As we move through the summer months, it’s a good time to think about the kind of setup you want to have in place for Fall.
With colleges differing on how to approach the new academic year, flexibility will be vital for disability services departments to maintain high quality support.
Trialling new tech is one way to test out solutions that could fit with the times.
In a webinar last year, we were joined by Christa Miller, Director of Inclusive Media design at a large public institution. She spoke to us about getting new technology off the ground, and her advice rings true for any department looking to get new tools off the ground this Fall.
The value of free trials
Trials give departments the flexibility to try new things without committing too much in resources.
In Christa’s case, these learning experiences have been integrated into an ‘Innovation Pipeline’ – a 3-stage process that new AT goes through before rollout.
‘Even though, in my group, we use this structured process for testing assisted or accessible technologies, I don’t think you need a formal process to implement these ideas.’
An ‘Innovation Pipeline’ for new tech
First Stage – Sandbox
‘With the sandbox, we want to see if we can build a castle and get it to stand; to see if the shape will hold’
You have to start small. Trying a tool out with a handful of students will give an initial idea of whether it addresses a simple need.
Identify a gap first, then ask why a specific tool might fill it.
A gap Christa identified was the provision of note taking accommodations. She learned that there were over 500 students not receiving any kind of service.
Her initial question therefore became ‘Will this tool lead to more students accessing support?’
Second Stage – Implementation
Can you secure budget? Will your trial scale? This stage is about navigating the practical realities of implementation.
‘This is like pilot testing an airplane. Let’s see if we can get it off the ground and going forward, not just crashing.’
So how do you prevent it crashing?
A priority is making sure all your stakeholders are bought in and properly managed. Trials fail when you don’t.
Christa’s top tips for buy-in:
- Maintain a good relationship with IT:
If you need their help, ask early
- Give higher-ups ways to say ‘yes’:
Set what the minimum, moderate and stretch ambitions are for budget. This way, you give plenty of opportunities for sign-off
- Always check in:
If you have others in your department or institution involved in the day-to-day running of the trial, make sure you check in frequently. This also helps with accountability
- Report out:
If you want a wider rollout, gather the data that matters and report it. Only collect the information you need to answer the question you originally asked.
Also, be mindful of common obstacles with privacy and security. These can be real barriers if they’re not properly addressed early on. Depending on your institution’s policy, getting security clearance can take time.
Christa’s advice is to keep asking questions.
‘If you come up against a problem, keep asking open-ended questions to keep the conversation going. “How do we find that out? What advice would you give me to answer that question?” Ask those questions in the beginning (and make friends with your security officers) so that they can help you get through the process more quickly’
Third Stage – Production
‘Here you’re boxing everything up assembly-line style, putting all the pieces together so it will serve your campus’
During the production phase, gather all the materials and documentation needed for a rollout across campus.
Training? Communications? Processes? Licensing?
Your experiences with sandboxing and implementation will give you a good idea of what’s needed for a rollout.
So be sure to complete all these steps. The transition from trial to purchase becomes much easier with all the pieces boxed up.
Free Glean trials available this Fall
This Fall, we’re offering free trials of Glean, our new note taking web app built for in-class and remote learning.
The trial comes with hands-on support from a Sonocent account manager, as well as use of Glean Admin, our new smart management control panel.
To learn more about a free Glean trial, follow the link below.