Q&A: Heather Haseley on Best Practices to Boost Classroom Technology Adoption

The co-executive director of the Learning Futures Collaboratory at Arizona State University discusses resistance to change and how to overcome it.

Heather Haseley has deep insight on getting faculty to embrace classroom technology. For about five years, she was a learning engineer at Northwestern University, where she worked with professors to create innovative and engaging educational experiences for students. 

Now, as co-executive director of the Learning Futures Collaboratory (formerly the Innovation Collaboratory) and lead design architect of next-generation learning at Arizona State University, she’s helping to create the future of learning. 

Here, EdTech talks to Haseley about the next big things in educational technology, and how involving faculty early in the planning process will spur adoption

EDTECH: What trends are you seeing with classroom technology adoption?

HASELEY: The challenge is getting people to see that teaching is a challenge because people have taught the same way for a long time. If it worked in the past, it will work in the future. Why change? 

We are moving away from that and moving toward student-centered learning and learning experience design. 

It’s a shift from the sage on the stage “I’m delivering what I think you need to learn” to focusing on the students’ perspectives. A lot of the time, technology enables that student-centered process.

EDTECH: What are the main challenges facing colleges and universities as it relates to adopting and effectively using classroom technology?

HASELEY: One of the largest challenges is resistance to change. People often see it as another thing in their workload. The other challenge is that faculty and students are often not incorporated in the technology selection process

Sometimes they are. It depends on the institution. Or a particular faculty member is outspoken, and then the technology gets scaled without questioning what the applicability is to other things. 

It’s about making sure we include stakeholders in all rounds of the technology selection and adoption process. What are the pedagogical ties and what are the challenges in a classroom, online or a blended environment that the technology solves? When you include stakeholders, you have a much easier time driving adoption because you have tangible success stories. 

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EDTECH: How can higher education address these challenges? How can you ensure that classroom technology investments pay off?

HASELEY: I would go back to including stakeholders: faculty and students. Often, when the demand for technology comes from students, faculty will react better than if they are told from above to do something. It’s about responding to student needs

I believe faculty all want to be great teachers and do the best for their students, and if students say, “We love this and it helps our learning,” faculty are more likely to listen. 

Also, incentivizing faculty by giving them professional development to learn about new technologies and letting them explore is part of stakeholder inclusion. 

EDTECH: Is faculty buy-in still a problem? If so, how do you get buy-in to move from lectures to integrate more technology? Is it just professional development or is there anything else you can do to increase adoption?

HASELEY: Faculty have a lot of demands on them, especially those in research or those who are adjunct and have additional jobs or are working professionals. It can be easier in some ways to do what works rather than experimenting. Change is hard, and it takes work and time. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bias against technology.

You only have so many given hours in a day. We need to give people the time and space and the professional development to learn what the advantages are of moving to a new paradigm of learner-centered design and the problems that it is solving. 

Heather Haseley
When you include stakeholders, you have a much easier time driving adoption because you have tangible success stories."

Heather Haseley Co-executive Director, the Learning Futures Collaboratory

If we want to value teaching, it should be something that is valued as part of their day-to-day work. It’s an institutional-level thing. How much does the institution value the time faculty spends on getting professional development in the realm of teaching? 

For research institutions, how would it benefit to give faculty promotions and tenure based more on their teaching? Some institutions are doing that by creating teaching tracks and rewarding teaching scholarships. 

MORE FROM EDTECH: See how modern learning environments are creating a pathway for new higher education pedagogies.

EDTECH: What is the best way to offer faculty training?

HASELEY: At Northwestern, we created the Educational Technology Teaching Fellows. 

We had faculty apply for different projects that they were interested in doing. It involved incorporating education technology. 

In some cases, they may not have known what technology they wanted to use. In some cases, they did. A lot of times they said, “We have this challenge and I know that there is technology that could help me solve it.”

For a year, 20 to 30 faculty became part of a community of practice paired with a consultant who was a learning designer

They would have regular meetings with other faculty to talk about challenges they had, what technologies they used, how it was going and how they were designing it. It created a support system, but it also gave a faculty-to-faculty community of practice.

EDTECH: What classroom technologies are expected by students today?

HASELEY: Students, like all of us, want technology that makes their lives easier. They want to use technology they already use. Students are doing more peer-to-peer work. They want to connect to their peers using things like Slack or WhatsApp and to do group work.

EDTECH: What cutting-edge technologies are being implemented by more forward-thinking schools or professors.

HASELEY: At ASU, we’ve done more with adaptive learning. It guides students through a series of objectives and lessons. 

They have assessment checkpoints that route you based on your answers, and then it helps you move through the coursework at your own pace. It is online, but it can supplement in-person courses, so you can use it as a blended learning method. 

A lot of schools are working with open educational resources and more affordable digital materials, which help bring down costs, which is one of the barriers for institutions.

There are also technologies that allow for greater student exploration, such as extended reality.

Here at ASU, the Learning Futures Collaboratory is about getting people to see the future of learning, which may be different than the current way of learning and getting stakeholders on board to start to envision that. 

We are a collective action group. We have over 250 faculty, staff and students involved. 

They co-create these projects related to different futures of learning, including pilots, evaluating technologies and creating frameworks collectively, and identifying best practices that others can use

Right now, we are doing an XR project. We realized that the research on virtual reality shows that it’s really good for things like evoking emotion and connecting to a particular place. We are focused on an XR initiative to help our students feel a sense of belonging. 

We know when students come to a large institution like ASU, it can be really hard to figure out where you fit in. It may be finding the right student group or the perfect study spot or figuring out your major. 

It’s individual for each student. We have 30 people collectively working on what this might look like using XR at ASU. Our goal is for students to feel at home here at ASU, whether it’s online or on campus. 

EDTECH: Classroom technology places an additional burden on IT staff and help desks. How should higher education address this issue?

HASELEY: At ASU, we use a lot of students for classroom tech support. That’s a great way to scale. I think a lot of institutions use students in their classroom tech support process. 

That’s just the technology side. I think if we are talking about redesign support, we should be moving to learning experience designers: people who think holistically about the user and the design process

It helps people rethink how technology can be used to enhance the student experience. I think that institutions should be providing that support. 

A lot of times that support is provided for only the online space. I would say we have to provide that for all faculty. If you have someone walking beside you who can help you along the way, that is huge.

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Oct 04 2019

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