Prototype: A Model of Change Management for Online Learning

See the PDF: The Model of Change Management for Online Learning


The Model of Change Management for Online Learning (MCMOL) is a prototypical, cyclical change management process situated toward digital learning organizations. Fundamentally rooted in Lewin’s change method (Lewin, 1947), the MCMOL contains broad, adaptable primary stages, along with sub-steps that provide the integrative qualities required by modern organizations (Al-Haddad & Kotnour, 2015). MCMOLs systematic steps emphasize knowledge and skill acquisition, commitment, and resource management to prepare organizations for small and large-scale change (Al-Haddad & Kotnour, 2015; Beich, 2007). At the center of the model and engrained in all stages are communication and leadership. Effective communication and leadership strategies engage and inform organizational members throughout the entire change management process. In a recent interview for this article, participant “Terena Caryk,” Vice President of Product at Robertson College, describes communication and leadership as the “community-building aspect” of change management for digital learning organizations. Maintaining consistent communication and leadership throughout the MCMOL process is essential to aligning its culture with the external and internal environments (Beich, 2007).



The analysis stage aligns leadership to understand the organizational needs, capabilities, and challenges. An essential first step is to identify the type of change the organization requires to inform future considerations of which change method to promote (Senge 2005, as cited in Hamid et al., 2014). Next, it is essential to consider what organizational systems currently in place can help transition the organization through the change. Does the organization have a history of adopting new technology and practices? Participant “Terena Caryk,” credits her institution’s success in transitioning to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic to pre-existing systems such as work-from-home policies and online learning frameworks, supporting the notion that pre-established educational practices and attitudes towards technologies help prepare organizations for change (Weller & Anderson, 2013). Identifying organizational resistance against change is also essential to implementing change. For instance, a common challenge faced by online learning organizations is the adoption of new educational technology (Weller & Anderson, 2013; OECD, 2020). By acknowledging the change type, pre-existing operational systems and beliefs, and organizational resistance, the organization is prepared to establish a change vision.


Reflection guides leadership strategies and helps to establish a clear vision of change. Kouzes and Posner (2011) explain that leadership is contextual, depicting the need to specialize leadership strategies to the given situation. This stage of the model encourages leaders to consider the organization’s values and the constituents’ attitudes and feelings within the internal system to build momentum around the change (Kouzes & Posner, 2011; Hamid et al., 2014). Upon gaining a clear understanding of all agents of change involved and considering the data and trends revealed in the analysis phase, the organization is prepared to share a clear picture of the change outcome with constituents.



The determinants identified in previous MCMOL stages enable the organization to appropriate a change method to fit a specific context. Al-Haddad (2015) defines change methods as “the actions carried out by managers to deal with change” (p.244). The change strategy must accommodate the systematic actions of management and prepare organizational members for the change itself. Digital learning, as previously mentioned, is concerned with the adoption of new technology by both teachers and students. Change methods such as the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) and others promote digital technology adoption (Siegel et al., 2017). Methods like TAM help decrease organizational change resistance and inject motivation for members to use technologies such as learning management systems (Siegel et al., 2017). Furthermore, combining various change methods to create a hybrid change management approach provides the means to accommodate the complexities associated with online learning operations (Siegel et al., 2017).

Share and Support

Leaders play a critical role in preparing constituents for change by creating a shared vision of change and providing resources to implement the change strategy. This stage of the MCMOL focuses on activating organizational members’ change commitment through contextualized leadership strategies (Kouzes & Posner, 2011). For instance, participant “Terena Caryk’s” example of their seamless transition to full-time remote work suggests the significance of employee attitudinal change strategies when adopting new, digitally mediated practices. Furthermore, operations staff, instructors, and students may require new technical capacities to implement change. A second interview participant “Katherine Carpenter,” an instructor at Robertson College, describes how weekly instructor meetings and LMS training modules prepared campus-based instructors for online delivery, capabilities only achieved through ongoing support. By providing support and a shared vision, constituents understand how the change will occur, preparing them to implement the plan (Beich, 2007).

Action, Assessment, & Preservation

Finally, the change strategy is implemented, assessed, and improved through collaboration and communication, with each organizational member contributing to the change outcome. Participant “Katherine Carpenter,” explains that “leaders and managers guide the implementation process, supporting staff and students throughout the process while collecting feedback and data to evaluate change success.” Assessment is iterative due to dynamic education technology and online learning requirements; however, once the desired change outcome is complete, the organizational state is preserved until reassessment warrants further organizational change (Al-Haddad & Kotnour, 2015).



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.

Biech, E. (2007). Models of change. In Thriving Through Change: A Leader’s practical guide to Change Mastery (p. 8).

Hamid, T., Seysed, T. M.,  Esfahani, F., (2014). Learning Organizations is More Successful than Others. European Journal of Business and Management ISSN 2222-1905 (Paper) ISSN 2222-2839 (Online) Vol.6, No.6, 2014. Retrieved from

Kouzes, J., & Posner, B. (2011). Credibility: How leaders gain and lose it, why people demand it (2nd ed.). Wiley.

Lewin, K. (1947). Frontiers in Group Dynamics: Concept, Method and Reality in Social Science; Social Equilibria and Social Change. Human Relations, 1(1), 5–41.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2019). Trends Shaping Education 2019, OECD Publishing, Paris,

Siegel, D., Acharya, P., & Sivo, S. (2017). Extending the technology acceptance model to improve usage & decrease resistance toward a new technology by faculty in higher education. Journal of Technology Studies43(2).

Weller, M., & Anderson, T., (2013). Digital Resilience in Higher Education. European Journal of Open Distance and E-Learning, 16(1), 53-66.


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