Equitable and efficient change management: standardization of course templates to engage faculty and leaders

Concurrent Session 10
Leadership Equity and Inclusion

Brief Abstract

Changing learning management systems is daunting for any institution. Embracing the principles of change management reduces anxiety and cognitive overload for faculty and students. Course site templates reflecting the best pedagogical practices and quality standards of online learning reduce the learning curve and reflect the key principles of adult learning.

Extended Abstract

 As technology evolves and the needs of our institutions change over time, we must adapt and often adopt new systems. However, changing campus-wide enterprise technology is daunting and the burden of learning how to use a new system falls on faculty, students, and staff in support roles. However, it does not have to be a negative experience! The principles of change management indicate that people do not like to be changed by technology forcing them to do things differently, especially when they are strapped for time and juggling several priorities. In 2021, Central Information Technology Services communicated a change to our ten-year-old learning management system. They recommended that each unit determine their timeline and approach for adoption over a one-year period. This decentralized approach worked for us. Within our unit we are familiar with course site templates. Recognizing that templates offer structure and structure creates more equitable learning experiences for students, this approach has been adopted across all programs and all didactic courses. Our course site template embraces course design recommendations from our Digital Accessibility Office and Quality Matters recommendations for clarity and structure. Evidence suggests that this reduces their cognitive overload among students in navigating a course. Our students have commented frequently on the how the effective organization of content for their courses and standardization across the program facilitates their learning. Explicit connections between objectives and assignments demonstrate relevance, thereby fostering engagement. A well-designed course site integrates these core tenets of Malcolm Knowles’ adult learning theory. We have been using course site templates for three years, given their efficiency in faculty onboarding and user support as well. Hence, we developed a similar template and followed the same workflow as we rolled out the new learning management system. We already had faculty buy in for this approach, supported by student feedback. This has significantly facilitated adoption of the new system. We also coordinated the adoption of the new system with our academic leadership considering the student experience. New students started their first-year courses in the new system to use a single system for the entire program. Outgoing students are using the outgoing system through graduation. While this extends the migration for over one academic year or maybe a little longer, this gradual adoption allows us to balance the training as well as support needed across our unit. We have a ratio of one instructional designer to 25-30 active teaching faculty every semester. In terms of initial training, we provided nine synchronous, hourly, weekly training sessions by topic over the summer semester to help faculty navigate the new system and build their courses gradually. In parallel, we offered a Quality Matters training to twelve faculty who teach in the online program to intentionally take a deeper dive into course design as part of the change process, rather than just doing a lift-and-shift of content from one system to another. Our faculty build their own courses in addition to service, research, and teaching commitments. Despite the demands on time within the first semester alone we have 31 courses, i.e., 50% of our registrar courses in the new system!

People prefer to be in control of their tools. By using templates that everyone is already familiar with, coupled with synchronous support and asynchronous resources, we addressed the anxiety and discomfort entailed in the change process. We consider this a successful migration from one system to another with lean resources in a short time frame!


By the end of this session, participants will learn to:  

  • Identify the required drivers for successful change management
  • Identify processes and resources to support faculty
  • Compare two course sites to determine how structure is beneficial for students

Engagement strategies:

  • Interactive polling to discuss management scenarios
  • Review two course sites in pairs using Padlet or other tools
  • Role play the student perspective in navigating course content


(1436 words)