Change Readiness Awareness: A Tool For Self Reflection

Change Readiness Awareness: A Tool For Self Reflection

The following story was contributed to the OLC Global community as a way to further progress on digital learning equity and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It uses a storytelling tool called the OLC Framework for Storying Digital Learning Change Work, which is an open resource for using narrative practices to map the UN SDGs to online, blended, and digital learning. Learn more about the framework and download it from the OLC Research Center website.

Project Leader

Retha Serfontein, Coordinator of the Continuous Professional Development, North-West University, South Africa

Project Collaborators

Kristina Wilson, Senior Learning Designer, Northwestern University, United States

Maci Devaney, Instructional Design Supervisor, ISC2, United States

Julie Straub, Director, E-Campus – Miami University, United States

Esther Davis, Manager of Web Technology – Western University of Health Sciences, United States

About the Project

Digital transformation has disrupted how organizations operate and function. It goes beyond having the best technology. This tool aims to assist individuals, organizations, and institutions with digital transformation by providing a means for assessing change readiness.

You can find our tool here

Part 1—Narrative Places

Story of Self

I use technology to do my work, but that is not the end goal. As coordinator of the Continuous Professional Development of our institution, my role in digital learning is to know enough of the field that I can introduce learning opportunities about digital learning and teaching in a digital era to the academics in our institution. My goal as an academic developer is to support academics to reach student success through the enhancement of their teaching and learning strategies.

Student success is in the short-run, that the students will be able to pass each year and to graduate. In the long run, student success is that each graduate will be job-ready, find a decent job, and will be able to contribute to the economy of the country by providing for his family’s needs. 

  I need to be able to understand the needs of the academics (what do they already know about digital learning and what they still need to know, or how their knowledge can be enhanced to determine what courses/opportunities we can provide for them to enable them to get the student success. These learning opportunities should stretch over the whole career path fo the academic and not just for newly appointed staff.

The second part of this story is that I need to keep our students in mind. Many of our students are struggling financially and live in conditions where they do not have internet and electricity. The courses/training that we provide should be aligned with the context of our institution and true to who our students are.

Story of Us

At our institution, we say that we (academics and professional support staff), strive towards student success, student throughput and retention, and ultimately the transformation of Higher Education as the end goal

To reach that, the goal of CPD is to provide academics and professional support staff with equitable access to development opportunities, at different stages of their professional career (across the career continuum of academics at all levels). The activities or opportunities need to strengthen university teaching and there needs to be a strong focus on addressing inequality and improving quality. 

I have been in the position of coordinator of the CPD opportunities for the past year. Looking back at the CPD calendar of 2021 and what we presented, I see that there were a variety of in-house webinars presented by the staff of the Centre for Teaching Learning. We also made five online platforms available for academics to enroll for courses that might be of interest to their staff development.

In our evaluation that we did of the past two years, we realize that there is not a standard of quality that is expected in these offerings. 

Although our CPD Calendar presented plenty of opportunities, the following is a reality:

The CPD calendar was very loaded. (Overwhelming with the number of opportunities)

The CPD calendar contained a variety of “lose” in-house webinars – not focused on a specific theme. (Anybody who wanted to present was invited)

The quality of presentations from the colleagues of the Centre for Teaching and Learning  (planning and actual presentations) was not always on standard.

In-house webinars were not attended very well. (Only 44 % of all academics attend opportunities).

People would register and then not attend the opportunities.

The completion of feedback forms after the opportunities was very low.

The attendance on the five online platforms was low in comparison to the cost.

Completion of online courses on the different platforms was very low.

It seems as if our team did not provide the “correct” opportunities to the academics according to their needs. Somehow the marketing of the CPD opportunities did not persuade the academics enough to attend and complete online courses with the aim of enhancing their skills in teaching and learning.  

Story of Now

There are several challenges:

Our institution needs to confirm the way forward. We are a traditional contact university where a few programmes are presented at our Unit for Distance Learning. (Not really online, but Distance Teaching).

It still needs to be decided what the mode of teaching and learning will be in 2022. (Will it be face-to-face, blended, online, hybrid, hy-flex?). It seems as if both students and academics are reluctant to come back to a fully face-to-face mode of teaching. In the Emergency Remote Teaching of 2020 and a good part of 2021, many modules/programmes were “taken” online. These were done in the emergency period and the programmes are not necessarily designed for an online teaching and learning mode. 

It seems as if Managment is thinking of a hy-flex mode of teaching and learning but our institution was only starting to look at a blended approach just before the Lockdown in 2020 and moving to a hy-flex mode seems unrealistic.

There are multiple themes that can be used to streamline Continuous Professional Development. It is important to determine what the focus will be to ensure a focussed provision of opportunities. 

