Timing is everything

For instance, when making changes to enhance security that may require two-step authentication, consider the best time to implement such a change. Most users will understand the need for enhanced security in today’s cyber-climate. Instituting a change that may separate a number of users from their materials would be best implemented at the beginning of a semester or over a summer break. Instituting such a change the Friday before finals week would be a poor choice and create undue hardship for users and the IT support staff who will have to deal with staff more panicked than normal when locked out of their accounts. Historically, we upgraded end-user software packages only during the summer or, if absolutely necessary, during winter break. We always believed that gave the staff and students the best opportunity to adjust to the new versions of the software.

When I received pushback on waiting to make such a change from another IT manager, he said, “I have to deal with new upgrades and changes to the systems all the time! Why can’t the end users deal with it?” I responded that we were IT professionals and used to the inherent fluidity of the IT world; many of our end users are not as comfortable with change and feel high levels of anxiety in making changes midway through their courses.

TLC makes a difference

Another key to change management is to ensure that the necessary training aids and supports are in place. When making a minor change to our departmental file-sharing system, I created a short instructional video, provided a face-to-face training session that included hard-copy instructions, and offered desk-side training for several team members. In addition, I gave a hard copy of the instructional handout to everyone who couldn’t attend the face-to-face training.

We also provided online training opportunities through a commercial service for those seeking additional assistance. One of my colleagues thought I was overdoing it in providing supports. “This is not a big deal,” he told me. But several other staff members expressed appreciation for the multiple ways support was provided.

Don’t assume that all staff will view a change as “minor.” Some will see it as a much larger issue. To some, juggling the binary 0s & 1s might as well be magic; they see it as unfathomable. Even as technology becomes infused in all aspects of our professional lives, we need to remember that many of our staff and students have much less comfort in responding to changes in their technology environment than we do as edtech leaders. We need to remember those perspectives as we plan and implement change across our systems.

About the Author:

Steve Baule, a former Midwestern school administrator, is an assistant professor of educational leadership at UW-Superior.