Change can simply be replacing one thing or idea for another, such as switching to a different learning management system. Innovation, although it involves change, is much more. It involves a transformation that advances an idea or changes the way people think by providing a novel and useful idea or product. It often provides a solution, creating something new or radically improving something that pre-exists.
Linking innovation with design and technology depends on one’s definition of technology. Dron (2014) uses Arthur’s (2009, as cited in Dron, 2014) definition that technologies are the “orchestration of phenomena to some purpose” (p. 240). Using this definition, an educational design may be innovative when it introduces a radically new or improved software program, hardware, pedagogy, tool, or other “phenomena” for the betterment of education.
Dron (2014) argues that soft technologies are more adaptable and, therefore, incorporate new innovations easier than hard technologies. Currently, a combination of hard and soft is often used to balance teacher and learner needs with cost and time limitations. Dron argues that we need systems with “capabilities for assembly and integration at a depth of sophistication that we have never seen before” (p. 260) to prepare for future innovations. However, since change is inevitable, would new innovations be adopted regardless of the technologies in use? Would harder technologies prevent their adoption or simply make the adoption slower or more difficult? Perhaps we can, and must, develop models and conceptual tools to prepare for future innovations, but the answer for how to do that is not an easy one.
Dron, J. (2014). Chapter 9: Innovation and change: Changing how we change. In Zawacki-Richter, O. & T. Anderson (Eds.), Online distance education: Towards a research agenda. Athabasca, AB: AU Press.