We can have as many opportunities possible about teaching in a digital era, but if we cannot make the content applicable to our context, it doesn’t mean anything.  It is a challenge for our academics to attend online international courses on online platforms and to immediately accommodate them in their teaching spaces. 

If the quality of our offerings is not on standard or exactly what academics deem necessary, then it is no use to have a variety of offerings. One of the quality issues is: the current webinars are not engaging enough.

I often wonder whether we provide the “wrong” opportunities or whether the academics just do not embrace the change that goes with the move from face-to-face to the online environment. 

In becoming a lecturer at our institution, it is not mandatory to have a Teaching qualification. I am of opinion that lecturers do not always realise that they need development opportunities for their teaching skills. 

Another big challenge in South Africa is the lack of resources for our students. There are wonderful digital teaching and learning initiatives that academics can use, but the lack of resources for our students often prevents the successful implementation thereof. This makes the divide between rich and poor even more visible. 

Part 2—Living Framework

Situate Story

The global pandemic beginning in 2020 impacted global and local communities alike. Demand for online learning surged as companies struggled with the shift from supporting on sight staff to a staff of fully remote employees. Lessons learned from this shift revealed that while some companies and institutions were able to embrace this shift, others struggled. Shift and the ability to accept and welcome change can be a challenge for a wide range of people. We see this not only as a local problem but something universal. As a community of instructional designers and learning and development specialists, we feel that this event magnified the need for a change management tool that will allow educators and employers alike to approach the shift to digital learning in a healthy way. 

Define Story

Who are the local actors in this story?

Instructional Designers
Thought leaders
Faculty members
Support staff at Centre for Teaching and Learning

Who are the global actors in this story?

Anyone developing or participating in virtual learning, particularly those unaccustomed to teaching/learning/developing in a virtual setting.

What desirable actions do these local/global actors maintain? (enable/provide)
The aim of these local/global actors are enhancement of teaching and learning, with the focus on student success.

What undesirable actions do these local/global actors maintain?
To get to student success change is inevitable and the undesirable actions are often resistance to change.

How are these actions significant in local contexts?
New technology or new ideas can not be introduced if there is resistance to change. If there is no change, there cannot be enhancement in teaching and learning.

How are these actions significant in global contexts?

We feel that this represents a global issue in that while the impact is local, this shift and need for change is taking place globally.

What motivates you to address these actions?

The better any workplace can incorporate change the better results there will be. If some people are ready to improve and others are still clinging to old ways, then there is no progression and in HE the aim namely student success will not be reached.

Why is new action necessary among the systems you define?
Resistance to change causes friction and hinders progression.

Reimagine Story

New Action Example 1

What new action might you take to address this challenge?

Create a tool that allows for self reflection on change appetite. 

How might this action prove significant in your local context?

This tool will determine how ready a group/faculty/department is for change. This will indicate where on the continuum they are and how strong (or cautious) change should be introduced. Self-reflection will lead to self-knowledge where a person will be able to realize that they are more ready to embrace change than what they expected. 

How can global collaboration support this action?

Having global partners strengthen the cause because it becomes clear that this is a global issue. Having global partners “give you wings.”

What resources do you need in order to act?

Knowledge on questions that we can pose in such a tool.

Knowledge of instructional design.

What new action might you take to address this challenge?

New Action Example 1
What new action might you take to address this challenge?

Go through applicable documents/forms to determine what the trends in Higher Education (global and national) are.

How might this action prove significant in your local context?
This will assist with the alignment of opportunities with trends and needs.

How might this action prove significant in the global context?
If the research can show that our local challenges align with global challenges, academics will be able to draw on experiences of global solutions.

What motivates you to undertake this action?
The drive to enhance teaching and learning at my institution.

How can global collaboration support this action?

We need to tap from international knowledge and learn how challenges were overcome in other contexts. Too many in-house webinars are not healthy. With more international views academics will feel that their circumstances are not unique and that there are solutions to challenges.

What resources do you need in order to act?

Documents that might inform me on the global and local trends. A programme that will assist me to draw up the similarities and differences

New Action Example 2
What new action might you take to address this challenge?

Gather information from academics on what they deem necessary for their professional development. Link what they provide with national and global trends

How might this action prove significant in your local context?

If we are knowledgeable about the topics that academics are interested in, we can provide in that need.
Knowing the needs of the academics will enable the CPD core team to provide the correct opportunities and this will enhance teaching and learning.

How might this action prove significant in the global context?

We will be able to tap from the knowledge of global solutions.

What motivates you to undertake this action?

Our end goal with development opportunities is student success. Our country can not afford the high dropout rate in our institutions.

