Piloting in a Storm: Adopting New Practices in a Pinch

By frannyfrench | 2 July, 2020

A partially solved Rubik's Cube on a black background.

Sometimes educators adopt new technology to address specific needs — capturing lectures to flip the classroom and make more time for interaction, or adding audio assignments to support students on the go with mobile devices. Sometimes we’re attracted to shiny new tools: extraordinary experiences in virtual reality or adaptive learning automatically tailored to each student’s needs. Enter the pandemic and we’ve all suddenly got “emergency” reasons to explore and adopt new practices and tools to support remote and socially distanced teaching and learning. We don’t necessarily have the luxury of conducting drawn-out comparisons between different solutions — in the current climate, piloting edtech is no longer a question of “if,” but “how.”

But needing to move fast is no reason to abandon care. Piloting can still be a thoughtful process for ensuring that new practices and tools align with your instructional goals and have practical applications for your institution. Step away from the idea of piloting as tool evaluation and towards piloting as a way to adopt and adapt new practices that meet your real needs — supported by technology when appropriate.

So what do successful pilots look like these days? And how do schools carry them out? Check out these seven steps for successful pilots, drawn from our experience working with schools adopting collaborative annotation to support student engagement. We’ve highlighted specific examples from California State University Channel Islands (CSUCI), one of the first schools to pilot Hypothesis formally, and you can hear more about CSUCI’s experience below in our interview last year with Michael McGarry, their Lead Instructional Technologist.

Watch the continuing discussion about piloting we held on Friday 10 July at the inaugural episode of Liquid Margins, when we had Michael back along with Kyle Denlinger, Digital Pedagogy and Open Education Librarian at Wake Forest University, to talk about how they integrate new practices and tools at their institutions.

Liquid Margins

See past and upcoming episodes of Liquid Margins.

7 steps to a successful pilot

Start using Hypothesis in your LMS and learn more about pricing for your school.


Go deeper

Watch our interview with Michael McGarry for more details on what went well (and what didn’t) during CSUCI’s initial Hypothesis pilot.

Reading list

About Michael McGarry

Michael relocated from the northern hemisphere of California to sunny Ventura County in 2007. He then graduated from CI in 2011 with a BA in Art, with an emphasis in web and graphic design. After CI, Michael went on to complete his Master’s in Instructional Design and Technology at CSU Fullerton. He’s been able to take his design skills and apply them to improving course design structures, while his “inner geek” keeps him excited in exploring new technologies that can be applied to the classroom. Michael holds CI culture and community close to his heart and is excited by the opportunity to bring teaching to the cutting edge.

About CSU Channel Islands

Teaching and Learning Innovations (T&LI) at CSU Channel Islands is a program designed to guide, support and inspire faculty at CSUCI to step outside of traditional boundaries of teaching to improve student learning. We are led by the CSUCI mission to put students at the center of the educational experience.

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