My Experience with Managing Change in Digital Learning Environments

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything”    

                                            George Bernard Shaw

 

In the 1980s, the digital revolution was at the forefront, and technology that was analog was redeveloped into an online digital format introducing the inauguration of laptop computers, mobile phones, and the internet. Fast forward 20 years, the world was turned upside down with a global pandemic, and education as we once knew it was thrown into a tailspin. Higher education institutions had to restrategize and quickly modernize the way education was delivered. As Weller and Anderson have voiced, the combination of digital content and global networking has had profound implications for all aspects of higher education. When a global pandemic is added to an already challenging environment, change is difficult. The most predominant challenge seen throughout our organization was resistance to change. Resistance to change has been perceived as an automatic and unconscious trait resulting in roadblocks and curriculum alignment. Kahneman and Tversky’s Prospect Theory (1979) reveals – people tend to judge the emotional impact of loss as more significant than that of gain, making them naturally risk-averse. Resistance to change has been viewed as misalignment with the organization’s approach for change and the methods used, and the insufficiency of communication about the conjuncture of change (Dent & Goldberg, 1999).

The insufficiency of communication from leadership was a significant obstacle and triggered a resistance to change within our program from faculty. Each faculty member had his or her ideas on how the program curriculum should be delivered online. With no coherent direction from leadership, it became evident that our program required a drastic change or the probability of student success was going to be non-existent as Winston (2004) describes a leader as a person who makes sure that the organization is heading in the right direction and is imperative to ensuring that change can be managed. Our organization was not prepared, and decisions were impulsively made. They did not reflect the urgency for long-term outcomes within our program.

It was evident that our organization lacked direction and was missing a vital component of transparency. As an educator, it was challenging to navigate the new normal with little to no direction or understanding of why policies and processes were not in place. It is apparent that change affects all organizational aspects, including strategy, internal structure, processes, people’s jobs, and attitudes, and overall culture. Organizations need to realize that change can be neither quick nor straightforward but have to be more flexible and very well planned (Kanter et al., 1992).

Our organization did not have a clearly defined strategy for digital pedagogy at the beginning of the pandemic.  Miller (1992) and Sabherwal et al. (2001) recognize the importance of alignment in effectively measuring outcomes and enhancing organizational performance. As research has concluded, leadership plays an integral role in managing change, and without clearly defined outcomes, goals and expectations, it is impossible to have a positive outcome when it involves digital pedagogy. 

As we head into our second year of our new normal, our leadership team has made tremendous strides in aligning goals and outcomes with digital pedagogy. It has been difficult for me to narrow down which theories or models have been used within our organization to lead digital change. In the beginning, it was every man for himself, and now we are undoubtedly becoming more of a cohesive unit within our program.  The readings have given me a greater insight into leading change within our program and bringing forward ideas with literature as a valuable resource.

 

 

Al-Haddad, S., & Kotnour, T. (2015). Integrating the organizational change literature: A model for successful change. Journal of Organizational Change Management28(2), 234–262. https://doi.org/10.1108/JOCM-11-2013-0215

Anderson, D., & Ackerman-Anderson, L. S. (2010). Beyond change management (2nd ed.). 323.

Winston, A.W. (2004), “Engineering management – a personal perspective”, IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, Vol. 51No. 4, pp. 412-413.

Weiner, B. J. (2009). A theory of organizational readiness for changeImplementation Science4(67).

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

 

 

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