In my article last year on Flipping the Academy I posed the following question: How can we leverage the situational factors of the pandemic to enable our institutions to better pivot in ways that advantage instructors and learners? This question still remains and can continue to be applied in any year or circumstance. However, the question itself actually comes from a particular mental frame. A view that peers beyond “flipping the Academy” to one that aims to transform institutions in ways that our current realities demand.
We currently sit at a place and time where there are some educational institutions that are well into the 21st-century while others are still reliant on structures developed in the mid-1800s and or technology from the late 90s. One may wonder what contributes to this variance in performance. In this piece, I discuss a few of these elements I calculate play a key role in institutions that have been transformed and continue to evolve (mindset, leadership frame) and how they can result in key enhancements of digitizing services and promoting new outcomes.
It has been my experience that the skills and ability for educators in higher education institutions have to dissect, analyze and criticize are far greater than their ability to synthesize, think outside the box, and assemble. One of the common attributes that separate those that excel from those that sink in crisis is an innovative mindset. The quote that you see in the image above, wounds into wisdom, isn’t just a catchy saying. It highlights a particular type of intelligence that is not often spoken enough, Positive Intelligence (PQ).
Some may quickly associate PQ with a growth mindset. However, a growth mindset is definitely an element of positive intelligence, but PQ is a construct that not only allows a person to see opportunities but work on their own individual mental blocks that keep them from innovating. The enemy of innovating in the positive intelligence world is critiquing and judgment. A person with a high PQ would ask himself during a pandemic, how can we make this the best thing to ever happen to us? This type of thinking leads to actions that transform the Academy. It is the type of mental frame that can turn all of the hardships that institutions may have endured during a pandemic into wisdom that can lead to greater outcomes in the future.
When thinking about leadership that will transform an educational institution naturally the concept of transformational leadership comes to the surface. I became a fan of this framework in my early years in Student Affairs. It was motivational to work as a university leader while also teaching student leaders to model the way, encouraged heart, inspire a shared vision, enable others to act, and challenge the process. A few of these terms over the years have become part of common leadership vernacular. However, it has a leadership frame (in addition to many others) focused on what one individual can do for an organization.
I would like to shift the attention to enhancing one’s lens about what the organization as a team entity can do. Insert, Tribal Leadership — a model that helps us understand organizations as tribes and what stage the culture of that tribe is performing. Out of five potential stages, an organizational culture can be anywhere from one that is hostile and individualistic to one that is thriving and competing with only possibilities. So, in order to transform your Academy, it would manifest itself through fostering a culture of level for thinking at minimum. A culture where everyone thinks that they are great.
The aforementioned elements of positive intelligence and tribal leadership are essential elements that can truly inform how an individual and group operates. Now, let’s turn to some enrichments that can come as a result of such thinking. You may know that this article could have jumped directly into the notion of digitizing services and promoting new outcomes, however doing so without a positive mental frame and a leadership team culture it’s like putting shiny paint on an old or broken down vehicle.
Many institutions that I’ve consulted with in my time over the past year have displayed remarkable ways to digitize their services. Much of which has been out of necessity due to the social distancing required because of the pandemic. However, many institutions, I’m sure including yours, realizing that digitizing the services isn’t something that should just be done for an online school, there are many ways that we can digitize services while better meeting our business outcomes. From the examples where individuals are “saving more trees” by using digital forms; offering virtual office hours and town halls that provide higher quality availability to clients; and promoting more transparency through enhancing web-based information proactively.
Thus, digitizing services is something that individuals can think about how technology can serve as a means for transforming what they do. I encourage this type of thinking for our institutions independent on whether they are going to go more online or not. The more energy you put into meeting positive outcomes are important. We think of business outcomes we may think of engaging and making sure students are satisfied. There are many ways in which technology can meet these needs.
These questions of what business outcomes we have shared drive what is used more so than relying on tradition. Some may wonder about the jobs that individuals had previously and fear that digitizing things will reduce jobs. However, there always needs to be something or someone behind the machine coordinating and making everything work. So, I would say that digitizing can create more jobs put my encourage upscaling scaling and or transformation of duties.
Promoting New Outcomes
Near and dear to my heart and any academy is the student learning experience. Prior to the pandemic, and I know largely now and in many places, we think about technology as something that can be used to help students meet outcomes and that thinking is advanced more so advanced in the thinking that once technology to supplement what was done in face-to-face. However, we could also think of technology as a portal and or vehicle to allow us to consider new outcomes that we couldn’t before.
I still promote that we are not thinking technology first, but yet thinking outcomes first but it’s an important distinction. For example, if I am in a chemistry program and I realize that with the scope and sequence of how things go there’s only but so much we can do in my course because we do not have labs that are available my objectives for the course will reflect this in the course sequencing will do so as well in addition to the programmatic outcomes.
However, if I consider something like using a virtual reality device to promote student competencies and expiration of what would be done in a lab course, now we have an outcome that can actually be promoted earlier and any course and is not restricted by the time and space. What if every course could be a lab course, what new outcomes could you have? A great tool to use when thinking about this reframing is the SAMR model. It commonly used for learning activities and Technology in classroom, but it could be leveraged on a larger level to help leaders understand how to move beyond using technology as a digital substitute, to allowing it to inform transformation.
Innovation in some ways can be seen as easy, transformation. What does this mean to you and your current role? What type of transformation has been easy because of the necessity to innovate? Innovation can occur and spits in spurts and any kind of environment, the true transformation can only be fostered when appropriate conditions are in place. What appropriate conditions were in place at your institution and how my your leadership frame and Mindset have allow for the transformation to occur? As a 2015 Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Learning graduate and now faculty member, I am fortunate to have my IELOL network to work through answering some of these questions and the administrative implications. Join us this summer if you are also interested in moving the academy forward and turning our wounds from the pandemic into wisdom for transforming the academy.
Diaz-Saenz, H. R. (2011). Transformational leadership. The SAGE handbook of leadership, 5(1), 299-310.
Logan, D., King, J., & Fischer-Wright, H. (2008). Tribal leadership. Collins
Chamine, S. (2012). Positive intelligence: Why only 20% of teams and individuals achieve their true potential and how you can achieve yours. Greenleaf Book Group.
Warschauer, M., & Matuchniak, T. (2010). New technology and digital worlds: Analyzing evidence of equity in access, use, and outcomes. Review of research in education, 34(1), 179-225.