There is no other technology like virtual reality (VR); it allows a person to experience artificial constructs to such a degree that it envelops their senses and makes them feel as though they are there (Southgate, 2020, p. 121). It is these strengths that Prairie Land School Division (PLSD) wants to leverage to help bolster students’ understanding of abstract concepts and increase engagement in curricular materials. This document acts as a call-to-action by systematically defining and addressing the following steps: (1) Empathize, categorizing and understanding stakeholders, (2) Vision, using stakeholders to create an image of success, (3) Design, creating a systematic methodology to manage the change, (4) Implementation, addressing the complex situations of putting a plan into motion, and (5) Evaluation, understanding when the vision has been achieved (Nix et al., 2021). Furthermore, such a plan helps create stability in times of change, improving the odds a project will succeed (Pearlmutter, 1998).

Empathize

It is human nature to resist change to maintain the status quo (Austin & Ciaassen, 2008). These unchanged structures cause most innovations to falter because the change is pursued in isolation (Hinde, 2004). The first step of any change project should be to discover, understand, and empathize with stakeholders (Nix et al., 2021) to critically engage them in the initiative (Murray-Webster & Simon, 2006, p. 1). 

As part of the discovery phase, stakeholders will be divided into eight classifications based on their interest, power, and attitude towards the change initiative (Murray-Webster & Simon, 2006, p. 1) (see Figure 1). These labels help determine how best to engage stakeholders in the project and are summarized by the following:

  1. The saviour has power, high interest, and a positive attitude towards the project.
  2. The friend has low power but high interest and a positive attitude towards the project.
  3. The saboteur has high power and interest but a negative attitude towards the project.
  4. The irritant has low power and high interest but a negative attitude towards the project.
  5. The sleeping giant has high power, low interest but a positive attitude towards the project.
  6. The acquaintance has low power, low interest, and a positive attitude towards the project.
  7. The time bomb has high power, low interest, and a negative attitude towards the project.
  8. The trip wire has low power, low interest, and a negative attitude towards the project (Murray-Webster & Simon, 2006, p. 2).

PLSD is a school division that has become very wary of change and would be considered a change-resistant organization; as such, resistant persons and organizational structures need to be navigated with care to create an environment conducive to VR use. To help discover these persons and organizations, an audit of the current stakeholders was performed (see Table 1).

Figure 1

Stakeholder Labels

Note. A three dimensional array used to categorize stakeholders based on their interest, attitudes, and power. Adapted from Murray-Webster & Simon (2006).

Table 1

PLSD Stakeholder Audit

Stakeholder Irritant Trip Wire Time Bomb Saboteur Friend Acquaintance Saviour Sleeping Giant
Central Office 1 1
Students 5% 10% 50% 25%
School Board 1 2 1 4
Principals 3 2 2 6
Teachers 30% 30% 3% 3% 10% 20% 3% 1%
Teacher Ass. 25% 10% 25% 40%
IT Staff 1 1

Note. Data for this table was gathered based on previous initiatives and interviews with key stakeholders.

Interviews will need to be held with key stakeholders and groups. During these interviews, stakeholders will be discussing their likes, dislikes, and challenges they foresee implementing VR in the classroom. Based on their already prescribed labels and feedback from the interview, they will be broken into four categories: (1) keep satisfied, (2) manage closely, (3) monitor, or (4) keep informed (Nix et al., 2021) (see Figure 2). Furthermore, feedback from these interviews can be used to inform later steps.

Figure 2

Stakeholder Labels

Note. Stakeholders will be prioritized by their power and interest in the project, however, most stakeholders will be informed of project progress. From Toolkit for change in resistant organizations by Nix, C., Rowe, C., Carpenter, J., MacKay, M., & Guichon, P., 2021. 

Vision

The vision step allows stakeholders to identify and visualize the end-goal of the initiative. First, the objective of the change project must be stated. It becomes natural to have grandiose ideas of the project’s goals, however for this specific project, the most realistic approach considering the organization’s readiness (Austin & Ciaassen, 2008) is to utilize VR in classrooms for specific outcome-based applications in lines with specific-learner expectations outline in the Alberta curriculum. Specifically, this project’s scope will focus on junior high science learner expectations because, at this level, many students struggle to understand abstract concepts as they cannot visualize the outcome. VR can be a valuable tool in reaching these students. This narrowed scope gives VR a tangible outcome for resistant stakeholders based on the organization’s current norms and eases tensions of future change initiatives. Furthermore, a narrowed scope creates the highest chance of success by considering the existing system’s particular dynamics and looking for relevant and innovative ways to influence them (Conway et al., 2017, p. 14).

