% Mind mapping software

With only 17% of respondents having tried Online AT and study skills training platforms, the lack of training and education around AT has often proved to be an obstacle to its success.

What is the biggest challenge?

Of the 19% of respondents who stated AT was not a success at their institution, many cited reasons around a lack of knowledge by both faculty and the disability services departments themselves:

“Why do you think AT was not successful at your institution?”
"Insufficient knowledge of the options and application of products available."
"Limited technical knowledge from Disability Services staff and faculty - if we don't buy in how can we expect others to do so?"
"We don't have the 
resources to get the 
word out or to deal 
with training."
"Resistance from faculty 
about using technology 
in the classroom and 
testing environments."

Whilst a lack of education around technology as an accommodation can be a huge obstacle, our survey showed that the biggest challenge related to the students themselves.

78% of respondents blamed a lack of engagement from students for AT being unsuccessful at their institution. Only 22% said the product itself didn’t fulfil their needs.

Overcoming these barriers

It is clear from these responses that the functionality of AT isn’t to blame for an unsuccessful implementation. Students as well as staff need to be fully engaged with the technology in order to make it fulfil its purpose. Education around the options available, what people’s rights are, and most importantly how to use the technology and get student buy-in are key to making your implementation a success.

One survey respondent stated that: ‘The 21st Century student is ever changing; the challenge is to meet them where they are.’

Positioning AT as a tool for students to maximize their studies, rather than as an addition to their workload, promotes a ‘work smarter not harder’ ethos. The modern student is more tech-savvy than their predecessors, and needs a solution which fits into their 21st century way of working.

The next steps

Implementing an effective AT solution is something that has been a success for the majority of our Sonocent Community. Choosing the right technology for your students’ needs is incredibly important, but ensuring you have the training and education in place to engage students is even more so.

We are specialists in notetaking software which, with the right implementation, can be used as a reliable and cost-effective alternative to traditional methods such as peer notetakers.

Check out our case study on Oregon State University to see how with the right training they have been able to successfully implement AT at their institution.

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