Adapt or Cease to Exist

In a world that is constantly changing, organizations and their employees must find ways to adapt to the changes, or ideally, be innovative.  Higher Education tends to lag behind other industries, hides behind traditions, and grasps to hold on to the past.  While it may be easy to see some traditions of higher education remain, colleges and universities are finding that lecture halls with a professor professing to the masses are becoming less and less common.  Modalities continue to change as online education, competency-based education, and badges continue to develop and change the landscape of higher education.  Many institutions of higher education will be forced to change or risk being passed by.

David Weinberger’s video described the need to do what we can as leaders to anticipate future needs and do our best to narrow the possibilities.  Using technologies to do so aids in this pursuit.  For quite some time, tuition rates have increased at an alarming rate and students, and families have questioned if the Return on Investment (ROI) is worth it.  Are the astronomical costs associated with attending a 4-year institution really worth it!  Colleges and universities leaders need to be prepared to be innovative and creative in order to find ways to create value and ROI that reflect the costs students and their families are paying.

Leaders need those that can champion ideas of innovation to move new programming and delivery of education forward.  Wirearchy describes ways that leaders can be mindful of how technology can connect networks and individuals and create a culture of sharing information in a meaningful way.  Furthermore, provide an environment based no real-time feedback to assist in adapting to an environment of constant change.

Gartner, Inc. stated that as we move into the future, technology will play the role of leading innovation instead of merely playing a supporting role.  The Gartner article went on to point out that technologies continue to effective products and services organizations offer.  Technology has also changed jobs and how jobs are performed.  Employees need to be prepared to adapt to changes and continuously improve their skills and knowledge around technologies used and evolving.  Dishman (2015) stated that the skills should be “complementary to technology.”

As the demand and opportunities for online education have grown, the need for staff and faculty to evolve and change with it has become necessary.  The long-form writing of books discussed by David Weinberger (2011) and the delivery education in such a fashion is nearly obsolete.  Gartner’s prediction in 2010 of a workplace that has no walls and a 24/7 work week may not come entirely true, yet is more fact than fiction.  In today’s society, we are connected instantly every moment of our lives.  If we are not “on” the impression is we do not care.  Faculty and staff availability expectations are nearing this level of always being on and available.  Those schools that can deliver on this need are those that will thrive.  We can be opposed to this trend like we may be to online education versus face-to-face education, or traditional education versus competency-based education and badges, but reality is, as leaders we need to find ways to adjust to the needs of those we serve.  If we do not adapt, we may cease to exist.

12 thoughts on “Adapt or Cease to Exist

  1. Easy to note the need to adapt…much more difficult to create the culture within a college (or any institution) that models this. I have been told that I am more responsive than some faculty in the courses that I teach. For me, this is simply accepting that “always on” is now the norm. But in some ways, I am a culture of “one”. I have leeway as an adjunct that I might not have as a full-time employee. Changing cultures is tough work!


    • Dr. Watwood,

      Your point is well taken. Changing culture might be one of the most difficult tasks for a leader. Taking on a culture change or shift takes time. Showing value may be one of the most effective ways of successfully changing a culture. I was blessed to serve alongside a president that continually required every University employee to ask the question, “how does the initiative affect student’s experience and learning?” I am fortunate that my current president served alongside the same president and is requiring us to as similar questions. If the actions and initiatives being implemented can answer this question on a consistent basis, a culture shift is easier accomplished. As a faculty or staff member, it is difficult to oppose something that is helping our students. That being said, colleges and universities must also find ways of changing requirements typically expected of faculty. For example, it is not reasonable to require the faculty member to have a significant number of physical office hours and then also expect them to be available to students electronically on a consistent basis. If we are going to ask faculty to change the way they do things, the administration has to be flexible and change expectations.



  2. Jason,
    I agree with your comments about being a very connected society. As you had highlighted, education tends to lag behind other industries with embracing technology and my question is what would a connected, fully technologically implemented education system look like? I wonder what the impact would be on faculty? Students? What are your thoughts?


