Facilitating Change in Digital Learning Environments

Numerous publications have explored the changes taking place within digital learning environments. Research and discussions continue on the rate of change and the extent of changes being measured (Dawson, 2015). Although some postulate that only the tools change and that the pedagogy remains steadfast (Warschauer, 2007), it is generally understood that change in digital learning environments is occurring.

This blog post will very briefly explore the process of facilitating change in these digital learning environments. Particular focus will be paid to the concepts incorporated within the created infographic (below).

Change Management
The infographic was designed to visually represent a complicated process and divide the process of change into three categories: goals, skills, and steps. By addressing the traits within these three categories, the author maintains that leaders in digital learning environments will be able to facilitate successful change within an organization.

I am not attempting to outline in detail how to produce change within an organization, but rather the categories requiring the focus of leaders to ensure successful change. Extensive materials exist surrounding change management theory and methodology with over 840,000 results found in a recent search. As noted by a former professor of mine, Dr. Michelle Harrison, “there are entire graduate degrees focused on change management” (2020). The limited scope of this blog post does not allow detailed exploration of this topic.

As this blog post will briefly discuss change management and leadership, it should be noted that the process outlined within the created infographic may assist with categorizing the process of change. Each situation is unique and although similar methodologies may be used to facilitate change within an industry such as sailboat manufacturing, as in education, if a non-adaptive approach exists it will result in failing change (Kotter & Schlesinger, 2008). Flexibility and adaptability in each aspect of the process are required to prevent the failure of change initiatives, which is reported at over 70% (Al-Haddad & Kotnour, 2015).

I referenced personal interviews with faculty members and management within various colleges, universities, or corporations to develop the infographic. Particular focus was given to the past successful implementation of improved digital literacy and increased digital infrastructure at Fanshawe College and UFV when structuring the framework of the infographic. The infographic is divided into three areas. Viewed from left to right, the columns represent goals, skills, and steps. Goals include managing and initiating change with skills summarized to include planning, leadership, and communication. The final area of the infographic consists of the eight steps of change management, as outlined by Kotter (2012).

Numerous change models exist and are utilized daily with varying degrees of success. Kotter’s (2012) Eight-Stage Change Process was chosen for its focus on leadership skills over management and the recurring themes within the book of organizational readiness for change, and how change is best achieved with shifts of culture rather than focusing on changing perspective for a single goal. This concept resonates with the author and his recent experiences with leadership conflicts as he continues to build upon his own transformational leadership approach with “inwardly focused cultures, paralyzing bureaucracy, parochial politics, a low level of trust, lack of teamwork, arrogant attitudes, a lack of leadership in middle management, and the general human fear of the unknown” (p. 20). Support for the concept of leadership over management was reinforced during my interviews, as evidence of disconnect and lack of understanding of the severity of the consequences were recurring trends. In one instance, a manager told me that before a large shift and change, upper management appeared unaware of the significance of the divide, and that the organization was ‘graduating students five years out of date’ when measured with other students within that province.

Facilitating change in digital learning environments is a complicated process prone to failure. The created infographic can be considered as a reference point to the goals, skills, and steps required to initiate successful change. These complex processes will be examined in greater detail in future blog posts.

Thank you for taking some time out of your day. What are your thoughts on facilitating change? How successful has it been in your organization? Please comment below.

Enjoy the rest of your day!

Image by Lukas Kloeppel from Pexels used under open license.

A larger version of the infographic as a PDF can be found here.

All images released under Creative Commons CC4.0 International License.


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

Castelli, P. A. (2016). Reflective leadership review: a framework for improving organisational performance. Journal of Management Development, 35(2), 217–236. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMD-08-2015-0112

Dawson, G. S. and D. G. and S. (2015). Preparing for the Digital University: a review of the history and current state of distance, blended, and online learning. Link Research Lab. Retrieved from https://ictlogy.net/bibliography/reports/projects.php?idp=3138

Harrison, M. (2020). LRNT525: Leading Change in Digital Learning Unit 2: Leading change. Retrieved from https://malat-coursesite.royalroads.ca/lrnt525/schedule/unit-2/

Kotter, J. (2012). Leading Change (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

Kotter, J., & Schlesinger, L. (2008). Choosing strategies for change. Harvard Business Review, 86(7/8), 130–139.

Warschauer, M. (2007). The paradoxical future of digital learning. Learning Inquiry, 1(1), 41–49. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11519-007-0001-5

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