Category Archives: LRNT 525

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).

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