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).

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