I want to contribute to student success and better throughput. It can be done if the academics attend quality webinars on teaching and learning and if they are able to make it applicable in their own contexts.

How can global collaboration support this action?

To get our teaching and learning knowledge aligned with global trends. To learn from experts in the global field.

What resources do you need in order to act?
Receive information from academics through interviews and questionnaires.
Knowledge of the trends
The respective online platforms that we already have.
Interview Faculties (There are 8 faculties at our institution. Interviews can be held with the respective Deputy Deans of Teaching and Learning. )

New Action Example 3
What new action might you take to address this challenge?

Enhancing the quality of the provided in-house webinars to promote better teaching and learning. This will contribute to students that are job-ready when they graduate and getting decent jobs.
How might this action prove significant in your local context?

With enhanced quality, more opportunities will be attended, more knowledge will be spread and it will contribute to the enhancement of teaching and learning of academics and ultimately to student success. Student success means that graduates will be able to get jobs which will enable them to contribute to the economy of our country.

How might this action prove significant in the global context?
Enhancement of quality provisions will enable academics to collaborate globally. Connections might be made with industry, to ensure that students are ready for the world at work when they graduate.

What motivates you to undertake this action?
The need to enhance the quality of teaching and learning in our institution. Reducing inequalities in our institution – providing everyone with the best possible development.

How can global collaboration support this action?

By being a gauge of a standard – how to reach quality.

What resources do you need in order to act?

I need to develop a scorecard that will enable me to determine the quality of opportunities and to ensure that all provisions are on the same elevated level.
Connection with global partners.
I need to make contact with partners that can assist in enhancing the quality of our teaching and learning in our institution.

What one new action are you inspired to pursue?

I am going to use existing scorecards on teaching and learning and make them applicable to the quality of our in-house webinars.


Part 3—Antenarrative Inquiry

SDGs Connected

Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being, Goal 4: Quality Education


SDG: Goal 3 – Good Health and Well-Being

SDG: Goal 17 – Partnerships for the Goals

  • How might new action bring about the aspirational vision of the world as contextualized by this SDG? (Good Health and Well-Being)
    • If people using the tool are able to self-assess their openness to change, they may be able to take better care of themselves, both mentally and physically, as they experience and implement change. 
  • How might new action bring about the aspirational vision of the world as contextualized by this SDG? (Partnerships for the Goals)
    • The tool may also help an individual better understand the struggles of others, develop deeper empathy, take action to help others become more comfortable with change. This may result in deeper, better-aligned, and more trusting collaborative relationships.
    • Sharing of ideas can lead to the fostering of innovative ways in dealing with change.
  • Who will be responsible?
    • While our development team will be responsible for developing the tool and providing hypothetical cases for how the tool may be used in different contexts, leaders and contributors in any organization may be responsible for using the tool within their workplaces and communities.
  • What opportunities exist for collaboration?
    • When the tool has been freely distributed and used in different contexts, there is an opportunity for distant collaborators–others who have used the tool within their organizations–to share feedback for revision and tell stories about their experiences using the tool.
  • Who will be affected?
    • Anyone who uses the tool to self-assess should come away from the experience with insight about their personal readiness for change. When the tool is used with larger groups, leaders will be able to plan change more effectively. This will result ultimately in student success if people are ready to embrace the change.  
  • Who will maintain the action? 
    • The tool and accompanying use cases will be shared through a blog post on the Northwestern University School of Professional Studies website, both for viewing and download. 
  • What may success look like?
    • Success may look like individuals or groups using this tool across the world, in many different higher education contexts.
  • What may impede success?
    • If we are not able to successfully distribute the tool and convince others in higher education it is a worthwhile exercise.
    • If time constraints hinder the completion of such a tool.
  • How will you collect feedback? 
    • The comments feature will be enabled in order to solicit feedback and hear others’ stories about using the tool.
  • What ongoing resources are needed?
  • If desirable, how may new action be sustained?
    • Continued website hosting
    • Continued, periodic promotion of resource via social media, conference presentations, and directly within organizations. 
    • Sustainability within an organization can be determined at the individual or group level. For example, it may become a regular part of performance review, or may be used just once in advance of a major institutional change.

Yearly review by team to discuss comments and determine if changes should be made and a new version implemented.


As is evident from the tool we created, a common part of online education work for our team was identifying and dealing with change at our organizations and institutions. We all had dealt with change in different contexts, but found that there were parts of the change process we all identified with, no matter the specific situation.


Everything changes. Everywhere. We hope this tool is useful for you, no matter the stage of change you find yourself in.

Inspired by this story and want to share as well? We encourage you to submit your story using our online form.
No Comments

Post A Comment