Exploring Student Support: Online vs. In-Person Education. Pros, cons & hybrid models for success. Find what suits your institution's needs. Learn...
Checklist For Finding a Student Success Platform for Your School
Research, collaboration, and evaluation are the cornerstones of success in the journey to find the perfect technology solution for your school. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can confidently navigate the vendor selection process, ensuring a quality and tailored solution that empowers your institution's goals.
Understand Your Requirements
Identify the problems you want to solve.
Start by clearly defining the changes you aim to implement. Are you looking to enhance student engagement, streamline administrative processes, or improve learning outcomes? Understanding your goals is essential for vendor selection.
Outline a timeline for the project.
Determine a realistic timeline for your project. Consider factors like the start of the academic year, semester breaks, or any other time-sensitive considerations. This timeline will guide your vendor search and implementation plan.
Determine the priority of the project.
Assess the project's priority within your institution. Is it a critical, strategic initiative, or is it more of an exploratory endeavor? Knowing its priority level helps allocate resources effectively.
Establish your budget.
Establish a clear budget for the project. Understanding your financial constraints from the outset will prevent you from investing time and effort in vendors beyond your financial reach.
Determine if your school has RFP limitations.
Check whether your school's procurement process mandates a formal Request for Proposal (RFP) for projects exceeding a certain budget threshold. Understanding this requirement helps you plan your vendor search accordingly.
Tap into Expertise
Talk to colleagues.
Do colleagues in similar roles have a solution? Do they like it? Reach out to colleagues in similar roles at other educational institutions. Ask them if they've faced similar challenges or implemented solutions that align with your goals. Colleagues who've been through the vendor selection process can offer firsthand experiences and recommendations.
Ask your IT team.
Does the IT team at your institution already use a similar technology? Do they like it? Your institution's IT department can provide valuable insights. Inquire whether they have experience with a similar technology for a comparable situation elsewhere within the institution. They may have knowledge about existing systems or preferences for specific vendors.
Do a Google search.
The internet is a treasure trove of information. Conduct a thorough Google search to discover case studies, articles, and reviews related to the technology you're considering. Additionally, online forums like ListServ can be a goldmine of practical advice from professionals who've dealt with similar technology needs.
Reach out to vendors.
Don't hesitate to contact potential vendors directly. Vendors often have a deep understanding of the problems you're trying to solve and can provide insights based on their experience in comparable schools. Engage in open and candid discussions with them to gauge their expertise and approach.
Ask about competitors.
Inquire about one vendor that might be more expensive and another less expensive. Understanding the competitive landscape can help you make informed decisions about pricing, features, and vendor reputation. Does one vendor offer an early alert program while the other doesn't? Questions like this are crucial to aid in your decision.
Identify differences between vendors.
Take note of the key differences between vendors. Are there any deal-breakers for you? This knowledge will help you create a shortlist of vendors that align most closely with your institution's needs.
Equally important is defining what success looks like once a vendor is selected. This could involve setting specific goals, key performance indicators (KPIs), or expectations regarding the outcomes of the vendor's solution. Understanding your institution's vision of success is crucial to measuring the effectiveness of the chosen vendor or technology.
Refine Your Requirements
Re-evaluate your requirements.
It's essential to acknowledge that no vendor or technology solution is a one-size-fits-all. After gathering information and insights, take the time to reevaluate your institution's specific needs. Are there any new insights or considerations that have emerged from your research? Categorize your requirements into three groups: must-haves, like-to-haves, and cool features. This categorization helps you prioritize your needs.
Assess your vendor options.
Consider the compatibility of the vendor's solution with your existing systems and processes. Does it integrate smoothly with your current technology infrastructure, or will it require significant adjustments? Additionally, assess the vendor's flexibility in customizing their solution to meet your specific needs. A vendor that's willing to adapt and work with your institution's unique requirements can be a valuable partner.
Consider the student experience.
If the solution is student-facing, prioritize the user experience. Ensure the technology is accessible, easy to use, and engaging for students. Outdated or cumbersome software can deter student engagement and hinder the achievement of your institution's goals.
Team Involvement and Consideration
Request a demo.
Once you've identified a vendor that shows promise, it's essential to involve your team and superiors in a demonstration of the vendor's solution. This serves multiple purposes. First, it allows decision-makers to witness the solution in action, gaining a better understanding of its capabilities. Second, it provides an opportunity for team members to give feedback and raise questions or concerns. This collaborative approach ensures that you're not "barking up the wrong tree" and that the solution aligns with your institution's objectives.
Gauge the onboarding process.
Engage your team in discussions with the vendor about the onboarding process. How the technology is implemented, integrated, and configured is crucial for a smooth transition.
Ask about continued support.
Additionally, inquire about the ongoing support provided by the vendor, as it's essential that your team is comfortable with the assistance available post-implementation.
Finalize Your Selection
Request a formal quote.
If you're satisfied with a specific vendor, it's time to request a formal quote. This is where you'll get a detailed breakdown of the costs associated with the solution, including licensing, implementation, training, and ongoing support. Having a clear and comprehensive quote is essential for making informed financial decisions.
Present your findings.
Summarize your research and evaluations in a formal write-up or presentation. Highlight what the selected vendor provides, as well as any potential shortcomings. Include details about implementation timelines, costs, and the expected return on investment (ROI) if the project is successful. Reiterate the problems the chosen solution will address and the goals it will help achieve.
Identify and start the next steps.
Determine the next steps for your school's procurement process. This may include involving legal teams for contract review, notifying finance and procurement departments, and engaging IT for their input on integration and security aspects. Ensuring that all necessary steps are taken will help to streamline the procurement process.
Assemble key stakeholders.
When planning for the onboarding and implementation of the new technology, it's vital to make sure that key individuals within your institution are available and actively involved. This includes representatives from IT, administration, faculty, and any other relevant departments. Their presence is necessary to address technical, administrative, and educational concerns.
Implementation and Evaluation
Conduct an internal review.
Approximately six months after the implementation, conduct a comprehensive review of the project's progress. This evaluation should include both internal assessments and discussions with the vendor. Assess the solution's impact on student outcomes, user satisfaction, and operational efficiency. Identify any issues that have arisen and develop strategies to address them.
Practice ongoing communication.
Establish and maintain open lines of communication with the vendor. Regularly engage in discussions with them to ensure the technology evolves along with your institution's changing needs. The vendor should be a long-term partner, actively working with you to maximize the benefits of their solution.
By following this checklist, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your institution's goals and objectives.
Eager to read more content on all things student success?