Online Learning Consortium and Learning House Release New Report: ‘State of Innovation in Higher Education’

Survey of U.S. academic administrators reveals a disconnect at higher education institutions between their emphasis on innovation and the tangible structures and processes committed to support it.

NEWBURYPORT, MA and LOUISVILLE, KY (April 18, 2018) — A new report by the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) and The Learning House, Inc. titled, The State of Innovation in Higher Education: A Survey of Academic Administrators, explores the drivers and barriers to innovation at U.S. higher education institutions. The report, which is based on a survey of more than 100 U.S. academic administrators, reveals what an innovative culture looks like and how higher education institutions define and employ innovation.

Although survey respondents held a fundamental view that innovation is the art of solving problems to ensure students succeed in higher education, the researchers quickly discovered there was not a consensus definition of innovation among those surveyed.
“Despite its popularity, what innovation is and looks like varies widely,” said report co-author Andrew J. Magda, manager of marketing research at Learning House. “Without a clear-cut answer as to what innovation is, institutions may find it difficult to set goals, acquire buy-in, and allocate funds for innovative efforts.”
For the purposes of the survey, OLC and Learning House defined innovation as the implementation of new initiatives in order to drive growth, increase revenue, reduce cost, differentiate experience, or adjust the value proposition.

A Disconnect Between Strategic Emphasis and Committed Resources

Among the report’s most significant findings, 91 percent of the administrators surveyed noted that innovation is stated as a priority in either their strategic or academic plans, or both. However, only 40 percent reported having a dedicated budget for innovation. Those who noted that innovation is driven by the academic administration were more likely to have a dedicated budget for innovation (52 percent) compared with those that reported multiple driving forces (40 percent). One-quarter said their approach to innovation is unplanned or decentralized.
“Innovation’s broad scope presents abundant opportunities, but it also raises its fair share of barriers,” said report co-author Jill Buban, Ph.D., senior director of research and innovation for OLC. “If an institution is formally planning goals around innovation, there should be earmarked funds to support these efforts.”

Additional Findings

Additional findings from the report include:

  • 68 percent of respondents ranked student success as a top-three goal for innovation.
  • 47 percent of institutions identified student success as the No. 1 goal of innovation.
  • 56 percent of responding institutions identified teaching/pedagogy in their top-3 areas for innovation.
  • Innovation activity appears most prominently within non-traditional programs, such as those offered online, with 21 percent of institutions ranking this area as their No. 1 area for innovation.

Findings to Be Presented Live

Learning House and OLC will present findings from The State of Innovation in Higher Education during these upcoming events:

  • April 19, 2018: Live presentation by report co-authors Andrew J. Magda and Jill Buban, Ph.D., at the OLC Innovate 2018 conference, in Nashville.
  • May 10, 2018: Free, live webinar presented jointly by Learning House and OLC, featuring report co-authors Magda and Buban.

About the Report: Methodology, Content and Availability

The State of Innovation in Higher Education: A Survey of Academic Administrators is based on a written 15-question survey of 110 U.S. academic administrators, including deans, vice presidents, and provosts, and in-depth follow-up phone interviews with 11 respondents. Based on the sample size, survey findings should be considered directional.

The report provides:

  • Insight into whether administrators view their institutions as innovative
  • The varying definitions that administrators apply to “innovation,” and how this influences their approaches to innovation
  • Common barriers to successfully implementing innovative projects
  • The level of influence that leadership, faculty, and students have over innovation
  • Lessons that administrators may apply to innovation tactics in their strategic plans

The full report is available for download from the OLC Research Center for Digital Learning & Leadership.

About The Learning House, Inc.
The Learning House, Inc., helps people improve their lives through education. As an academic program manager, Learning House offers technology-enabled education solutions designed to meet the needs of a dynamic global market. Solutions include Online Program Management (OPM), Enterprise Learning Solutions, The Software Guild, Learning House International, and Advancement Courses. With a focus on data-driven decision-making, Learning House is on the leading edge of higher education. Learning House provides expertise in research and analytics, marketing, enrollment, retention, and instructional design. Through its broad portfolio, Learning House delivers more students, more graduates, and better outcomes.

About Online Learning Consortium
The Online Learning Consortium (OLC) is a collaborative community of higher education leaders and innovators, dedicated to advancing quality digital teaching and learning experiences designed to reach and engage the modern learner – anyone, anywhere, anytime. OLC inspires innovation and quality through an extensive set of resources, including, best-practice publications, quality benchmarking, leading-edge instruction, community-driven conferences, practitioner-based and empirical research and expert guidance. The growing OLC community includes faculty members, administrators, trainers, instructional designers, and other learning professionals, as well as educational institutions, professional societies and corporate enterprises. Visit for more information.