Monthly Archives: February 2020

Change in Digital Learning Environments:Explanatory Text for Associated Infographic

Explanatory Text for Associated Infographic

Strategies, techniques, and frameworks leaders embrace in approaching change for digital learning environments can significantly impact both the process and the outcome. Weiner (2009) delineated the construct of organizational readiness for change and argued that both the collective desire to change and the belief that change was achievable; were needed to support successful change management initiatives. In order to inspire the motivation and confidence that participants require for successful change management efforts, leaders of change in digital learning environments must select an approach that will best support stimulating these mindsets within their context. Biech (2007) explored the underpinnings of change efforts and differentiated theories, strategies, models of change, and approaches that existed, which can, contextually, support varying degrees of success. Selecting appropriate models of change can be challenging with the many theories and frameworks available. Within the context of digital learning environments in higher education, change is inevitable; and there are many scholarly exemplars of successful and unsuccessful leadership and change management efforts. Examining models of change allows for consideration as a project champion in an upcoming change effort, informing curriculum; and supporting integrative learning using ePortfolios.

A change in process and practice through the implementation of a newly adopted ePortfolio platform and a movement away from the currently used platform; will be rolled out within my institution this spring. I will be championing this initiative, providing training and support with the technological aspects of the tool, and supporting best pedagogical practices that foster integrative learning using ePortfolios. Applying Biech’s (2007) funnel stages “From Theories to Approaches” (figure 3-1) within this context, it could arguably be beneficial to support this change initiative using the following approaches;

Table 1

The identified approaches in Table 1, mutually emphasize and holistically address the need for the inclusion of all stakeholders within the organization. Many scholars argued that stakeholder’s perception of change is principal to the success or failure of change management efforts (Kouzes & Posner, 2012; Sheninger, 2019; Weiner, 2009). Gedak (2019) examined and synthesized past change initiatives through introspection and consultations with several colleagues from a variety of roles, with multiple perspectives, and identified determinants for successful and unsuccessful change efforts. Gedak (2019) surveyed additional perspectives from Twitter and LinkedIn users and discovered ubiquitously strong opinions that aligned with some of Kouzes and Posner’s (2012) valued leadership characteristics, including; honesty, communication, and visionary thinking. The relevance of organizations and leaders selecting a suitable approach, contextually, to support the success of change in digital learning environments can not be understated, and equally important is the inclusion of all voices in which the change has an impact.


Biech, E. (2007). Thriving through change: A leader’s practical guide to change mastery. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press. (2007).$1544:_ss_book:22651

Gedak, L. (2020). How Change is Addressed by Leaders in Digital Learning Environments.

Kotter, J. (1996). Leading change (Professional development collection). Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press.

Kouzes, J., & Posner, B. (2012). The leadership challenge: How to make extraordinary things happen in organizations (5th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Sheninger, E. (2019, December). Pillars of Digital Leadership. International Centre for Leadership in Education.

Weiner, B. J. (2009). A theory of organizational readiness for change. Implementation Science, 4(1), 67.

Managing Change for Learning in Digital Environments

Learning technologies are emerging rapidly in higher education, and institutions are looking to concurrently evolve to maintain relevance and to provide the best digital learning environments.  Al-Haddad and Kotnour (2015) provided a research synthesis for the history of change management and deduced that less than thirty percent of organizational change initiatives are successful.  Being a part of past organizational change initiatives within healthcare and educational contexts, I have witnessed both the successful and unsuccessful processes and products of change management, and I strongly believe that leadership plays an integral role.  There is ample evidence to support that innovative leaders require characteristic skills in order to be successful in driving change initiatives (Sheninger, 2019; Kouzes and Posner, 2012; Kanter, 2000).  Common attributes pin-pointed in these studies included the ability of leaders to be creativeforward-thinking, and to embrace change.  

Managing change for learning in digital environments presents unique challenges.  I work closely with educators from various programs, from certificate to degree, with varying levels of digital literacies and pedagogical understandings, and support them in integrating educational technologies into their practice.  Given the diverse nature of the educators I support, implementing learning technologies requires an individualized approach.  Leaders driving the change for learning in digital environments must recognize this diversity and the importance of the inclusion of educators in the strategic planning process.  Khan and Smuts (2005) studied the barriers of technologyenhanced learning among more than a dozen European educational institutions and discovered that one of the key solutions to abolishing these barriers included support for the integration of technology to support pedagogy.  Educators need opportunities for professional development in both pedagogical approaches and educational technologies.  

