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Monday, April 22, 2013

The Fear of Innovative Change in Higher Education


It is difficult to discuss higher education without mentioning the innovative movement within such industries. Both non-profits and for-profits have opted into the innovation change in order to reduce costs and increase graduation rates. Such changes are partially home grown and partially forced by the industry based upon new economic challenges the nation finds itself dealing with. 

Educators feel that the push for change comes from outside market forces that demand new skill levels (Kirschner, 2012). Those professors and administrators who were the originators of new knowledge have a push to be on the forefront of new educational and technology based systems. The market desires a higher prepared student that is capable of handling a more complex work environment with more complex tools. 

According to a study conducted by Public Agenda many administrators are focusing on short-term gains that have impacted their colleges versus fully engaging themselves in the technology revolution (Immerwahr, Johnson, & Rochkind, 2011). Participants of the study agreed on the following:

  1. A need to provide access to higher education to a new generation of students while still serving older generations.
  2. A need to provide additional skills for the economy.
  3. A need to help students succeed within their current educational programs.
  4.  A need to maintain quality in a period of declining revenue and higher costs.

Such change doesn’t come easy. All change comes with a level of stress as patterns are rooted up and people must master new skills. Research shows that adaptation to innovation comes with an emotional process that is independent of the benefits (Wood & Moreau, 2006). The process of learning new technology requires new levels of personal investment and fear of failure. 

Fear is often the demon that holds us back. Fear of change and the fear of personal mastery over that change are of importance to colleges and students. As the higher education platform develops into something new, people will need to master new skills in order to use such technology to its fullest. However, it is often this process that raises skills and lowers costs. 

Despite the fear of change such adjustments are necessary to maintain market relevancy. According to Moshestto new innovations within colleges can help reduce costs, improve legal compliance, streamline operations, and further engage students (2013). It is this overall efficient and productive output that should be the focus of decisions to engage technology as an important element to higher education success.

Change is stressful, fear of failure is stressful, declining budgets are stressful, and student dropout rates are stressful. However, it isn’t likely to get better unless colleges accept that change is an inevitable part of their life and the development of any organization. The use of technology and the instant communication of the Internet have simply changed the environment in a way that institutions must follow. The decades ahead are full of high technology equipment, virtual work, constant global communication, and leading edge products. Education should be the leader in preparing people to adjust to the new skills and mindsets needed to achieve their goals in this new environment.

Immerwahr, J., Johnson, J. & Rochkind, J. (2011). Still on the Sidelines. Public Agenda. Retrieved April 22nd, 2013 from http://www.publicagenda.org/files/STILLONTHESIDELINES.pdf

Kirschner, A. (April 8th, 2012). Innovations in Higher Education. Ha! The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved April 22nd, 2013 from http://chronicle.com/article/Innovations-in-Higher/131424/

Moshestto, M. (2013). Embracing innovation in community college workforce management. Community College Week, 25 (15). 

Wood, S. & Monreau, C. (2006). From fear to loathing? How emotion influences the evaluation of early use of innovations. Journal of Marketing, 70 (3).

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