Unit 2 | Leading change


Implementing any organizational change requires leadership, planning and communication. There are entire graduate degrees focused on change management. We are only going to scratch the surface and will explore only a few models that have been covered in the research literature. As highlighted by Al-Haddad and Kotnour (2015) over 70% of change initiatives fail. The readings and blog posts included in this unit and the next will provide some ideas and frameworks that researchers have identified as helping to promote success. As this course if focused on leading change in digital learning, we will start with an overview of some change management theories and models, but will then focus our thinking on cases and examples of change related to the complexity of implementing learning technologies.

Learning Activities and Assignments

  • Review and analyze scholarly literature, theories and models of change.
  • Complete Activity 1, Alternative perspectives on change (Week 3)
  • Complete Activity 2: Successful Change (Connecting with your network) – Using your professional social network, crowdsource answers to a series of questions about change and summarize (will build into Assignment 1). Start in week 3 (to organize an interview with a colleague)
  • Complete Activity 3, Initiating Change (reflection) (Week 4)
  • Complete and submit Assignment 1: External Scan.

Managing Change for Learning in Digital Environments

The following readings examine the history of change management research, and explore a variety of theories and models for change. You may also want to search out articles that relate directly to change theories or models that relate to your own professional context. Before you get started on your readings identify a change that you would like to see happen in your current professional context. Write it down and keep it in mind as you get started on your readings. As your final project will be to develop a plan to implement a change, having a concrete idea in mind as you consider the change models and theories will help you identify what aspects of change might be most important to consider for your own plan.

As you get started on the readings for this unit, also keep the following questions in mind as they will help you focus and will help prepare you for your final assignment.

  1. How have the theories/models for change adapted to take into consideration our current technological, economic and societal contexts? As we consider the rapid responses that have been required due to COVID-19 and the large-scale moves to remote learning and working, what lessons can we take away about introducing rapid change. What lessons did you learn in your own context?
  2. Which theories/models do you think best align with your own approach to leading in a digital learning environment? Do these approaches align with your organizational context? Thinking again about how quickly shifts can occur, what ideas about introducing change would you take into future planning?
  3. What role does leadership play in managing change?
  4. What are the unique challenges in managing change for learning in digital environments?


This first reading is quite dense, but it provides a great overview of how change theories have shifted and evolved over time. I would suggest that you start reviewing the figures for a historical overview and comparison of more recent models and ideas. In particular Kotter’s 8 stage model is commonly referenced and used.

Al-Haddad, S., & Kotnour, T. (2015). Integrating the organizational change literature: a model for successful changeJournal of Organizational Change Management28(2), 234-262.

This chapter was chosen as it provides a practical model for change (note this is referencing Chapter 3 in the ebook). https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/docview/1671991084/6DCA9DF395BB4682PQ/5

Biech, E. (2007). Models for Change. In Thriving Through Change: A Leader’s Practical Guide to Change Mastery. Alexandria, VA: ASTD [Books24x7 database] [Note: you will need your RRU user name/password to access as this is in the library]

As you will see in many of the models, determining whether or not your organization is even ready to change can be a huge first step.

Weiner, B. J. (2009). A theory of organizational readiness for change. Implementation Science, 4(67).

Optional Readings/Resources

The following is an article that looks at change in healthcare settings. You may also want to search the library to find others that may be relevant to your professional context (K-12, Higher Education, Corporate Training).

Antwi, M., & Kale, M. (2014). Change Management in Healthcare: Literature Review, (January), 1–35.

This article focuses on resilience and may be of particular interest to those things about trying to introduce change in organizations that are less agile.

Weller, M., & Anderson, T. (2013). Digital Resilience in Higher Education. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning.

Activity 1: Alternative perspectives on change (Week 3)

  1. Once you have completed the readings for this unit, go to the following chapter “Managing Change in Digital Learning” which is part of an OER that is in development and explores different aspects of learning design and educational technologies. This collection of resources and the embedded activity are designed to get you thinking about leading change in digital learning environments and incorporating different perspectives and viewpoints. You will complete a short response directly in the resource (see the instructions in the chapter itself).

Activity 2 | Successful Change (Weeks 3 and 4)

You will likely have been through a change process within an organization—small or large, implementing change will have an impact on your working/learning environment. Think about an organizational change you have been a part of that went particularly well. What elements of change management theory do you think were present? If you reflect back on a change that did not go well, what elements do you think were missing in the planning process? This activity is designed to help you complete your first Assignment.

  1. Visit the “Voices” page in our course WordPress site where past and current students from the program share a variety of perspectives about their current leadership roles as they manage change in K-12, healthcare, higher education and corporate settings. Take a listen to their insights as they provide practical examples of how they have faced change in their unique organizational settings.
  2. Using your learning network, reach out to at least one colleague and have a conversation about examples of successful examples of change management. A few sample questions could be:
    • Can you provide an example of an organizational change related to digital learning that was successfully implemented?
    • Considering the rapid changes most organizations need to introduce over the past few years, how has your approach or strategies around change evolved?
    • What role did leadership play and what were some important steps that a leader or leaders took within the process?
    • What challenges did they (or you) need to overcome?

As you consider your colleagues insights, identify some elements that led to success. These ideas will be helpful as you start to work on a framework for implementing changes related to digital technologies and your first assignment.

Activity 3 | Initiating Change (Week 4)

Choose one tool or learning change (so this could include policy or process) you would be interested in making in your current organization or in a future role. Do a bit of research – what parts of an organizational system might need to change if this was implemented? Would your organization be ready for this change? What kinds of indicators would you need to assess? What would your role be in initiating or making this change?

This activity will help you define a project for your final your final leadership planning Assignment so getting started at this stage of the course will be helpful. Keep your notes in a planning document for your final Assignment.  Note that you do not need to post or share this activity, but will be referring back to it as you develop your ideas for your final assignments.

Assignment 1 | External Scan (Individual)

To wrap up Unit 2, complete Assignment 1: External Scan