What have i learned?
This is relevant for anyone in a learning technology support or strategy role.
Sorry for the pessimism. I'm going to be pretty extreme, to get your attention. I'm not a misanthrope: I've just been naive and my observations come from frustration and then acceptance.
whether you're an 'internal' or 'external' LT Provider...
1. Who is your customer?
- With few exceptions, programs and faculty have NO INCENTIVE to innovate in a way that results in better learning.
- Teaching (and research) innovation in universities is ego-driven. I mean that it comes from someone wanting to do something rather than needing to do it.
- With few exceptions, programs and faculty have LOTS OF INCENTIVE to save time.
- With NO exceptions, administrators, academic leadership, and faculty consider innovation risky: it will take time away from other things, it might not help, and students might be annoyed.
- Put yourself in Faculty shoes. Understand that there are lots of types:
- Early adopters
- Junior faculty
- Senior faculty
- Sessional instructors
- Research-driven faculty (teaching pays the bills)
- Teaching-driven faculty (teaching is a vocation or their full job description)
- Different programs, size of classes, modes of instruction, etc.
- Don't forget that you have this very differentiated market
2. Think like a marketer
- If you build it they WILL NOT come. Go get them and lead them.
- Keep trying. No, seriously, keep trying, again, and again, and again.
- Use multiple channels.
- Workshops are ok, but they're not enough.
- Faculty-led stories, on website and events. LT ride sidecar (Example).
- Go departmental.
- LT leaders present to Heads of Dept and UG Directors.
- Email marketing with segmentation.
- You have multiple markets: instructors, students, UG directors, Heads, Associate Deans, University administrators/leadership. Understand their personas.
- Quick product demos with 2 minute video. Follow up.
- Don't over-demo. Ask them what they think the tool might do for them and for their students (which are separate things).
- Find ways to encourage 'referrals'.
- In all your support materials, expose instructors to related tools that might be of interest, just like Amazon does to you. (See Arts ISIT website for this).
3. You are a salesperson - embrace it
- If you believe in the tools and their pedagogical or faculty-time-saving value, sell them. You're doing good.
- Learn sales techniques. Even if it's a 'free' tool internally. Take a couple of online sales courses.
- Don't get frustrated. Be at peace with a 5% sales rate.
- Think about "Customer Success". Use a CRM - follow up, support.
- Sell the tools alongside your expertise.
- Be up front about the limitations of the 'product'. Warn them about the frustrating stuff and how to work around it.
- Make sure your LT leadership endorses your sales and can handle the scale-up and support needs. Work out a plan with your supervisor and their supervisor!
4. feel like a Partner with vendors and internal lt-IT people
- We're all in this together. Act like it.
- Be a beta-tester and suggestion-box for vendors. You might end up on that side of the table, so get as much exposure to it and networking as you can.
5. proof is overrated
- Faculty don't care about SOTL.
- Faculty don't care about vendors' case studies on how great the tool is for learning.