Strategies for innovation in post-secondary education
Kim, J. (2102) 5 ideas to support innovation in higher education, Inside Higher Education, February 6
Joshua Kim offers up five interesting strategies for encouraging innovation in higher education in his short blog.
1. Embrace that the Smartest Person on Campus is the Campus. (In other words, involve the whole campus through communication and collaboration)
2. Develop a Common Language Around Innovation: make sure everyone understands what innovation is and what it takes
3. Support the Core While Running Lots of Experiments
4. Practice Collaboration by Difference: put together people with different perspectives
5. Invest in a Continued Conversation: build mechanisms that ensure an ongoing conversation/discussion about change and improvement
Some of the responses to the blog are also interesting.
I would add a sixth:
6. Make innovation in teaching and learning a strategic goal of the organization.
In an earlier post, ‘Is there too much innovation in education? I reported on critics who feel there is too MUCH innovation in education. However, we have seen in other posts that the expansion of access to post-secondary education combined with economic realities or even austerity mean that for many institutions the status quo is unsustainable, without substantial increases in taxation or tuition fees. If those options are not possible, for whatever reasons, then either quality will drop or new approaches will need to be found.
Now from my travels and the travels of others, it is clear that in fact there is a great deal of innovation going on in teaching and learning, at least in Canadian universities and colleges. For instance, on the Contact North web site, there is a collection of 23 cases of innovation in Ontario universities and colleges that are well worth reading.
However, the web site is aptly named ‘Pockets of innovation.’ In other words there are lots of great experiments and innovations taking place in post-secondary education, but they are too often isolated, associated only with the one instructor, and don’t change the rest of the institution. Thus any hope of economies of scale through the widespread adoption of an innovation is lost.
What is needed is an innovation strategy, one that not only encourages innovation, but also evaluates and facilitates the spread of successful innovations across the institution and beyond. As Joshua Kim rightly says, there is a knowledge base or a set of practices that facilitate the development and transference of innovation, and we should be building on that knowledge base. (Joshua provides an excellent reading list on innovation in his post).
Also to move an innovation from an isolated pocket to a scale that works, often investment and extra resources are needed, for instance, to ensure the software application is robust enough to scale, or to improve its usability. There should be a set of criteria to asses the success of an innovation.
Above all, innovation in teaching and learning should be a strategic goal of the institution, and as such should determine priorities, budgets, reward systems, and include a set of policies and actions to support innovation. Improving learning outcomes or improving the quality of learning (however defined) should be in there somewhere, as should cost benefits.
Surely this would be better than just increasing the number of students in a lecture theatre or using video to relay the lectures to those that can’t get in (no, that’s NOT an innovation – it goes back more than 40 years).
Does your institution have a concrete strategy for innovation in teaching and learning? Is it working?
Should your institution have such a strategy? Or does the thousand blooms approach work best?