Rolling out a new LMS & SIS: How to Earn Faculty Buy-in

May 6, 2014 Peter Baron

Managing change when launching software that impacts the entire school community can be tricky — you’re asking your students, parents, and teachers to rethink the way they communicate and share information. It’s very doable, but not a task without early bumps.

It’s not too surprising then that the key to a successful rollout revolves around planning. How are you going to introduce the new software in a way that’ll earn buy-in at the earliest phase of the project?

Cheryl Fleming, Director of Communication at Sanford School, is deep into that process right now, and has developed a really interesting approach geared toward faculty and staff.

In our interview, she dives into great detail on how Sanford will be approaching the rollout of onCampus (LMS) and onRecord (SIS) this summer. It’s a helpful read for any school managing the change process.

Have a question for Cheryl? Don’t hesitate to leave her a comment below. She’d love to hear from you.

Let’s kick off this conversation with an introduction. Can you tell me a little bit about Sanford School and what you do there?

Sanford is an independent, coed, college-prep day school located in Hockessin, Delaware. Our typical enrollment is around 600 students. We are a liberal arts school where the focus is on educating the whole child and having each student find his or her path to excellence. I’m the director of communications and marketing…and also responsible for directing our technology program.

This summer you’re planning to roll out our new software. I’m excited about how you’re approaching the project, especially around earning faculty buy-in. Can you share your approach?

We are running a summer training program for all faculty and staff members. Both teachers and staff members will participate in this mandatory training. Here are a few details:

OVERVIEW: This training is designed to prepare teachers to use onCampus and onRecord by the beginning of the 2014–2015 school year. All teachers will be required to complete the training by August 30, 2014. Upon completion of the training, teachers will have the knowledge and skills necessary to create their Class Pages which include a:

  • Bulletin Board
  • Course Description
  • Syllabus
  • Grading Rubric
  • Links and Pictures

They also will have the knowledge and skills necessary to:

  • Take attendance
  • Communicate with students and parents via the email and messaging systems
  • Set up and manage their grade books
  • Have a working knowledge of the resources available within the system

BUDGET: Teachers who complete the one-day program will receive a stipend and lunch will be provided.

SCHEDULE: A total of 9 sessions will be offered in June, July, and August. While groupings can be adjusted, the maximum number of participants in each session must not exceed 12 people.

REGISTRATION: All participants must register in advance. In February, participants were sent a Google Invite to their departments’ scheduled sessions. Anyone who could not attend his/her group’s scheduled session had to schedule a time during another group’s session or during one of the make-up sessions.

TRAINING SITES: Training sites were determined based on number of participants and computer lab availability. Participants were notified of their training sites via email invitation.

TRAINING MATERIALS: All participants have receive a training guide which also will be available on the Resource Board of the Sanford website.

POST-TRAINING RESOURCES: The Information Technology Department will be available throughout the summer and beyond. WhippleHill Support is another resource that may be utilized.

INCENTIVE PROGRAM:
We will offer prizes for outstanding mastery of certain tasks or superior collaboration, best departmental or grade level bulletin boards, most innovative use of a technique, creation of pushpages, etc. The total budget for the incentive program (for both teachers and administrative staff) will not exceed $1,500.

What inspired the idea?

Throughout the school’s history, several student information systems have been introduced and utilized. Feedback from both the technology group and teachers indicated that the rollouts were difficult, because teachers never had enough dedicated time to dig into the software. We felt that this initiative was important enough to warrant mandatory training and that teachers and staff members should be compensated for their time.

Also, Sanford supports professional development—we want our teachers and staff members to be equipped with the knowledge and tools that will help them do their jobs in the most effective manner possible. This training program is replacing our typical summer study grant program. When we ran the numbers, we realized that implementation of this type of program could work within the summer study grant budget—and certainly professional development in this area is essential as we move toward using the new systems at the start of the 2014–2015 school year.

Was it a challenge to get it approved by your administration?

No. Interestingly, when I presented the idea to the Executive Leadership Team, the team was very receptive to the idea and encouraged us to pursue it. Once we had the green light, the tech team developed the full plan, presented it to the Exec, and it was approved.

How was the plan received by the faculty?

For the most part, I think faculty members are pleased that they will receive dedicated training time to begin using the SIS and LMS. We ran a Saturday pilot session a few weeks ago and based on the evaluation that participants completed, the training was well received. While the vast majority of our folks are pleased, a change such as this brings with it concern about deviating from the norm…so some faculty members are still adjusting to the idea of a mandatory summer program.

What has surprised you most?

I was surprised most by:

  • How quickly we were able to get the program approved
  • The minimal number of questions asked during the pilot training
  • The interest in pilot program participation (our Division Heads and our Head of School took part in the pilot)

What kind of feedback have you heard?

Pilot participants have said the following things about the SIS and LMS:

  • “The software is so user-friendly.”
  • “It’s so much easier to use than anything we’ve used in the past.”
  • “This is going to be great for our school.”
  • “It’ll be interesting to see how a room full of classroom teachers respond. We didn’t seem to get too many questions from teachers – so perhaps they are quickly comfortable.”
  • “This SIS seems MUCH better than Renweb and I am excited to start using it!”

Pilot participants said the following things about the training:

  • “Inputting material we might actually use next year was great – rather than working with mock models.”
  • “Time to play was helpful.”
  • “Very much appreciated being able to work on my actual class page as opposed to the sandbox. Thank you for getting that set up for us. You forced us to try something we might not have otherwise (video, sound files) if we hadn’t been required to do homework. You all provided a fun environment (thanks for the food!) and timed the instruction well based on how we were proceeding. Thank you for your patience with us non-teacher folk! The take-home binder is a wonderful asset as I don’t anticipate getting back to my class preparation until this summer.”
  • “Knowing what is available on the website was one of the most valuable aspects of the program. This training helped provide clarity about the website for some folks who typically aren’t viewing the website very often.”

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