Work Integrated Learning: Change in the Digital Learning Environment

Given it is almost a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, it could be effortless to discuss the change to our digital learning environments for those who work in post-secondary education. As an educator in Co-operative Education who adapted to change last year, most of my work has shifted to a completely online presence. For most Canadian institutions, there was a dramatic change in how business is done amongst all education stakeholders (students, faculty, staff, and administration). However, in Co-operative Education, a significant shift in the technology operation end of the University of Victoria (Uvic) began in the late 1990s. Having prided itself as one of the earlier adopters of new pedagogy theory concerning co-operative education/work-integrated learning, UVic saw a need to adopt technology to adapt its current Customer Relationship Model (CRM). Furthermore, how it would interact with its stakeholders. This is a review of that process through those that experienced it firsthand.

In understanding change literature, Al-Haddad and Kotnour (2015) introduced several concepts related to how change is enabled, and leaders use methods in carrying out change within their organizational structures. Comparing the instances of the technology change that my institution went through, I can compare the change methods’ systematic nature to several key pieces of literature referenced on Al-Haddad and Kotnour’s Taxonomy of change (2015).  Both the Wheel method (Galpin 1996) and the task alignment of the Six-Step method (Beer et al., 1990) can be closely attributed as the change methods undertaken in this process.

For some staff, students and employers, the change to a new online system in 2001 would be a drastic redesign of specific practices, I felt that the systematic change method of Process Reengineering (Hammer and Champy, 1993) met some but not all accounted stages of the change our unit undertook. Yes, processes were examined for redesign based on understanding the current processes used; however, the calibration aspect of communication, which was vital to lead change at Uvic Co-op successfully, is not a critical stage in the suggested change method. It instead focused on communication towards the end of the implantation with staff rather than throughout the process. According to Bhaskar and Singh (2014) and their updated literature review of Process Reengineering conclude how important employee communication is to minimize the risks of a reengineering effort. Upon reflection, change was going to occur; however, the employees would be communicated with at every stage.

According to colleagues who were present and active in the change process, they claimed a definitive need to change with the times and grow into a more modern operating method. Overall, the consensus with the staff members felt the leadership (new director was installed, replacing an older regime) that was in place and the decisions made to enact a technology change was well received. Staff felt that leadership could influence change, with most staff users onboard, favoring the change. The leader(s) exuded various attributes as listed by Kouzes & Posner (2011), such as integrity, honesty, and forward-thinking. By including stakeholders in each stage of the development of the new technology, they were direct in their attentions for change and sticking with (not deviating) the creation of a new system, they allowed for a more significant “buy-in” from all parties, and at the same time increased the stakeholder’s own competencies in themselves, with regards to handling change and using new technology in their various roles. According to my interviews, and my own interpretation of the events, staff felt the change was needed and not cumbersome. We were now able to manage, prepare for larger workloads in Co-operative Education. An increase in student enrollment into mandatory programs for Co-op, meant a great need to organize data and present job postings to students, which the new system would enable us to do more efficiently. Other factors to briefly mention from our course readings included the concept of readiness of change (Weiner, 2009) and the apparent opposition to change as discussed in Weller and Anderson (2013). At UVIc, the Co-operative Education Department was ready for change, and the unit members, for the most part, were committed and ready to implement organizational change on the multi-faceted construct of the needed change (Weiner, 2009). However, as Weller and Anderson (2013) discussed in their work, a small minority of staff still presented resistance and precariousness towards the change, which would need to be overcome with time to ensure a continued success of the implemented change. It can be speculated that these naysayers were either converted to the new technology or left their positions. I can only speculate on this issue now, as my colleagues were very vague in their details on those who opposed the change in the first place.

In creating a better or “good place” for its stakeholders, I have proposed the following infographic to show how our leader(s) went about enacting change with its internal and external stakeholders in creating an Open-source Initiative (OSI) in the creation of a Co-op portal in 2001(UVIc, 2005). Closely resembling an Agile framework methodology (Salza et al., 2019) and the previous two change methodologies identified above (Wheel and Six-Step methodology), I give you the Good Place.

REFERENCES

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. https://doi.org/10.1108/JOCM-11-2013-0215

Beer, M., Eisenstat, R. A., & Spector, B. (1990). Why change programs don’t produce change. Harvard business review, 68(6), 158-166.

Bhaskar, H. L., & Singh, R. (2014). Business process reengineering: a recent review. Global Journal of Business Management (0973-8533), 8, 24–51.

Galpin, T.J. (1996), The Human Side of Change: A Practical Guide to Organization Redesign , 1st ed., Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco, CA.

Hammer, M. and Champy, J. (1993), Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution , 1st ed., HarperBusiness, New York, NY.

Kouzes, James M. & Posner, Barry Z (2011). Credibility: how leaders gain and lose it, why people demand it, 2nd edition.

https://royalroads.skillport.com/skillportfe/main.action?assetid=43184

Salza, P., Musmarra, P., & Ferrucci, F. (2019). Agile Methodologies in Education: A Review. In D. Parsons & K. MacCallum (Eds.), Agile and Lean Concepts for Teaching and Learning: Bringing Methodologies from Industry to the classroom (pp. 25–45). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-2751-3_2

UVic Organizational Software Available to Public – University of Victoria. (2005, September). UVic.ca. https://www.uvic.ca/news/topics/2005+uvic-organizational-software-available-to-public+media-release

Weiner, B.J. A theory of organizational readiness for change. Implementation Sci 4, 67 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1186/1748-5908-4-67

Weller, M., & Anderson, T., (2013). Digital Resilience in Higher EducationEuropean Journal of Open Distance and E-Learning16(1), 53-66

 

Work-Integrated-Learning_-Change-in-the-Digital-Learning-Enviroment

The Good Place photo courtesy of NBC

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