What strategies can bring technology resistant faculty on-board?

0 votes
asked May 29, 2013 by techmsi

Faculty tend to fall into these groups:

  1. early adopters
  2. hesitant but willing
  3. refusing to adopt b/c no time
  4. refusing to adopt b/c not technically inclined

I would like to know what strategies I can use to bring the 3rd & 4th group on-board.


A new learning management system has been adopted where instructors are encouraged to post their slides/lecture materials online.

3 Answers

0 votes
answered May 29, 2013 by Chris Gregg

First of all, you need to make it exceedingly easy for the Luddites to put their material online. If it is hard to do, or if it takes a particular skill other than "go to this website and click a few links" than you're going to have a hard time ever convincing them to get onboard. If they absolutely need to be trained, you may have to have a mandatory training session where they get their first set of lectures or whatever online (but don't expect any other forthcoming material to be posted without more prodding--then again, they may see the light if it is easy enough and they can see the results online).

I'd suggest one or more of the following four suggestions, in order of preference:

  1. Ask for student volunteers to help these faculty put their material online. Whether these are TAs for the class, or paid/hired students not already assigned, or strictly volunteers is up to you and budgeting concerns. You may have to continue this process for subsequent classes if the faculty aren't willing to learn how to do it themselves.

  2. Automate the system (which goes back to my original comment). If paper is involved, have someone set up a scanner to handle loose-leaf material, or via a photocopier/scanner. If it is just soft-copy document uploading, this can be automated with a drop box on a shared drive -- just drag materials into the box and it ends up online. This won't make for a particularly organized system, but at least the material will be online.

  3. Wait them out and let attrition work its magic. You may always have reluctant faculty, but as older Luddites retire you should find this less of a problem. If there are only a few faculty that don't want to come onboard, this is definitely the easiest method, and you're really not losing too much by waiting.

  4. Make posting the material mandatory. I can almost guarantee this won't be possible for tenured faculty, but maybe you can provide some incentive rather than simply encouraging them to put the material online.

I don't think you'll get very far with a simple plea for coming into the 21st Century -- if they are refusing to adopt, they probably feel they are too busy, or don't like the whole idea of it.

0 votes
answered May 29, 2013 by Suresh

The question has a hidden assumption: that the technology has no problems and it's merely the faculty that need to be convinced. Having used a few different learning management systems (Canvas, Moodle, Blackboard, homegrown stuff), I can tell you that this is rarely true.

The people resistant to change are probably resisting because they've seen different incarnations of this technology come and go, and find it annoying to have to keep learning a new system that doesn't present any significant advantages over what they're doing. The significant part is important. There's a cost to making a change, so the new system can't just be as good.

So I'll add to Chris's excellent suggestions as follows:

  • make it seamless not just to import, but to export easily. In the world of online software, it's important not to have things be gated. I want assurances that if your new system goes away tomorrow, to be replaced by the next new system, that I can easily transfer material from the old system to the new with a few clicks.

  • demonstrate why this new system isn't going away in a year to be replaced by something else. How you do that is up to you and depends on the system you're pushing.

Bottom line: the perceived attitude in the question is that the faculty are at fault for not adopting new technology, but the truth is that most new tech is crappy and short-lived, and it's natural to want to wait things out. So you have convince people that the new approach is not crappy and will last.

0 votes
answered May 29, 2013 by anonymous

I can think of three strategies, which complement each other:

  • Win Group 2 over first.

  • If there are external reasons for using the technology, make them clear. For example, you might not persuade faculty that using this software is intrinsically a good idea, but you might be able to persuade them that making the dean happy is reason enough.

  • Take the time to listen to their objections. They will be more willing to listen to you if they feel that you have listened to them, understood them, and respected them.

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