Why digital exam projects fail

By Martin Bergström

Why digital exam projects fail (and will continue to fail unless strategy changes)

There are many examples of failing digital transformation projects in Higher Education. Unfortunately, very few leaders are open and honest about them. It’s most of the time embarrassing for the institution, or a sign of weakness and just bad advertising. However, by being more open about failing projects and learning from them, discovering why they fail, the Institutions and schools can help the educational sector save millions each year. 

Here are three reasons why they fail:

1. The great book of features

Many institutions value software by the number of settings and buttons, how many different user scenarios it can support, and by the number of features and functions, the tool has built in. More is always better in the minds of these "evaluating committees".

A lot of times we hear about email chains that are asking different stakeholders what kind of features they want/need/wish for in a new solution. All these features (many times a wishlist) are being put together in the long list of features, and all of a sudden it’s born, the great book of features. There’s a big problem with this method of driving digital transformation.

2. Digital adoption

Before you can reach your end goal (which is digital transformation) you need your users to adopt the digital tools provided. Without digital adoption, your software investment costs more than it’s worth and unfortunately, there’s no transformation happening.

Maybe you have heard about the “Technology Adoption Lifecycle”? It can help the institution understand its users and the complexity of digital adoption. In other words, far too many projects forget about their users and hope they can catch the fast train to the "digital transformation end station". 

3. All-in-One solutions

Many times there's a mindset that you can collect many different problems and get one solution (software) for them. The problem with that is of course that for 90% of users this adds too much complexity to the user experience. This is also known as "All-in-One Solutions" and is normally bought with a single role in mind, the administrator. 

So where would you start?

  • The focus must be on ease of use and the user experience that drives digital adoption for at least 80-90% of your users (not the top 10%). 
  • The chosen solution must be extremely reliable so that it builds trust among the users over time. And prioritize carefully what problems need to be solved first and what will help drive the adoption over time. 
  • Also, start asking your neighbor institution about their failed projects (not their promoted success stories) because they are also great resources for learning about digital transformation.