How to Evaluate a New Tech Tool

Are you getting inundated from vendors trying to tell you why their technology is the best thing for emergency teaching?
computer keyboard with Title text laid over

It may seem very appealing to right now to adopt technologies that fulfill a perceived need, but there are some important considerations that you need to keep in mind.  Here are some questions you can ask yourself and the vendor to help determine if you want to use their tool(s).

Teaching and Learning Technology Evaluations  

There are many tech tools available to use in teaching and learning. Right now, especially, vendors are actively reaching out with offers of free use of licensed and/or paid tools. Before jumping into adopting any tool, it is important to evaluate these offers. 

To help you with this task, here are some questions to ask before adopting a new tool to use with students:

Pedagogy

  • What pedagogical purpose does this tool serve in the course curriculum or learning goals?
  • Are there other tools already available at the UMN and/or integrated with Canvas that come close to serving that same pedagogical purpose? Here’s where you can find U approved Learning Tools for Canvas
  • Who will provide support for the use of this tool in your course? The University provides full support of UMN licensed tools, but is not able to provide support for other tools.

Accessibility

  • Is it accessible to all students? Will students be able to use it on a mobile device or need a special app? Will students with adaptive technologies be able to access (and if not do you have a back-up plan)?

Data Practices

  • How does the tool handle data security? Are you or the developers aware of any potential data breaches?
    • What data is the student required to enter to use the tool?
    • How can the student interact with their data (can they hide it, remove consent to use or sell)? 
    • Who owns the student’s data?
    • How does the tool protect student identity? 
    • Are they going to sell or share student data to other vendors?
  • Does the tool take FERPA regulations into account?  The University is liable for putting student privacy at risk.
    • Is the vendor willing to sign our FERPA agreement? 
    • Does the tool request access to personal information, enrollment records, student exams or papers, grades or schedules? 

Is it really free? 

  • What is the cost? While it may be free now, how long does that grace period last? 
  • If it is free, does that allow access to all functions, or is there a cost to getting the “full package?”

If you have questions, contact your local Academic Technologist or Academic Technology Support Services.