How can academic institutions ensure that the software they license actually gets used by students? This is a question all IT and procurement teams in higher education have had to wrestle with at one point or another.
Assessing campus-wide demand for software isn’t easy. As a result, institutions often over-order and end up with shelfware – excess licenses that go unused, on which many institutions waste millions of dollars a year.
But procurement challenges aren’t the only causes of low adoption rates. The way in which institutions distribute software to students can have a huge impact on how many students take advantage of available software. Inconvenient and confusing processes can result in shelfware as surely as an error in ordering.
Here are three software-distribution practices in education that should be avoided in the interest of encouraging adoption.
If your institution is still distributing software the old-fashioned way – in person, on physical media – it’s very likely that this practice is negatively impacting adoption rates.
The world has gone digital. Today’s students don’t just prefer to order what they need online and on demand – they’ve come to expect that option. Obligating them to acquire course software from a school store, within set business hours, may compel them to either go without some resources or obtain them more easily from an online source (even if it’s at a higher cost).
Fortunately, manual distribution is becoming less common as more institutions embrace digital transformation. But schools that haven’t yet transitioned to making course software available online, 24/7, should prioritize doing so to improve adoption rates.
One of the most effective ways to discourage students from adopting software is to spread that software out across multiple sites and systems. Unfortunately, this type of decentralized delivery is common in education.
Departments often maintain their own distribution portals. Some faculty members procure software for their students and distribute it in their own ways. As a result, students often have to visit multiple sites, manage multiple accounts, and follow multiple processes to get all the software they need.
At best, this creates a confusing and frustrating user experience. At worst, it can keep students from knowing what software they’re eligible for or where to find it. In either case, decentralized distribution discourages adoption. Offering all software through a single, central ‘one-stop shop’ can make a big difference.
As established, offering all course software through a single, central platform encourages adoption. However, this effect can be somewhat spoiled if it results in confusion over what software each student actually needs.
Colleges and universities license hundreds of digital assets for their students – but relatively few of those assets are intended for all students. Some software is just for STEM students or those enrolled in a Graphic Design course. Consolidating all products on one site or platform may be overwhelming if students have no means of filtering what they see based on their unique needs.
Students shouldn’t have to sift through a myriad of digital resources to find the relatively few they need. They may wind up missing some products for which they’re eligible – or opting to acquire them from a more user-friendly source.
Digital distribution. A one-stop shop for all software, available online 24/7. Filtering product visibility and access so students can easily find all – and only – the software for which they’re eligible.
All of this is advisable for many reasons. Digital delivery is less a best practice than a requirement in the age of SaaS licensing and remote education. Centralized distribution simplifies administration and provides visibility into campus-wide demand for software. Restricting students’ access to products for which they’re eligible shields schools from potential noncompliance penalties.
More relevantly, these practices can all improve software adoption rates at academic institutions. They all stem from the same simple principle: The easier it is for students to find and acquire the software they need, the more of them will adopt that software – and, by extension, the less money schools will throw away on shelfware.