Technology was already becoming increasingly important in education, then the pandemic struck, bringing edtech needs to a whole new level. We were all thrust into technology in a way we didn’t expect, and it happened quickly. Pre-pandemic, many folks supplemented their classroom technology with in-person class time, using good old-fashioned paper, pencil, and verbal discussion. When this became an impossibility during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, we all adjusted as fast as possible — both in the academic world and in edtech. This created room for change in how we implement new software. Folks now realize the value of implementing and training on tools like assessment software. However, one group that is continuously overlooked is adjunct professors.
An adjunct’s perspective
In my years as an adjunct, I had no idea what options were available to me for administering exams outside of paper and pencil. I had access to a copier and Microsoft Word. One institution even told me to stop copying my exams because I was using too much paper, but never gave any alternatives for delivering exams. I have since learned that I was not alone in my ignorance of assessment options and classroom technology.
As an ExamSoft training specialist, I have helped more than 100 intuitions implement the assessment technology. Only a small handful of those institutions included adjuncts in the process. In Fall 2018, adjuncts made up about 75% of faculty in post-secondary education according to the National Center for Education Statistics. This means that a large majority of faculty are not being included in edtech implementation processes. Utilization is inevitably going to be low. This is not only a disservice to the students who need education technology to enhance their learning and the faculty who, if they are part-time and working at multiple institutions (like I was), could increase efficiencies, but it’s also a waste of money. Edtech spending in the United States exceeded $20 billion in 2021 according to multiple sources. If even half of adjuncts are not being properly taught this technology, a lot of money is being drained from our institutions. And when faculty are using the technology, it’s often not to best practices, missing out on the intended benefits.
However, it isn’t that institutions simply forget to include 75% of their faculty. They may invite them to the table, but short-term employment contracts, pay structure, and high turnover complicate the process. Below are a few solutions you can incorporate at your institution to help close the gap.
- Create a re-usable training process. The implementation process includes product training, but it also allows internal policy creation and decision-making about what aspects you want to use and which you don’t once fully implemented. The audience for re-usable trainings are those who didn’t go through this initial learning process. You can create a template or guide using many of the resources provided during implementation. This can be as simple as documentation that walks through the usage with resource links, or it can be as complicated as creating a course internally with your LMS. In either case, make sure to include a resources document with access links, contact information for support, and any existing self-help articles. Sharing this short guide with all newly hired faculty, adjunct or not, provides transparency in what technology is available and how to get more information about it. This step helps overcome lost resources and knowledge in the event of faculty turnover. It also creates self-paced learning that can be beneficial for part-time faculty who may have unusual working hours.
- Develop best-practice guidance. The way one faculty member is using the software may not work for the whole system if others are interacting with it in a very different way. Consistent, cohesive application is critical for reporting. If you created an internal LMS course for training, you can easily add in best practices. If you used a more basic documentation process, don’t skip out on a few key points (screenshots can go a long way). During the implementation process, create a shared document that covers some agreed on best practices. This should include WHY you decided to implement these practices. Once the implementation is over and folks are using the software, they may find an alternative that seems “easier” and later realize that the easier path didn’t allow for proper reporting. If you include the why’s on best practices, you can share knowledge that will save time and frustration as you broaden use post-implementation.
- Establish experts. Adjuncts need on-campus experts for questions about best practices. While support teams and articles help, they don’t consider the best practices. Continually review and update steps 1 and 2 to keep part-time faculty up to date on changes. Being able to speak to someone on campus made me feel more included at the institution and like I wanted to stay there. Try to have at least two full-time faculty, staff, or administrators who really know the software and can update documentation and answer questions. They should be folks who have gone through implementation or were trained directly with someone who did. This is necessary to keep the first two steps sustainable. Yes, two is critical, inevitably one of these folks is going to retire, go on sabbatical, or change jobs, and you’ll need the remaining person to provide expertise or train a replacement.
This process isn’t quite as easy as 1, 2, 3, but it’s well worth it. Not just to ensure that you’re getting the most out of the billions of dollars spent on edtech, but also for student success. Students will thrive in the consistency between their full-time and adjunct-led courses and over time. If they are using the same testing technology across all courses over years, they won’t have to worry about the stress that goes into the technology of testing, and instead can focus on studying. After all, isn’t the whole point to make our students successful?
Dr. Amanda Krzyzanowski earned her PhD in Political Science in 2018. She studied the economic impacts of educating woman, focusing on the developing world. As she began to teach as an adjunct professor at community colleges across the state of Texas she grew interested in domestic education and its quality. As she transitioned into a career outside of academia, she knew education needed to continue to be a forefront of this career and that lead her to ExamSoft, where she can witness an educational impact across the global community.
More from UB