Leading Change to Propel Digital Learning Projects: Conversations are Key


Dr. Amanda E. Major, OLC Institute faculty, OLC IELOL co-director and faculty, and one of the facilitators of an OLC Innovate 2020 pre-conference workshop

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The Online Learning Consortium (OLC) is reaching out to our global community of thought leaders and practitioners to bring you insights from the field of online, blended, and digital learning. This week, Dr. Amanda E. Major, OLC Institute faculty, OLC IELOL co-director and faculty, and one of the facilitators of the OLC Innovate 2020 preconference workshop Help! I’m Stuck! When Your Big Initiative Stalls, joins us to have a dialogue about the importance of peer conversations structured around change management principles to guide strategic projects forward.

Let’s face it! When any one of us invests so much time and energy into a project or initiative to no avail, it can be very discouraging. Never fear, as your team, stakeholders, mentors, peers, and Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Learning (IELOL) alumni are near. Through conversations with these key people, there is so much to be learned. It is through this process that we develop ourselves into amazing change leaders and problem solvers, someone who our institutions can rely upon to make a difference in higher education today. 

As problem solvers and leaders at our institutions, we are often asked to propel a project forward. In this seemingly ever-changing, complex digital learning landscape we traverse, we may encounter difficulties seeing this through for any number of missed opportunities or circumstances in the areas of goal alignment, policy development, human resources, fiscal resources, strategic priorities, processes, competitive  capacities, innovative capacities, institutional support, or any combination of these leadership challenges. Through conversations with colleagues and friends, we may more readily identify these challenges, share similar narratives and lessons learned, creatively resolve problems, or just better manage the realities of these blocks to progress. The learning occurs through conversations and sharing ideas about how to manage change around any project to better pave the way for future innovations in the digital learning space. 

Managing change requires an awareness that change is an individual process, perhaps a learning process. Change management definitively enables leaders to support professionals in their journeys from the current state to a future state. Many models of change management including Dr. Kotter’s 8-Step Process for Leading Change, Dr. Lippitt’s Managing Complex Change Model, and Prosci’s ADKAR model all have a similar essential components: 

  • Creating the strategic vision/value and an awareness of the project 
  • Creating the desire for change through incentives and reinforcements
  • Ensuring that the right people and resources are in place for the change
  • Generating the guidance for skill development or direction for the change
  •  Implementing a plan that enables action

Although how we manage change around implementing our projects differ from institution to institution, leaders in our networks share, shape, and construct the strategic vision/value of digital learning projects.  There are a variety of such sets of activities that have the capacity to enhance the quality, access, or affordability of education, holding a strong value proposition for our institutions. Some trending projects in our field have this capacity, to name a few: micro-credentialing and badging, block-chain credentialing, quality course reviews, open educational resource programs, adaptive learning initiatives, restructuring the role of digital learning professionals, integrating emerging instructional technologies, and aligning professional development programs. To optimize effectiveness of these worthwhile efforts, leaders must effectively manage change involved with guiding projects, thereby diffusing these innovations into an institutional culture (Rogers, 2003).

Gaining perspective from our peers in the field of digital learning through facilitated conversations can help us become experts in managing change so that we may deliver valuable project outcomes at our higher education institutions. As we continue to master these transitions through project execution, we can develop effective processes within our institutions, essentially carving out a path for others to innovate. This is necessary for our institutions to both better serve our learners and stay relevant, competitive in this rapidly changing global enterprise. We can learn how to quickly achieve this through conversations with key leader colleagues. 


Kotter, J. P. (2012). Leading change. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business Review Press.

Lippitt, M., (1987).The managing complex change model. 

Prosci Inc. (2020). The Prosci ADKAR model: A goal oriented change management model to guide individual and organizational change.

Rogers, E. (2003). Diffusion of Innovations (5th ed.). Simon and Schuster. 

Amanda Major, representing UCF and IELOL 2015 alum

Amanda Major, EdD, CPLP, PMP is an organizational development and project management specialist in the field of online learning in higher education. Currently, she leads projects at the University of Central Florida. Actively involved in the field, she has presented at national and international conferences and has peer-reviewed publications about e-learning organizational development, operations, and projects.

She holds a Project Management Professional certification from the Project Management Institution (PMI) and a Certified Professional in Learning and Performance certification from the Association for Talent Development (ATD). Additionally, she has earned administration certifications from the Online Learning Consortium and Quality Matters. Her academic credentials include an EdD in educational leadership, policy and law; an MA in industrial-organizational psychology; and a BA in interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in social psychological issues.

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