As stewards of PSU’s digital learning environment, the Office of Academic Innovation (OAI) is always exploring new teaching and learning platforms, applications, and resources. We take a risk-minimization approach to accessibility, with the goal of full inclusivity.

How does an application become adopted campus-wide?

Before any software is adopted campus-wide, it must be rigorously tested for both security and accessibility. If approved, it may be piloted among a small cohort of faculty, and the results of that user testing are reviewed. At that point, if budget approval is granted, OAI staff are trained to support faculty use, while the Office of Information Technology (OIT) staff are trained to support student use.

In some cases, a school or program at PSU may review and license an application for specific faculty. For example, interactive materials from McGraw-Hill Connect are often used by instructors in the School of Business. If you know the application you need is used by others in your program, begin by checking with your department administrator. Make sure to ask if there’s a dedicated staff member trained to support faculty use.

Note: Please submit your request at least one term before you would like to use the software to allow enough time for the review process.

Independent application adoption

PSU maintains a suite of tools that are centrally supported and approved. You may choose to use any software that you feel would help your learning community, but if you choose to use an application that has not been adopted by PSU, here are some things to keep in mind:

Student Support

It will be up to you to test and support the tool for use in your course. OAI and OIT staff have not been trained in the use of these applications, nor do they have administrative access to these tools for troubleshooting. Take some time to explore the support materials available on the application website. Make sure to search for “support” or “help” and review those resources carefully. This material will be significantly different from the marketing content on a product’s website.

When possible, test the application by creating prototype student resources or activities. It’s important to keep in mind that you’ll also be responsible for helping your students use the application. Be sure to check for any student-facing support materials available from the vendor so you can provide them.

In keeping with the University’s mission to provide equitable learning opportunities to all students, you may also take into consideration whether the tool is accessible for all students and that it is being used in a FERPA-compliant way (see FERPA Student Records Privacy Tutorial).

Student Experience

Look for possible areas of student confusion. If you can’t access a student view of the application, contact the company’s support team for more information. Another important step is to explore any user forums available. See what kinds of problems users have, and whether they receive the help and information they need.

If the learning and support resources for either instructors or students seem inadequate, you should be cautious with adoption. It can be stressful to troubleshoot issues during the term, particularly if you’ll be using the application for graded activities.

If you feel confident about adopting the application, we suggest using it for low-stakes activities at first. Let your students know you’re doing a “trial run,” and be sure to share instructions and support resources with them. It’s particularly important to make sure they know not to request help on this application from the OIT support desk.