  3. Jason – Enjoyed your energized approach to your blog this week. Clearly a topic you have passion around. No question academia seems a bit slow to adopt and adapt. Somewhat ironic in that it is a bastion for intellect, research and challenging the status quo. Although not at all what I think of when I think about innovating in higher ed, I enjoyed this brief consideration of the importance of the design of non classroom space discussed in It points out some research highlighting how well designed and “teched out” spaces can foster greater collaboration and learning by students and faculty alike. I appreciated the perspective highlighting the importance of environment. And more along the lines that you discuss recognizes the reluctance of teachers to change their classroom methods despite changing technology. Also, in K-12 there is an emphasis on personalizing the content and technology does help make that a reality. Do you see any similar focused effort to personalize the learning experience for students in higher ed? This same article cites an intriguing statistic stating that countries which have the highest computer use in the classrooms scored the worst on international reading and math tests. Although primarily highlighting technology use in K-12 at the bottom of this article is a video playlist of 39 short videos discussing innovative use of technology. I watched a handful and think you might also find some inspiration. Let me know 


    • Keshia and Tricia,

      Good morning. You both bring excellent questions and thoughts to the discussion. Tricia, thank you for the two articles that you offered as well. I think that it is imperative for each institution to be mindful of the populations they serve and implement the appropriate uses of technology to meet the needs of their students. I reflect on the adult populations I served at my previous institution.

      Our staff and faculty spent a fair amount of time surveying and speaking to the students about their needs. In the end, we learned they were interested in having the flexibility of taking some of their classes online and some face-to-face. They were not interested in taking all of their courses in one modality. The feedback we received helped us in adjusting our modalities and our course offerings. Making these informed decisions to best serve our students was important. It is equally important to know that our job is never fully complete. The needs of our students are always changing. I would not be surprised if in a few years the shift of the student’s needs and wants will become a greater percentage of courses online.

      Further complicating the conversation, colleges, and universities often serve many different populations. Both of the institutions I have worked for have served “traditional” undergraduates, adult undergraduates, graduate students, and continuing education students. In each of these areas are numerous subgroups. Understanding how we meet the needs of all of the various populations can be challenging, to say the least. So to answer both of you, it is the ever popular answer, it depends on. Each college or university may have different technology needs based off of the needs of those that they serve.



      • “…Our staff and faculty spent a fair amount of time surveying and speaking to the students about their needs…”

        This is now 3 years ago, but one of the more fascinating (and fun) teaching experiences I have had involved an independent study course with a dozen seniors. Jeff Nugent ran the course and gave each of them an iPad, telling them to use if for learning, and to gather each week to share what they learned. We of course had them also explore different topics and apps. I learned so much from just listening to them…and was introduced to apps I might never have seen myself.


  4. Jason,

    Great post! You make an excellent point about the need for postsecondary institutions to be competitive. Harvard University’s endowment is around $36 billion, but most private non-profit institutions experience a much different operating environment. My university is piloting digital badges and credentials using Credly (, a platform that makes it simple for recipients to promote their badges on social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, and on resumes and user profiles. The thought is that this will positively impact the student’s personal brand and the university’s professional brand. Another trend is eSports, a young industry that some predict will grow as big as the NFL ( With the National Association of Collegiate eSports getting into the game, college students will no doubt look for eSports teams (



  5. Hi Jason. Thanks for sharing some great thoughts on this!

    Beth Comstock’s “The Rise of Emergent Organizations” ( offers some rules of thumb for managing ourselves and others in an era of constant change. She urges readers to get comfortable with the “in between”. She suggested, “Our existing institutions and methods are being eroded by the digital information flow, while their replacements are arising quickly but not yet at sufficient scale. All our institutions, new and old, are caught in this ‘In Between,’ and it’s there that they have to learn how to thrive.”

    It seems one of the key strategies that we might employ is one that both you and Comstock referenced: a culture of real-time feedback. I encourage you to take a look at Comstock’s post, as her brief treatment of feedback (including negative feedback and failure as a symptom of organizational health) were very insightful.



    • EA,

      Thank you for your comments and the articles you provided. I have learned to be more comfortable with living in the in-between world. Seven years ago I was presented with a job opportunity and was told that the position would likely be changing and evolving and a clear job description was not possible. I recall how nervous I was to accept the position without a clear picture of what was going to be expected of me. Fast forward, I recently offered someone a newly created position and had to explain to the candidate that the position would likely be different in six months. I think this is the new norm. Positions continue to change, and we need to emphasize the importance of being flexible.

      I appreciate the section on feedback. I think everyone enjoys hearing positive feedback; however, we have to to be willing to be open to improving. Failures are often when we learn our greatest lessons.



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