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[Edtech Evaluation] 5 Qualities to Look for in a Provider

Tuesday, November 24, 2015 -- Darin Rasmussen

Web-based technology is making progress at an impressive pace. New apps and online tools to make all facets of life easier come out every day—and this is just as true in the world of edtech and classroom technology as any other area. The sheer number and variety of edtech tools can make the prospect of finding and choosing new technology overwhelming for educators.

So how do you find the solution that best fits your needs? I believe that there are five best practices that you should always look for in educational technology providers and their solutions—professional development, standards alignment, efficacy, data analytics, and attention to privacy concerns. When these five components are present, edtech can help ignite and accelerate the spark of learning that occurs between teachers and students, which is the key to successful outcomes.

Teacher’s time with students is precious—and limited. But it’s that time spent on whole-class instruction, one-to-one tutoring, coaching, nurturing, and building personal relationships that makes all the difference.  So, as you consider new edtech for your school or district be sure you can check off these five critical qualities.

  1. Professional Development: I put the non-tech item first. I believe that a well-laid implementation plan and the availability of outstanding training and service support are the most important predictors of success. In fact, in an internal Edmentum study, we found that implementations with a strong professional development component were 18% more likely to be successful than those without professional development. 

  2. Standards Alignment: When considering edtech providers, you should look for providers who build their content, assessments, and apps from the ground up to align with your state’s standards. Some providers simply move or shift items around to fit within different standards, but this can often lead to gaps in standards coverage. It’s also important to take relevant content and standards certifications into consideration. Many states maintain lists of approved edtech, which can be a useful tool to assess strengths of different solutions throughout the evaluation process.

  3. Research and Efficacy: Do the companies or nonprofit providers that you work with put effort into researching whether their products actually do what they claim? Are their solutions informed by learning and science? Do they provide white papers and verifiable studies? Avoid being overly drawn in by a beautiful user interface or simply the latest, news-hyped tool. Innovation is important, and there is merit in trying new and experimental products, but make sure that you know the entrepreneur or innovator and that they are transparent about their product. 

  4. Data Analytics and Dashboards: Student data will be a natural and valuable byproduct of edtech. However, you want to be sure that the solution you choose allows you to easily access and make sense of that data. When evaluating different tools, ask vendors what their data dashboards look like and consider whether they fit with your initiatives. As you think about growing a long-term relationship with a provider, it’s important to keep in mind interactivity capabilities with the SIS, LMS, or other key systems in your state. With the current focus on assessments, you want to make the most of that data. 

  5. Clear Privacy Approach: Make sure that the providers you are considering have signed the Student Privacy Pledge and are doing what they claim to be doing. At Edmentum, we waited to sign the pledge until after we had taken the time to ensure that all of our systems and processes met the criteria. Keep in mind—signing the pledge is easy; following through is the hard part.

Every school and district edtech initiative is specific, and many have very detailed needs and criteria that are beyond the scope of this best practices list—things like progress-monitoring capabilities, interactivity, a variety of media content, integration with systems, mobile-readiness, specific topical areas, and so on. However, I believe that these best practices cover five critical, but often hard-to-see, aspects of any successful edtech implementation and lay the foundation for an effective provider relationship.

Looking for additional tips on finding the right edtech partner and solution for your school or district? Check out our Technology Evaluation Guide. Interested in learning about how Edmentum’s solutions can support your online learning initiatives? Find out how we’re Moving Education Forward!