Monday, June 19, 2017

Summit Notes: Essential Institutional Capacities to Lead Innovation

I recently attended the WECT 2017 Summit on Essential Institutional Capacities to Lead Innovation. It was a very good conference that shared some best practices in higher education for innovations to improve student success. Below are some of the notes I took during the conference.

Michelle Weise - Sandbox Collaborative – Southern New Hampshire University

Michelle discussed some of the things that her university has been doing to promote design thinking and collaborative, creative problem solving at her university and as a service for other universities. They created the Sandbox Collaborative, which is a space where people can really think through their design needs and consider solutions for their work. They pulled together a variety of research-based tools and techniques from research and other organization. The space looks very open, beautiful, different, and inviting. It seems to be the kind of space that would be interesting and exciting to be in. The space and group serves as internal consultancy focused on performance improvement for the university (the current needs) and to help look at over the horizon solutions and opportunities (the future). In my experience, it is very difficult to maintain and optimize what is already existing while simultaneously planning for new, innovative systems and approaches.
She noted that they started in “stealth mode” which allowed them to develop and grow and innovate. If you are under scrutiny of others and have the existing culture and patterns imposed on you, you may have a difficult time being able to move forward and will likely lose many of your innovative ideas. Autonomy is critical in the initial phases.

Jeff Borden - St. Leo University – Innovation Incubator

Jeff talked about their innovation incubator, which has been a place for innovating and creating great solutions for the university. They eventually created LionShare, which is a system that pulls together all kinds of student behavior data and provides the students with a variety of supports and tools that provide just in time support to students that is strong up-front and decreases over time. “For technology to work, integration is the key.”
Does your university support innovation? Will they put money behind it? Will they support it?
If an organization or individual is rewarded for innovation, then innovation will happen.
Some reflections: to me, it seems that implementing the innovation is a major issue. Jeff addressed it with the need to consider stakeholder engagement, but there is much more to it than that. What if we never put enough resources toward solving the problem? What if we don’t beta test? What if we ignore cultural or international issues? What if we don’t use foundational project management strategies effectively?

Breakout Session 1: Identify the Talent You Have, What You Need, and Where to Discover Candidates

MJ Bishop
Dr. Bishop shared some key results of a couple of powerful studies that look closely at centers for teaching and learning.
Bishop, M., & Keehn, A. (2015). Leading academic change: An early market scan of leading-edge postsecondary academic innovation centers.
The results of the study included the following insights:
  • Institutional culture is one of the biggest challenges to innovating, along with lack of resources.
  • Innovation centers seem to be regularly undergoing reorganization. (7 of 10 interviewed were undergoing a major revision).
  • Building collaboration was a key thing organizations were doing (collaboration within campus organizations).
  • There seems to have been a shift from faculty success to student success.
  • Most teaching/learning centers started between 2001 and 2010.
  • Most leaders of these centers have had faculty experience.
  • Most report to the provost or academic affairs.
  • In most, the mission and reporting function changed a lot over the last several years.

Outreach to department chairs and financial incentives were the most effective methods for increasing faculty engagement with the center.
Christina Anderson
Christina asked a few questions that really help us gain a focus with the changes we are working to make within an organization. Some good questions here:
  • What are you trying to change?
  • Why?
  • How will you know it’s been successful?
  • When does it need to happen?
  • Who needs to be involved?

There are certainly some foundational project management/goal setting/change management principles embedded in these questions.
Jay Hollowell
Sometimes we are pushed into a swimming pool of sharks. (If you don’t know the joke, it is funny J). This is often the cause of innovation –we do it as a reaction to something in the environment. We can also do it proactively without a push into the shark pool - either way, we must react and adapt and innovate.
Near the end of the presentation, we met as a table and discussed the following question. I have added in our responses.
How must higher education institutions change to better support learning?
  • Redesign the tenure process to go the teaching track or research track. This will help facilitate improve teaching and learning.
  • Bring in additional roles such as mentors to help students move through a learning path as opposed to different courses. Western Governors seems to do this. There could be other supplements including having students provide that kind of support.
  • Incentivize faculty to design courses more effectively so that the students start effectively.
  • Faculty learning communities – faculty teach the same course and come together and have a  conversation about the course and what they are doing, struggling with, what is working. Faculty seem to struggle with the concept of community and dialogue can help instill the idea of sharing experiences and expertise.
  • Hire more full-time faculty.
  • Quality onboarding of new faculty. Be more intentional in onboarding. Focus on teaching them how to teach online and face-to-face. Create an experience of up to 12-18 months. Use quality standards and rubrics, peer evaluations, and others.
  • What role should the teaching and learning center plan in today’s learning design infrastructure?
    • We focus a lot of effort on instructional design to help support the teachers Simplicity is often key – focus on the basics of ID, teaching effectiveness. 
Again, this was a great experience. I have found, though, that very often the context of sitting in a conference is not that I am acquiring the content that is being shared, but that I am thinking alongside the presentations. These presentations often spur ideas and insights that are meaningful but that are not at all related to the presentation content! That was the case at this conference - many ideas for improving myself, my work, and creative endeavors, and the university for which I work.

Thanks, WCET, for a great experience!

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