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Transitioning into New Technology: Tips for Training
Mia Major

Whether it's a new website, a 1:1 program, online admissions software or learning management system, training constituents to use the software you've recently purchased for their benefit (and your school's!) is typically harder than expected.

It's too hard, I don't want to learn. I like the way we do things now — why fix what isn't broken? I don't have the time to learn how to use it.

Excuses, excuses — you shouldn't have to deal with those. After all, you did extensive research and budgeting, as well as pulled three dozen long days in the office to get the new technology up and running at your school.

Of course, you're never going to make everyone happy — you can't even do that when you're choosing the restaurant for your holiday get together. But, there is a three-step path of least resistance you can follow to get community-wide buy-in more quickly and easily than expected.

Step 1: You must foster the "ready to be trained" mindset.

In order to train your school community, you need to get them on board with the product you'll be training them in.

Get buy-in beforehand. IT, admissions, education and marketing professionals are tasked with improving their departmental workflows, and seek out the best software and services to do so — best intentions in mind, of course. However, surprises are commonly met by resistance, especially when you're asking a group to learn something new.

To avoid this, survey constituents before you start your own research on which daily tasks they find time consuming or tedious, and what they think would be a helpful tool to improve these tasks — if any.

Even if you don't choose the product they recommended, they'll feel as though they had a say, rather than having a decision made for them. Plus, what they have to say may give you ideas as to what product you really need.

Once the decision has been made, it's time to prove some ROI. Once you've surveyed your school community, hold a brief meeting or presentation that outlines the product you've chosen and how it addresses the needs of constituents. Don't have the resources to hold a meeting in person? Send an email or even host a Google Hangout! Even if you haven't smoothed out all the details, they'll appreciate the open communication.

Step 2: You must build up a group of smart, avid "super users.

For a quick and easy transition into new technology, you and some of your colleagues are going to need to be able to use the software with your eyes closed.

Become a pro in the software yourself, first. It's hard to get buy-in from constituents if you can't even figure out how to use the software. Doing extensive training will make your job easier in the long run, and help with widespread adoption for two reasons.

First, you'll be able to quickly answer any questions that arise. Second, you'll make the transition seem easy. If you know the software like the back of your hand, you'll be able to answer the slew of questions that come your way and explain them in a way that makes sense to your community.

Then, get help from some early adopters. Even if they weren't part of the decision process, there will be a couple faculty members, parents or students who are ready to jump right into the new software. If it's something they also are excited about, they'll become your key catalyst for adoption. Seek their testimonials and support during the transition. They'll vouch for the software, its benefits, and help out when you aren't available.

Step 3: You need to train constituents separately.

When implementing new software, you can't just deliver it to your school community. Each target audience must be eased in and showed exactly how they'll be using it and when. Typically, students will need to use and access different parts of software than faculty or parents. Training them separately will ensure they're only hearing the information they need to receive, making for easier comprehension and less noise.

Here are some tips for...

Parents: For parents new and old, send home a notice of the new software. For example, if it's your first year with an online learning management system, make them aware of the product they'll be using and when they can receive training on it. A parent orientation prior to the first week of school is typically a good time to train parents — show them where they can access information and how.

For parents who aren't so tech-savvy, create a printable notecard for them that contains their login credentials, as well as how to check for information online that they can refer to when they need it.

Faculty: Bring faculty in 1-2 weeks prior to the new school year for a crash course in their new software. Show them in detail the tools they'll be using and how they work. Even more importantly, be sure to remind them how those tools benefit them to encourage their use. You'll also want to be sure you're readily available to answer any questions — and be sure to make the most of online training videos!

While you may not need the entire time to train faculty, providing them a period of time after training to get used to the software and asked questions will make for an easier transition.

Keep in mind that the timing may be slightly different, but we still recommend a 1-2 week training period for faculty, as they will most likely be the software's most avid users.

Students: This tech-savvy group will have the smoothest transition. A brief orientation on the new software — we recommend 2 hours — and how it will be used should be more than enough to get them started. If they have questions once school starts, you should have plenty of faculty ready to answer their questions on anything from uploading homework to checking event dates on your new responsive website.

For all constituents, be sure to offer a specific date and time when they can receive formal training, and be sure to provide online resources they can access at any time. Offering a support team like Cardinal Gibbons High School in North Carolina does as well can alleviate some of your workload and ensure a smooth transition.

Janice Cuellar, Director of Web Communications at Bishop McNamara High School in Maryland also provided some great tips on getting your entire school community trained and ready to go in just a couple of weeks.

Remember: it's all about consistency.

Most schools find that requiring use of the new software, rather than making it an option, ensures faster widespread adoption. Something as simple as requiring the upload of a class syllabus — like St. Mary's Lynn does — can help get your ensure school on board.

We want to know: how does your school do trainings? We're looking for new strategies and best practices to share with our schools!

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