Three-fifths of K-12 leaders rely on pilot projects to make EdTech buying decisions, according to the nonprofit Digital Promise—yet few districts have formal processes for conducting such a pilot, leading to frustration among school leaders and EdTech providers alike.
With this finding in mind, Digital Promise set out to study the pilot process more closely, and its efforts generated the following three keys to success:
Create a clear and thoughtful goal, timeline, and procurement plan.
Before launching a pilot project, it’s critical that you answer the question: “What does success look like?” And you must measure the outcomes that define this success.
The length of an effective pilot depends on what you’re trying to learn, Digital Promise said, noting: “It takes significant time to identify changes in student achievement, while other indicators of success can be captured more quickly.” If the goal of a pilot is simply to get a hands-on understanding of the product or its compatibility with your IT environment, then a month or two might be sufficient.
Establish open communication and transparency within schools and between schools and vendors.
Once a timeline and procurement plan are in place, then active and continuous communication between vendors, administrators, teachers, and students “can provide districts with the most useful and valid information for making a decision,” Digital Promise said.
If teachers aren’t equipped to use the product effectively in the classroom, then the fidelity of the pilot project becomes compromised. For this reason, vendor-supported training and a vendor’s willingness to troubleshoot and respond to requests are key components to a successful pilot.
Include student and teacher feedback in EdTech pilots.
Including student and teacher feedback makes for better decision-making, Digital Promise says.
“It is so important that [the teachers] are going to be behind it, because they are the ones in the classroom,” one principal said. “Having their buy-in and their backing the product is huge.”
Yet, few districts reported a formal process for collecting student and teacher feedback during pilots.
For more advice on conducting effective EdTech pilots—including designing the pilot process, setting specific goals, and gathering data to measure success—see Digital Promise’s full EdTech Pilot Report.