During discussions with partner institutions, we are often asked for guidance on the best way to recruit faculty for their etextbook and digital course materials program. Though many instructors may be aware of the benefits—lower costs for students, increased collaboration within course materials and improved student retention—they may feel wary of implementing new educational technology solutions.
Through our experience guiding a number of institutions as they initiate etextbook and digital course materials programs, we have observed the following strategies for successful faculty recruitment:
1. Set Appropriate Recruitment Goals
Where you stand in the process of implementing etextbooks and digital course materials will influence your recruiting efforts. In the initial discovery phase, there is benefit to recruiting a cross-section of instructors that will be representative of your institution: different departments, varying class sizes, multiple pedagogical styles and both the tech savvy and those with little technological understanding. For an honest evaluation of how an etextbook and digital course materials solution would work at your institution, you’ll benefit from faculty who are vocal and willing to give feedback on the potential benefits and challenges of an institution-wide implementation.
2. Find Your Champions
Every initiative needs its champions: those who can immediately see the benefits and also help make the benefits apparent to others. Faculty who assume the following roles become important allies during recruitment efforts:
- Leaders: Always ‘leading the charge,’ this faculty member wants to understand every aspect of your initiative. They’ll assist you with faculty training and communication and help foster best-practice and user communities once the process is underway.
- Tech Enthusiasts: Always ready to demonstrate new gadgets and looking for the next great app, this member of your faculty has a history of being on the cutting edge of technology. They’ll help you effectively communicate the technological features and benefits to potential users.
- Innovators: Always willing to try something new, this member of your faculty scours the blogosphere and higher education journals looking for ways to breathe new life into the classroom. They are relentless in their desire to enhance the learning experience and they’ll help spread the word about the pedagogical benefits of your initiative.
3. Provide a Way to Experiment
As with any new technology, pre-conceived notions about how complicated it will be can hinder wide adoption. To prevent this potential obstacle, we recommend giving faculty an option to try out the technology prior to opting into a program. Courseload has assisted partner institutions with setting up ‘sandbox’ accounts for this very purpose and we often find that these trial accounts are a very valuable recruitment tool as faculty are able to experience, firsthand, the benefits offered by the new technology and how easy it is to use.
4. Develop a Communication Strategy
Effective communication is an often overlooked, but critical component, of recruitment efforts. The first step is to establish a resource to address all aspects of the program and set a lexicon for your initiative. Many of our institutional partners have been very successful in creating program websites that:
- Articulate the goals and objectives of the program
- Define terminology (e.g., differentiating between etextbooks and other digital course materials, such as audio, video and faculty-generated content) so that everyone speaks the same language
- Explain the process for participation
- Address frequently asked questions
- Provide links to training videos and other resources
- Establish contacts for additional questions and further discussion
Next, you’ll want to ensure that this key information is being effectively communicated to your faculty. In addition to getting the message out via the most effective channels at your institution—email, intranet, etc.—an open forum is a great way to ensure that the purpose your program is well understood. Whether in-person or via an online meeting solution, providing faculty an opportunity to ask questions and clearly comprehend the details of your program will assist in your recruiting efforts.
5. Focus on Benefits
Because many of your faculty may be motivated by different objectives, you’ll want to ensure that your communication and recruitment efforts acknowledge the variety of ways in which the solution will aid your faculty in achieving their goals. Some of Courseload’s current institutional partners focus on the following benefits in their faculty recruitment efforts:
- Saving students money with negotiated discounts on etextbooks and the introduction of additional course materials from other low-cost sources
- Teaching to various learning styles through the introduction of video, audio and other non-text materials to supplement course textbooks
- Improving student retention and success with day-one access and conceptual guidance directly through text-based course materials
- Active learning from student-student and student-instructor interaction and engagement within the course materials
- Immediate access to learning materials ensures that learning can begin immediately and that all students are learning from the same materials
Each term brings another opportunity to engage new faculty in your digital course materials initiative and we hope that the strategies above, developed through our current institutional partnerships, will help you streamline your efforts and effectively communicate the purpose and benefits of your initiative.