Witnessing change from somewhere in the middle, amongst the educators, the students, and the leadership, I believe that in order to truly innovate our culture and to drive the change, those expected to use the innovations need to be included in the process.  Biech (2007) argued that one of the keys to success in promoting change is involving stakeholders at all levels that are impacted by the change and offered several frameworks to support the success of organizational change, including Appreciative Inquiry (AI).  I believe that an AI approach could promote progress in implementing educational technologies within my context, as it includes the voices of all stakeholders. According to Biech (2007), AI identifies the current positives, dreams about what could be, and implements what will be, all the while, from a vantage point of appreciation.  This approach speaks to me as I prefer to approach the challenges of change through a positive lens.  AI is a framework that allows stakeholders to dream; therefore, forwardthinking, creative leaders who embrace educational technologies would be well suited to leading this approach.  More importantly, AI allows for an inclusive process in which all participants collaborate to drive the organizational transformation, which can support successful outcomes in change initiatives.  

What approach do you think your organization should take to manage change for digital learning environments? 


Al-Haddad, S., & Kotnour, T. (2015). Integrating the organizational change literature: A model for successful change. Journal of Organizational Change Management,28(2), 234-262. doi:10.1108/JOCM-11-2013-0215 

Biech, E. (2007). Thriving through change: A leader’s practical guide to change mastery. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press. 

Khan, H., & Smuts, R. (2005). Comparison of change management guidelines to address technology adoption barriers: A case study of higher educational institutions. Journal of Theoretical and Applied Information Technology, 97(7), 1999-2020.  

Sheninger, E. (2019, December). Pillars of Digital Leadership. International Centre for Leadership in Education. Retrieved from 

Digital Leaders Wanted – Applications Accepted Online Only Please

Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

I was recently tasked with peers to rank leadership characteristics and to agree upon; their order of importance from one to twenty.  I anticipated that the process would be challenging, with the influence of schematic knowledge steering participants in different directions.  Nevertheless, our group came to consensus quickly, and our top traits – competence, honesty, intelligence, and fair-mindedness, were congruent. Kouzes and Posner (2012) synthesized decades of their research in leadership development and analyzed data collected from six continents.  Their findings indicated a consensus for the same highly ranked traits of desired leadership characteristics.  These findings were profoundly interesting to me, and I considered if the advancement of educational technologies is impacting the perceived qualities leaders require in twenty-first-century learning environments?

Sheninger (2019) postulated that while the principles of leadership remained intact, digital learning environments required digital leaders that understand and will champion the use of digital technologies.  In the context of higher education, I have witnessed many leaders that are late in the fundamental understandings and adoption of technologies.  These laggards often display the regarded traits identified by Kouzes and Posner (2012) though they still lack digital leadership skills.  In addition to the essential digital literacies required, leaders need to embrace the transformation of traditional learning environments.  Sheninger (2019) provided a framework of seven areas that could support leadership transformation and inform change in school culture.  From my perspective, two of the identified areas could have a tremendous impact on teaching and learning at my institution; opportunity, and re-envisioning learning spaces and environments.

Programs will require modernization, as will educators teaching twenty-first-century learners.  Progressive, digital leaders must find and provide opportunities for professional development to advance existing programs and professional practices.  Educational technologies and applications are ever-evolving, and forward focussed digital leaders acknowledge this advancement and will infinitely search out new resources and training opportunities in pursuit of remaining relevant. Digital leaders will need to provide these professional development opportunities immediately and must anticipate technological progress to prepare and deliver these opportunities.  Sheninger (2019) suggested that digital leaders will also require awareness and understanding of the vilifications that exist surrounding technological innovations.  Many educators scoff at the notion of using social media for teaching and learning, and erroneous beliefs are contributing to the underutilization of mobile devices as a teaching and learning tool. Digital leaders will need to be forward-thinking, savvy, and practical to be successful in achieving academic buy-in.

The re-envisioning of learning spaces and environments will entail comprehensive strategic planning to set priorities and to guide the process.  Sheninger (2019) argued that digital leaders must guide the implementation of the strategic plan to align systems to the digital world.  Institutions are behind in providing digital learning opportunities for students.  Many of the learning spaces within our brick and mortar walls are antiquated and do not support innovative learning opportunities.  Digital leaders require an understanding of the eco-system that configures digital learning environments, including delivery modes and technical tools that support pedagogy.

The International Center for Leadership in Education [Authored by Jones, 2010] created the rigor and relevance framework; an instrument used to analyze curriculum and constructive alignment. Sheninger (2019) has itemized and aligned digital tools with the rigor and relevance framework to support best pedagogical practices.  Digital leaders can rely on these tools to assist them in the quest for institutional culture change. The revitalization of traditional learning spaces and environments is iterative, and digital leaders that are committed to the modernization of education can ultimately achieve a “digital learning culture that is relevant, meaningful, applicable, and provides all students with the skills to succeed” (Sheninger, 2019, para.6)

Are your institutions prepared to modernize? Do you have the digital leaders you need?

Jones, R. (2010). Rigor and relevance handbook (2nd ed.). Rexford, N.Y.: International Center for Leadership in Education.

Kouzes, J., & Posner, B. (2012). The leadership challenge: How to make extraordinary things happen in organizations (5th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Sheninger, E. (2019, December). Pillars of Digital Leadership. International Centre for Leadership in Education. Retrieved from