Stimulating Educational Innovation; a Balancing Act!

Many universities in Europe are long existing institutes with old traditions. For decades we have seen our education offered in mode classroom 1.0. Most of the educational changes to classroom 2.0 stay with the innovators and early adopters and do not reach the majority of teachers. With his innovation curve Rogers explains why it is so difficult to reach the majority of teachers and encourage them to change their education.

The educational model of Utrecht University is one of small-scale and engaged learning. It aims to stimulate students to be responsible for their personal development and academic progress. To innovate education and further improve the quality of education, Utrecht University launched the programme Educate-it in 2014. Educate-it is a university wide programme which facilitates teachers in realizing the learning outcomes by innovating and enhancing their teaching practices by incorporating blended learning and using new and innovative IT tools to engage students. In order to implement sustainable educational innovation that reaches beyond the innovators and early adopters, a cultural and organizational change is needed. This is the overall goal of the Educate-it programme. But how do we realize this change?

Essential parts of the transformation from Classroom 1.0 to Classroom 2.0 are strong leadership; a university broad comprehensive collaboration; a hybrid strategy (bottom-up approach with a top down support); autonomy of teachers and a broad offer of (technical and didactical) support. In summary this is what the programme Educate-it entails. The multidisciplinary collaboration of researchers in the Utrecht University School of Governance, the departments Educational Science and Information and Computing Science share their expertise and give support to the programme. 

The programme Educate-it is incrementally executed to overcome the difficult ‘Chasm’ in the Rogers innovation curve and reach the majority of teachers to reshape their education. Educational change is a gradual process starting with pilots towards default implementations which will finally be embraced by the majority. But we aren’t there yet!

With the exponential growth of technology and possibilities of augmented and virtual reality, learning analytics, personalized and customized learning and innovations like the Virtual Teaching Assistant we need to collaborate between and beyond institutes to keep up with sustainable change of technology. We have to acknowledge the importance of sharing good practices and collaborate in longitudinal research of educational innovation programmes to develop new tools and share our data and content. We have to stress the necessity of collaboration between universities if we want to change our education from classroom 2.0 up to 4.0 and stay in pace with technological changes and Industry 4.0. The evidence that technology improves quality of education is essential to convince the majority in permanently changing their education. Change will be the default!

Within the network of League of European Research Universities (LERU) we already collaborate on several topics of digital education and last year we also opened up our experience to the world by organizing a blended conference ‘Digital Higher Education Summit’. During this blended conference all online activities organized by LERU partner institutes were available for other institutes and the world. Furthermore, collaboration in the new alliances of the European Union Networks and the development of new European Universities is also an opportunity to thrive educational change.

In the past five years of our Educate-it programme we also considered the importance of the work of Jim Collins and we will explain how we are partly connected with the elements of Jim Collins’ ‘Good to great’. ‘First Who … Then What’ and ‘The Flywheel and the Doom Loop’. Furthermore we compared the process of our change programme with John P. Kotter’s ‘8-Step Change Model’ and the basis of his ‘Dual Operating System’ and we used the theories of Rogers about crossing the chasm to reach the majority of the teachers.

We used a combination of these different theoretical innovation models and approaches to achieve change in our own institute in the past five years. We are now working on a Sustainable Innovation Model which we will finalize in the coming 3 to 4 years.

Since we are most certainly not the only institute who is dealing with the difficulties of changing education and implementing innovation, we see this presentation at OEB 2019 as an opportunity to share our practices and experiences, to start a dialogue and to learn from the experiences of others.

Written by Mabelle Hernández and Jan Haarhuis, Utrecht University, The Netherlands. Published in the Book of Abstracts for OEB Global 2019, ISBN 978-3-94-1055-51-3. Order the print version here.


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