When a school or district decides to allocate funds from their limited budgets on a new platform or program, it is an affirmation that they are choosing to prioritize a particular goal or area of work. At the initial commitment, administrators see the exciting potential that the new resource will add for teachers, students, and families. In order to realize that potential, it is vital to carefully and thoughtfully plan the rollout so that all stakeholders feel ownership in the process, early frustrations are prevented, and, ultimately, the program becomes an embedded and valuable resource so it can have a deep impact on student success.
Design the Timeline for Rollout: Once the decision has been made to adopt something new, a timeline must be established. First, decide when the product or program needs to be fully operational, and work backwards. Creating a thoughtful timeline for the rollout allows administrators or program leads to make strategic use of teacher professional development hours and staff expertise and support while also ensuring that the new rollout aligns with the cadence of the school year. It is important to note that early adoption is critical for sustained implementation. Be thoughtful about planning, communication, and training to maximize early usage. And take into account any other new district or school initiatives or adoptions in the development of the timeline.
Identify Internal Champions: Take special care to identify and foster internal champions and early adopters. Individuals are more likely to follow the lead of a colleague or peer rather than simply following a directive from the district office. Find ways to give these individuals opportunities to share their passion and positive experiences with the new platform or resource.
Communicate Early and with Enthusiasm: Prior to any detailed planning, communicate to relevant stakeholders–including administrators, teachers, staff, and students–that something new is coming and why they should get excited. This communication does not need to include much detail, but building the excitement can go a long way to set the stage for success. Include website links or resources for anyone who wants to learn more. For fall implementation, communicate before the end of the school year so that all stakeholders can anticipate and look forward to the additional resources or tools that will be available.
Build Capacity: It is essential to be clear about who will be responsible for particular components and how those roles align with the timeline. Determine what types of training are required for various stakeholders and develop appropriate learning opportunities, whether they be synchronous or asynchronous. For rollouts that are timed with the beginning of a school year, building-level administrators need to have the relevant information early in the summer to build it into training plans for the professional development days before students begin. And to promote early adoption and usage, including time for discussion at principal leadership meetings during the first several months of the school year.
Successfully Roster Students: With the expansion of educational technology tools and resources and the ubiquity of learning management systems, successful rostering is often a fundamental component for the success of a new program or resource. As planning occurs, take into account when a particular district will rollover enrollments from one school year to another, and ensure rostering occurs between the rollover and the return of teachers for the new school year. This is important so teachers can access the platform prior to students’ first day, test out the system, and communicate any questions or report errors. This allows for a smooth initial deployment without a feeling of crisis.
Create Buy-In From Teachers, Students, and Families: Include information about the new resource or platform in back-to-school communications. Use this message to build enthusiasm by highlighting the value of the tools for students and families. For communication with teachers, spotlight how it will offer new capabilities to lighten their workload or productively support their teaching and learning. If students are utilizing the platform, include messaging geared directly towards them. Consider incentivizing early usage or sign-on with a contest or reward system to motivate exploration and interaction. High usage rates within the first thirty days often drive long-term, sustained engagement.
Evaluate and Sustain Usage: Regularly view analytics or check in with those utilizing the program. If there are low rates of usage or specific groups not engaging with the platform or resource, work to determine possible barriers and intervene. Once the program has been available for a couple of months, showcase stories of success to inspire others to utilize the tool. Both internal and external communication spotlighting benefits can be a powerful way to promote usage and deepen engagement.
Implementing a new platform, tools, or resources in a school district there are some vital points to remember during the planning and processing. Carefully plan the rollout so that all stakeholders feel ownership in the process will prevent early frustrations.