Choosing the best new technology tools for your institution can be a formidable task. With so many products on the market, it can be difficult to narrow down your options and find the solutions that will work best for your campus’s unique needs. Vetting new technology is an important part of the evaluation process, and here are a few tips on how to approach a potential purchase.
Read reviews. When you’ve got your eye on a particular product, start out by doing some research. Several sites, including EdSurge Higher Ed, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Education Dive regularly publish in-depth reviews of new higher education technology.
Ask around. Find out if your IT colleagues at other colleges or universities are using it — and what they think. Connect with other higher ed IT professionals via conferences, associations, or even social media (checking the #edchat hashtag on Twitter can turn up some helpful comments).
Take a test drive. Sign up for a product trial to avoid committing to a multi-unit buy before you’re sure the technology is right for you. Take careful notes as you unbox and try out the hardware or software tool. Is setup difficult? Are product features easy to access? Do you notice any bugs or technical problems? Does the product connect easily to your campus networks and it’s existing equipment? Evaluate the answers to these and other pertinent questions before moving toward a purchase.
Evaluate the available technical support. It’s worth taking a close look at the user support offered by the manufacturer. Are the help materials and instructions clear? Is there live tech support available, either via chat or telephone?
Beta test in a classroom or office. Whenever possible, let the prospective users test new education technology and take their opinions into account. If you’re vetting a projector that will end up in a large lecture hall, go ahead and set it up there and have an instructor try it out. Then, observe its use and/or ask for feedback.
Call a meeting. After you’ve gathered sufficient information and think a product is the right solution for your campus, call a meeting of those who will be using the new technology and others, such as administrators, who are stakeholders in the process. Present your findings, discuss the options, and come to a consensus. When everyone’s on board, the transition to using the new technology is likely to be smooth.
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