By identifying risks, early plans can be developed to manage and avoid obstacles. The risks for this specific project can be broken down into:

  1. Stakeholder risks: individuals or groups that could derail the project, such as saboteurs and time bombs.
  2. Health and safety risks: the risk of bodily injury.
  3. Infrastructural risks: are risks related to the costs and availability of needed facilities to implement the project. 

Table 2 demonstrates the breakdown of the identified risks at this time. It becomes vital to consult with supporters and naysayers during this step to help identify other possible roadblocks and take feedback for future adjustments (Nix et al., 2021).

Table 2

PLSD Risk Assessment

Stakeholder Risks Health and Safety Risks Infrastructure Risks
Auto-Immune Response

Saboteurs

Lack of Valence

Motion Sickness

COVID Related Concerns

Privacy Concerns

Physical Space

Capital Costs

Note. A table expressing the risks related to implementing VR in PLSD.

An initial vision statement could be devised by analyzing the objective, risks, and unique dynamics of the organization. At this moment, a preliminary vision statement could be to enhance student comprehension of abstract and complex concepts through virtual reality. Narrowing this specific project’s focus aligns with the organization’s needs by limiting the change’s amplitude and only directly incorporating interested stakeholders. Likewise, it alludes to a more significant long-term goal of increasing the organization’s valence or the value members assign to organizational change (Weiner, 2009, p. 3). 

Design

The design step creates the opportunity for leaders to compose a plan to generate stability and familiarity in stakeholders by addressing the process’s human side (Austin & Ciaassen, 2008; Conner, 1998). The macro-level design process can incite this stability through a systematic approach that acknowledges and incorporates stakeholders’ perspectives to frame the design. The process follows fours steps: (1) community, creating a change management team around stakeholders with the proper attitudes, interests, and vision, (2) define and identify, outlining what success looks like and looking for specific pockets of support and resistance, (3) budget, determining what approaches give the best return, and (4) empower, creating short and long term goals to enable stakeholders (Nix et al., 2021). 

The project’s change management team should involve representatives from each type of stakeholder outlined in Table 1. A small core team built around the initial change agent, central office staff, principals, and teachers with aligning attitudes and interests can help in the project’s initial stages and design. While it is crucial to incorporate feedback from students and community representatives, much of the work will revolve around feasibility and training during these fundamental stages. However, as the project matures, new implementation teams need to be formed to address their unique needs at each school. These implementation teams should involve, at a minimum, a teacher, student and community member.

It becomes the core team’s responsibility to define and identify hot spots of support and resistance by envisioning the project’s end state. One critical strategy outlined by Nix et al.’s toolkit is backwards imaging (2021). One critical strategy outlined by Nix et al.’s toolkit is backwards imaging (2021). Backwards imaging allows teams to wrestle with the future state’s specifics by asking them to describe what they expect to see from their design efforts (Recardo, 2008). By utilizing backwards imaging and the project’s vision, a long-term goal can not only be visualized but defined in tangible, real-world terms.

Next, the team needs to determine the budget. Using the return on change equation (see Figure 3), the team can empirically weigh the perceived benefits versus the execution costs (Conner, 1998). For example, in this project, VR headsets’ capital costs will be among the most significant expenses. There are currently two VR headset styles, tethered headsets that require high-end computers to handle all the computational information and stand-alone headsets that handle all the same information on-board but are less powerful. Buying stand-alone headsets provide a more notable return on change because there are no additional costs (see Table 3) and enables better mobility and safety by removing the tether as a tripping hazard.

Figure 3

Return on Change

Note. The effort yield is the perceived value of the current initiative and the execution cost is the money associated with the initiative. 

Table 3

Breakdown of VR Costs

Scenario 1 Senario 2
Item Cost Item Cost
Oculus Quest (x 20) $9 180 HTC Vive Cosmos (x 20) $18 000
NETGEAR Nighthawk Router $250 VR Capable Computer (x 20) $24 000
NETGEAR Nighthawk Router $250
Total $9 430 Total $42 250

Note. The effort yield of these two products would be relatively the same for this project, however, the cost in scenario two is far greater, making scenario one have the better return on change. 

