written by Kurt Rutter (TCC 2017 guest blogger)
This keynote presentation was highly interactive and based on case histories of change management in helping successful transformative change. I wrote my notes on the back cover of Tech Trends (linking research and practice to improve learning) so apologies for any inaccuracies!
The goal of change management is to allow smooth integration of innovations. When the moderator asked for word association with innovation the words “growth”, “breakthrough” were mentioned by the audience. But also “pain”, and “butterfly”, which I think meant the butterfly effect. The butterfly effect refers to a concept that one small change in a complex system will create unintended consequences far down the line. The term “community of practice” (COP) surfaces early in the presentation and I think each of the cases demonstrates how identifying and involving the COP is critical to successful diffusion of innovations in education. So on to the cases…
Case #1 New LMS!
Dr. Kyle Johnson at Chaminade University (Honolulu) was getting a lot of heat from faculty to find a new learning management system (LMS). He looped faculty (COP) into the process early in the search and the result was a big success with lots of faculty support for Canvas. Win-win. Establishing a new LMS is I think one of the most difficult innovations, because the entire campus essentially must buy into the adoption and consistent long term administrative support, IT , and other stakeholders is crucial.
Case #2 Smartboards!
Dr. Johnson again, but this time it was a seemingly simple deployment of a smartboard in a high traffic classroom. Clearly it would benefit faculty and students, so what could go wrong? Plenty…it turns out that if stakeholders are not invested in the innovation they are much less likely to work through the inevitable bugs and inconveniences that come with any innovation. Oops. Solution, adjust, listen to faculty, and carry on. It turns out that perhaps the impact of the project is less an issue than community involvement. Involve the COP in the undertaking early on.
Case #3 Badges!
This was a case where the original intention of the innovation was a mixed success, but the portfolios and competency-based learning that were also part of the innovation were very successful with students and faculty. So in this case the badges turned out not to be the prime motivators to adopt innovative ideas…a good illustration of unintended or surprising consequences, and the need to be open and flexible with innovations.
Case #4 Online College!
Later on Dr. Bull needed to develop and implement an online section for Concordia from scratch in about a year. No big deal, all he needed was a complete academic infrastructure built on the fly. There was support from administration for the pilot, which allowed the project to happen, and the pilot project was extremely successful, enrolling 3000 students. The upside to the concept of siloing a project as a pilot is that it is isolated from what might be called negative influences and traditional politics of academia, and early adopters can be recruited. Again the value of a strong COP is evident.
Case #5 CBE Certificate Programs!
Dr. Kelvin Bentley from Tarrant Community College needed to develop competency-based educational career pathways for banking. With the support of community banks and minimal funding a team developed several certificate programs. Challenges were that CBE was new to the college, the courses were new to the area, and transitioning students and faculty. How did it go? Luckily the team was flexible and quickly identified successful and unsuccessful strategies (sort of like rapid prototyping). In the end the Teller certificate program was the most needed and doable, and became the focus. This project found success in simplification, focusing on a core area to grow lasting roots in the community. In this case the COP is a combination of faculty and community working together toward a common goal.
Case #6 Online Tutoring!
A pilot using Elluminate Live (now Blackboard Collaborate) was done transitioning traditional tutors into the online format. With support and some financial backing for training and set-up the innovation was very successful. The clear need for the innovation helped a lot and using Elluminate Live to orient students to online coursework and tutoring brought rapid acceptance. Dr. Bentley believes the success was due in large part to combining tutoring use with orientation, and good promotion by counseling. The tutoring community at the college adopted new technology relatively easily, and broad support came from inclusion of other needed services for students, which helped justify funding the Elluminate Live platform.
In each of the above cases, piloting with a core of highly motivated people, an “innovation COP” seems is common thread. The beauty of a pilot is that it can be very adaptive and flexible in identifying problems and strengths.
The downside is that a pilot cannot last forever, and there are dangers even for successful pilots as far as sustainability. Re-integrating a successful pilot can be a challenge, and there remains the problem of getting buy-in from the rest of the institution (you know, the late majority and our old friends the laggards). So in case # 4 Dr. Bull had a nice siloed COP on board but now needs to reintegrate into a larger, probably less innovative COP. Scaling is a real nemesis for pilots I think because, frankly, the people who form a pilot COP are people with grit who like working in less structured environments, and I think that is tough to scale up. Research on scaling up pilots needed!