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Blog > The Change Management Series: How to overcome resistance to change

March, 25, 2019 . 2 minute read

The Change Management Series: How to overcome resistance to change

INTL_blogimages_digital transformations


The Change Management seriesTransitioning from either a pilot eTextbook programme to business as usual—or immediately from print to digital provision—will undoubtedly result in a great deal of change. And this change comes in many, sometimes unexpected, forms for students, instructors, and librarians. With librarians often taking the lead on the implementation of digital learning on specific courses and across an institution as a whole, the transformation of their role can be immense. From handling journals and print budgets to ordering reading lists, working on strategic projects, and allocating new budgets, the university librarian is increasingly becoming one of the most important partners in the eTextbook landscape. But managing this change effectively can be daunting, and often isn’t done successfully during the initial stages.

During an interview with VitalSource® in 2018, Ben McCammick-Copley, media production manager at University College of Estate Management (UCEM), discussed the transition from providing traditional distance learning to pioneering digital learning over a four-year period. Over 4,000 students in more than 100 countries now study wholly online, but it wasn’t always smooth sailing.

A key factor picked up by McCammick-Copley was the resistance a project of such magnitude can face. He says, “If people are resistant full stop, they don’t necessarily want to see the benefits and are fixed in their ways.”

Prosci, the creators of the ADKAR model for change management, state that in order to manage those who are resistant, you need to understand why and where the resistance comes from. Results from their 2013 benchmarking study show that when asked to identify the primary reasons for resisting change, three common responses were:

  • Lack of awareness for why the change was being made
  • Impact on current job role
  • Lack of visible support and commitment from managers

When aligned with digital changes in an institution, there are clear ways you can anticipate these issues and ways to manage them from the earlier stages of planning and implementation.

Lack of awareness for why the change was being made

By first providing context behind the general concept of eTextbooks and why they are part of a new strategy, and then what VitalSource and Bookshelf® are, your colleagues can begin to feel more comfortable with the change. McCammick-Copley explains that to win resistant staff over, he encouraged them to look at the shift from a student perspective—and how the digital learning tools and accessibility features can really enhance the student experience.

VitalSource can also provide materials for you to circulate with benefits clearly laid out, as well as research and case studies to really hit home how learning analytics and collaboration can aid educators in their roles.

Impact on current job role

The introduction of a digital learning programme means evolving responsibilities is inevitable, but this doesn’t need to be a bad thing. Explain to staff about how your role is changing too, so they know they’re not alone. And be sure to focus on the positives—you have a larger remit, get to learn new skills, and refine the skills you already have.

Lack of visible support and commitment from managers

Whilst support from management is an important aspect, Ben from UCEM encourages 1:1 involvement with people who have already bought in to the idea. At his institution, they harnessed the skills of instructional designers to get involved 1:1 with the tutors. This helped them understand how the tool itself and the platform benefit students, as well as overcome the challenges they were facing themselves and the resistance they had.

This was an opinion mirrored by Jason Knight, dean for academic development, and Pat Garvey, head of drums and BIMM group eBook manager, from the British and Irish Modern Music Institute (BIMM). At a recent VitalSource event, they discussed how they have now added technology enhanced learning coordinators at all of their colleges, and the impact they have had on staff. They spoke about how having people on the ground who teaching and learning staff felt better understood by—as opposed to senior leadership—allowed for a more optimistic and open attitude toward the change.

Yes, there will always be resistance to something outside of an established status quo, but managing the change from initial stages can help set expectations and make the process as smooth as possible. Before you try to manage the resistance, take the time to understand the cause of the resistance.


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