Finally, the core team needs to develop a long-term plan to create a sense of stability and short-term wins to empower stakeholders. PLSD already has an established cycle of three-year initiatives. Adopting this timeline for long-term planning will help alleviate anxiety and change phobia by following established standards (see Figure 4). Furthermore, short-term wins can be individualized and instituted by each school’s implementation team by creating opportunities for success by following the FAST acronym, frequently discussed, ambitious, specific, and transparent (Sull & Sull, 2018). 

Figure 4

Timeline Overview

Note. The project’s initial timeline is based on the already established three-year cycles present at PLSD.

Implement

As PLSD moves towards the implementation phase, it becomes vital to create a stable timeline by supporting and educating its stakeholders on the best practices and policies needed to be successful. This phase’s current timeline focuses on training and infrastructural acquisition for the first year, moving into classroom deployment for the second year (see Figure 5).

Figure 5

Timeline for Implementation Step

Note. The implementation timeline focuses on training and supporting stakeholders to empower them for the deployment of VR in classrooms.

The first year will concentrate on training sessions and infrastructure. During this time, the core team will communicate the initiative’s values by creating and communicating a clear policy that outlines the stakeholders’ expectations, incentives, and guidelines (Nix et al., 2021). Traditional professional development sessions will be replaced with collaborative training opportunities led by the core team to allow implementation teams to learn the technology and collectively contribute to the developed materials (Conway et al., 2017). As teams become more familiar with the technology, infrastructural elements can be established for each team’s unique needs. Likewise, these early adopters gain confidence and valuable hands-on experience by affording them with the needed time, space, access, and resources they need to become familiar with the technology in their practice (Lisewski, 2016; Nix et al., 2021).

The second year of the implementation moves into the action phase. During this phase, the core and implementation teams will be in constant communication to execute the strategic plan smoothly while identifying and responding to new roadblocks and adapting to new realizations (Conway et al., 2017). Each implementation team reports back to the core team after each lesson using VR technology, allowing the core team to identify division-wide trends and adjust on a global scale while allowing each implementation team to adapt to their stakeholders’ unique individual needs (see Figure 6). Such an approach accepts the situation as dynamic, acknowledging the importance of understanding the relationship between the organizational structures and emerging technology as interrelated elements that behave as component parts (Conway et al., 2017, p. 14).

Figure 6

Deployment Communication

Note. Each school’s implementation team will report their experience and insights from each implementation. This allows the core team to identify key global trends while allowing for each implementation team to adapt to their unique needs.

Evaluate

The initiative’s most considerable challenge would be a fair and proper evaluation of its success because learning through VR stems from the constructivist theory. It acknowledges the mind makes meaning rather than acquiring it, recognizing that learning is idiosyncratic and based on the learner’s unique reality (Ertmer & Newby, 2013, p. 55; MacKay, 2020, p. 4). However, traditional evaluation metrics used in K-12 education often follow behaviourist theories by using solely quantitative measures, for example, government exam results, final grades, and specific learner outcome performance. While such results can inform the success of many educational measures, VR is more attuned to qualitative criteria as it becomes hard to define a deterministic outcome to a given input. Rather than looking for specific metrics, the evaluation should focus on identifying cause-and-effect relationships to make probabilistic predictions and generalizations of the initiative’s success (Johnson & Christensen, 2014, p. 33). 

Back in the design phase, core stakeholders used backwards imaging to visualize the initiative’s end state. A simple method to analyze success would be to compare the visualized end state to the current state. By exploring the successes and challenges, pinpoint gaps can be identified, and irrelevant processes can be updated or removed (Nix et al., 2021). Furthermore, feedback from implementation teams during the deployment phase can further inform the initiative’s current state.

The core team will use exit interviews to finalize the success of the project. Questions will focus on listening to stakeholders’ experiences using the technology to learn. If needed, probing questions can spark conversations, such as how learning this way differs from textbook work? Data from these interviews will then be analyzed, and trends will be associated with the original vision statement to determine success.

It is not hyperbole to state that VR has the capability to change the education profession radically. However, there are many obstacles to successfully implementing such technology in K-12 education, such as organizational resistance. Nevertheless, by taking a holistic view of such problems, examining the stakeholder’s dynamic relationship and their established structures, a systematic approach can be applied that identifies the dimensions of the problem (Conway et al., 2017, p. 14).

References

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