Developing resilience and managing change in technology-enhanced learning environments

PhD Thesis

Buchan, Janet Frances. 2014. Developing resilience and managing change in technology-enhanced learning environments. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.

Developing resilience and managing change in technology-enhanced learning environments

TypePhD Thesis
AuthorBuchan, Janet Frances
SupervisorJasman, Anne
McIlveen, Peter
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy

In the competitive higher education environment there is pressure for organisational change at all levels, from major organisational structural change to introducing new curricula or new and innovative educational technology. However, current educational and organisational management strategies in higher education do not adequately address an emerging issue, that of managing for change and uncertainty. The aim of this research was to fill this gap, focusing educational management back on the domain of teaching and learning through a focus on the learning environment.

This thesis explored new heuristics for understanding and managing changing technology-enhanced learning environments. The source of inspiration was concepts and theoretical frameworks from the field of environmental management, including Resilience Thinking and the social-ecological systems approach which grounded the research.

The research took the form of a single case study situated in a regional, mixed mode university in NSW. The time frame corresponded to a period of five years of rapid organisational change which included the institution-wide introduction of a new learning management system (LMS) and other educational technology. The unit of analysis was the technology-enhanced learning environment. The research methods used were primarily qualitative and included the use of ethnography and autoethnography. Data collection included interviews, document analysis, reflective journal and observation and meeting notes.

The work complements and builds on existing frameworks and theories of management. A key finding was that the technology-enhanced learning environment is a complex system that can be represented by five Dimensions. This system was analysed through the application of the five heuristics of the social-ecological systems approach: panarchy, adaptive cycles, adaptability, transformability and resilience. Institutional system variables were identified that can be used to ground institutional planning and management. Panarchy contributed to the understanding of the institutional impact of the implementation of educational technology and
institutional initiatives. The Adaptive Cycle Framework was developed for understanding change and transformation in the technology-enhanced learning environment in the case. Investigation of individual adaptability to change provided new insights into institutional change management approaches. The heuristic of transformability contributed towards understanding the adaptability of the organisation and its capacity to predict, plan for and support ongoing changes in educational technology. Finally, features of a resilient institutional system were identified.

The findings can be applied to wide-ranging issues in the higher education environment. The value in the research lies in its interdisciplinary nature and at a number of levels: systemic, generic and operational. The outcomes of the research offer those in higher education: leaders, managers, academics and professional staff an alternative paradigm from which to prepare for a future of uncertainty and change. Resilience, at the individual and at the institutional level, will be an essential attribute in resolving the wicked problems in higher education.

Keywordshigher education; organisational change; managing change; technology-enhanced learning environments
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020390303. Higher education
Byline AffiliationsSchool of Linguistics, Adult and Specialist Education
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