So first, ask yourself these questions:
- What's the purpose of introducing or using this technology?
- Is there an incentive that needs to be clearly defined?
- What are your expectations around the use of this technology?
Knowing why and how you plan to use new technology you're introducing nurtures a more positive user experience for students and faculty, and it will also help you build out your syllabus.
Your syllabus should include the following information:
1. Links to Frequently Asked Questions
Even though you've probably never seen it, every tech company from Snapchat to Uber has a comprehensive FAQ section on their website that's searchable and frequently updated. It's important that your students know how and where to refer to the FAQ when they need to.
Not every student will instinctively know to look for an FAQ, so it's your responsibility to make the direct FAQ link clearly accessible from your syllabus. If there's a digital PDF version of the FAQ available on the company's site, you can download it and attach it directly to your syllabus — however, it's always easiest for students to type a question into an FAQ site from their phone or laptop and easily search for answers.
2. How to Communicate With Tech Support
Do you want students emailing you with urgent technical questions and concerns? If you do, you shouldn't.
There are hundreds of devices, operating systems, software versions, and so many other unique factors that make technical problems unsolvable by a one-size-fits-all solution. As much as you'd love to help your students one by one, stepping in to help might actually make it harder to solve the problem. By encouraging students to connect with the company's tech support team, you empower students to solve the problem on their own. Plus, companies pay their employees to help you — so don't take on the work yourself.
To ensure the best support experience, your syllabus should clearly indicate information like:
- Ways to contact the company's support line (by email, phone, or chat)
- What type of information the student needs to send with their support inquiry (eg., class name, full name, email address, and any other important information like screenshots or other details that will help identify the case)
- The company's support hours of operation
- The expected time it takes to receive a response from support
Most tech companies will have the above information listed on their website or on your customer agreement. Make sure it's clearly laid out for students to prevent them from asking you for help, and ultimately skipping many other important resources that could resolve their issue much faster.
3. A Reasonable Implementation Timeline
The best practice is to outline a timeline that gives students the first few classes to register and get familiarized with a new technology. Some software might take time to move forward if a hiccup arises, like requiring an operating system update, a third-party installation, or device setting changes.
It isn't easy to estimate when everyone in the class will be on board, so giving a short but reasonable timeline will minimize the chance of individual students falling behind, or unnecessary headaches from the outset.
4. Your Clear Expectations
Without understanding the clear purpose of using a new technology, you run the risk of students dropping off mid-way through the semester or not opting in at all. Whether it's part of their grade, extra credit, or is simply a requirement to follow along in the course, it's important to clearly identify how you're going to evaluate or assess their use of the technology and why it's important that they participate.
Also, it's not uncommon for students to say that a tool they've used in the past is better than the one you're asking them to use now. Outlining a good reason why you'd like them to make the change will help support a smoother migration over.
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