Not as Advertised


Our team is conducting 2 separate pilot projects this semester, to evaluate software that is used in a few faculties for potential use across the university. I’m not going to mention the products or the vendors.

In both cases, the urgent requests for doing a campus pilot project were forms of “we need this in order to do [interesting pedagogy], and we need it to be integrated with our LMS so we don’t have to spend a bunch of time doing admin-y things to use it. also, if it could be funded centrally, it’d be really helpful.”

Absolutely! Let’s set that up! Let’s learn about how [interesting pedagogy] improves the teaching and learning experience!

So, I talk with the vendors. The software will work great with our LMS! It integrates very nicely! We can’t wait to see what instructors do with this very nice integration with your LMS! Also, it will work great with your campus systems and library platforms! It’ll be great! Product A is decidedly not-inexpensive, so finding funds will be a challenge. But we can do it. Product B provides a no-cost pilot evaluation license, so we’re good there.

So we launch the pilot projects. Secure funding. Assign staff members to lead things. Set up communities for each application, so that instructors can share experiences etc. We plan surveys to learn from instructors and students. It’s going to be great.

“OK. Product A. We’re ready to integrate with our LMS now. The semester starts in less than a month.”

“oh. yeah. so… we haven’t actually built that integration yet. do you need it right away? how about maybe by the end of the semester?”

“But. That defeats the whole purpose of the pilot, which was to evaluate the integration.”

shrugs

“Sigh. OK. Let’s run it as a standalone application. No integration with the LMS for the pilot because we won’t change the implementation half-way through.”

“Perfect. Thanks. Here’s your invoice.”

Right. At least Product B is integrating nicely with our LMS. It’s a bit of a hackish kludgey setup, with a manual multi-step process required to set up each assignment. But, it’s doable. Progress!

Except, it turns out that it doesn’t actually work with the resources from our library or third-party licensed resources after all. And the workaround to that is sending our copyright office into fits. Or, it can work with those resources, but not if it’s integrated with our LMS. So. Pick a core functionality that you want to evaluate in the pilot, because it can’t be the whole thing.

Which means, we’re running 2 concurrent pilot projects. In a pandemic. During a semester that has already had 1 large-scale shift from in-person to remote teaching. And neither product is working as advertised. So our pilot evaluations aren’t really applicable to what the potential implementation might be, and now our participating instructors will be expecting something to come from the pilots and we may not be able to get the data we need in order to make longer-term decisions for potentially adding these to our supported campus platforms…

Anyway. We’re going to learn about the uses of these applications. And then we’ll need to take a step back and try to figure out what else we need to learn before making any longer-term decisions.

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