Monthly Archives: March 2020

Leadership in the Pressure Cooker

Photo by Robert Anasch on Unsplash

February ninth, I authored Digital leaders wanted: Applications accepted online only in which I reflected upon preferred leadership traits identified by Kouzes and Posner (2012) and postulated that the qualities leaders required for modernized learning environments were evolving.  Sheninger (2019) posited that digital learning environments required digital leaders that would champion the use of digital technologies, which is no surprise to someone in the field, and who walks the tightrope, balancing at the intersection of pedagogy and technology.  Seven weeks have passed since authoring that piece. Upon reflection, I cannot help noting the quirk of fate unfolding, with the presently occurring world events not only permeating through the membrane of ordinary life but also within my work and studies.  Educational technologies have become the popular kids, with institutions and faculty scrambling to shift teaching and learning to remote delivery in the wake of social distancing and campus closures.  These events have impacted and changed my perspective of needed leadership qualities, as the moving parts become increasingly complex, occurring in a time, space, distance, and dollars pressure cooker.  Leaders will continue to require the seminal traits identified by Kouzes and Posner (2012), and digital leadership (Sheninger, 2019) becomes more relevant, as the whole world seemingly realizes the potential of educational technologies.  Also evident to us in the trenches are the enormous gaps that exist, barriers that require project leaders to approach these changes empathetically.

Leaders in this pressure cooker have not had the luxury of time to plan for these changes and implementations strategically.  Plans drafted mere weeks ago, envisioned and detailed on organized Gantt charts (, 2016, para. 1), are suddenly injected with unprecedented urgency as project leaders quickly embrace the transformation of traditional learning environments and re-envision teaching and learning.  The sudden influx of requests from faculty for support in using technologies to support students in meeting course learning outcomes has been a little overwhelming, but we are all muddling through.  I am fortunate that my leaders possess the seminal and digital leadership characteristics identified by Kouzes and Posner (2012), and Sheninger (2019) and who have embraced a collaborative approach, designating each member of the Teaching and Learning Commons as invaluable champions of change.  My role in supporting this change is targeted; nevertheless, it is fluid with the needs of every situation.  Hundreds of faculty and thousands of students; necessitate individualized supports.  Considerations of digital skills and literacies, access, data and security, connectivity, devices, equipment, and readiness (Weiner, 2019) are vital in each situation.  Moving diverse faculty into varying degrees of digital spaces; requires empathy, training, and resources.  I am discovering that being a leader of change in these times demands innovative approaches, collaboration, a positivist attitude, confidence, knowledge, and extreme flexibility.

In recent weeks, our daily interactions have changed, as have our social conventions, our considerations for safety and security, and how we work and learn.  Educational technologies have become the flavour of the day; the popular kids; and instructional designers, strategists, and project leaders are learning in motion how to support this sudden interest.  Perhaps the trick is in triaging want versus need, the emergent continuance of education versus a sudden shift to online learning; maybe the method is the acknowledgement that we are all in this time of change together and must all exhibit the desired characteristic of leaders.

Are you a leader of change in the pressure cooker? What leadership traits do you consider vital in this chaotic and transformational time?

References (2016). What Is a Gantt Chart? Gantt Chart Information, History and Software. [online] Retrieved from

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

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



Adopting Digital Learning Technologies in Higher Ed: Can a Modern Approach to Change Management Positively Impact End-User Perception and Adoption?

As educational institutions move forward with change management initiatives and the implementation of learning technologies to modernize programs, delivery modes, learning experiences, and practices, it arguably becomes necessary for an equally modern approach to the management of these changes.  Contemporary methods, such as design thinking and Appreciative Inquiry (AI), approach change through an empathetic lens that can impact stakeholder perception and drive progress.  Rogers (1969) theory provided strategies for targeting unique characteristics of adopters with varying degrees of openness to innovation and provided specific tactics for encouraging adoption and wide dissemination over time.  A new ePortfolio platform is being procured and implemented within my organization. Influencing the critical mass of end-users (faculty) who are on the spectrum of adoption identified by Rogers (1969), demands the investigation of the potential issues, barriers, and challenges for implementing this innovation.

The issues for implementing change within my organization are seemingly typical, being less about resources and infrastructure; and more about the faculty’s perceptions (Cormier, 2017; Weiner, 2009).  Albeit subjective at this early juncture of collecting and analyzing data, it is predictable that the willingness of faculty to adopt this innovation will be the biggest challenge.  In my role, I often see faculty who are resistant to adopting available digital learning technologies.  Kotter’s (1996) model suggests challenging this ethos of opposition when planning for change.  As the resistance of the laggards is expected, persistence will be required to counter this opposition.  This resistance will necessitate concrete change management strategies that will be vital to the success of the implementation.

As user data surfaces, individual faculty who are late adopters and laggards will be identified, and subsequently targeted.  A crucial step in targeting these cynics will be identifying and sharing tangible and intangible benefits of using this innovation.  This strategy will effectually target the late adopters and laggards that are skeptical and who require strong evidence to sway their perception.  Puentedura’s (2013) SAMR model can be used to provide reluctant faculty with the opportunity to dip their toes in the technological waters, and to adopt the platform at varying depths.  Predicting resistance and identifying strategies to mitigate this opposition and drive adoption is helpful; nevertheless, there will be issues, barriers and challenges not easily predicted that must be identified.

Although the barriers and challenges are yet to be identified, there are other methods of research that can assist with these predictions.  There is one other Canadian educational institution that has implemented this ePortfolio platform, and after reaching out to them, they graciously disclosed lessons learned in the recent implementation; and shared resources and relevant data.  Hearing about this change management initiative has been particularly advantageous in the early planning stages and for informing our approach. The Learning Technology team is building ePortfolios to become familiar with the functionality of the tool and to create examples for the implementation.

Considering the willingness of faculty to integrate learning technologies, and allowing for an empathetic approach to change, I am optimistic that this will soften the challenges and positively impact end-user adoption.

What approach would you use to implement learning technologies in your context? What would be your most significant barriers?


Cormier, D. (2017, December 8) Our schools aren’t broken, they’re hard – Dave’s Educational Blog.

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

Puentedura, R. R. (2013, May 29). SAMR: Moving from enhancement to transformation [Web log post].

Rogers, E. (1969). Diffusion of innovations. New York: Free Press.

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