Taking a cue from big business, what are you doing to encourage adoption of new technology and learning styles?
In the corporate environment, organizational change management is a guiding theory that helps to better understand the pitfalls that can come from implementing new technology or a new methodology in the workplace. More than a theory, change management is based upon a specific, structured process and set of tools to enable the desired outcome. In our day-to-day lives, change happens all the time and we simply accept it and move on. The introduction of cellphones and the Internet dismantled previous communication systems, relegating pagers and fax machines to dusty museum shelves, artifacts and victims of the march of time. While we may welcome change in our personal lives, embracing new technology and methodology in our workplace is another matter. In higher education, shifting demographics and attitudes towards technology have encouraged colleges and universities to shift their pedagogical methodology to areas such as competency based education, or blended learning. Educational institutions can learn from examples from the business world. Companies spend a great deal of resources in order to ease their employees, managers and customers through the process of digital transformation. So why is it then that so many IT projects are doomed to fail?
It’s not just about technology, it’s about people
One of the reasons for project failure in higher education institutions is when there is too much emphasis placed on the technology and not enough on engaging with major stakeholders. Much of the change in education can be characterized as Disruptive Innovation that gets pushed on educators and then pushed into the virtual and physical classroom rather than selectively chosen and intentionally included. Beyond technology, there is something else happening when an institution decides to embrace blended learning or virtual classrooms. Educators, staff, administration and students are all part of the sea change that is the digital revolution in education. This is no small feat. Many stakeholders will be nervous about taking the leap. Yet, so much of the success in both change management and seeing the benefits of innovative pedagogy stems from the acceptance and support of those very same stakeholders.
Change management begins at the top
It is essential that top leadership take responsibility and provide a clear plan to describe the benefits of implementing new learning methods (and new tech) to each stakeholder. Education leaders need to show that they both understand the reasons behind the changes and can answer to dissenting voices right from the start. It is highly recommended that leadership establish a team dedicated to managing the process and fulfilling the plan. The next step is to enlist the support of team members who can act as advocates, leaders in the overall process. These key people will be the agents of change management and help to engage and communicate with those on the fence, and those who are out-rightly oppositional.
Maintaining open lines of communication and allowing for feedback are important too. The more engagement in the process that stakeholders have, the more likely they are to feel ownership over the project. It is here that you can address the major concerns that might be brought into the conversation, such as:
- How much more work will this mean for us?
- Why is this system better than what we’ve been doing for years?
- Is this the best thing for our students?
- Ultimately, how will this improve student learning?
The use of technology in professional development (PD)
Teachers in K12 as well as higher ed all come from different backgrounds and each have their own unique understanding of technology. Base assumptions that every instructor (much like their students) learns in exactly the same way are not helping the process of tech adoption. With any new technology, professional development is highly encouraged to enable instructors with the time and training they need to figure things out. When employing a learning management system, institutions can create PD programs specifically for their teachers and staff. Teachers will then be prepared to help their students to use the very same technology that they themselves have used and mastered.
Remember that the change process doesn’t end once the technology has been implemented. The process of ensuring a smooth transition for teachers and students continues along with new enrolment and with each new semester. The path to student success is one of continuous learning and adapting to the unique needs of students and teachers alike. But once you’ve achieved success in one area of your organization, confidence can be gained for other areas of change and growth. Sharing the success of completed and in-progress change projects is a key component to successful change initiatives. Be sure to share what is working and what needs improvement for the next iteration in the continuous improvement cycle.
Download this helpful guide to assist you in creating an effective communication plan.