Accelerating Innovation to Improve Student Learning



As we enter the new decade, it is clear that higher education institutions need to accelerate innovation in order to improve student learning.


Our higher education ecosystem can’t move fast enough! The demands are loud and strong from employers, from students who fail to complete, from students who question the relevance of their degree, and from adults who need to either complete a degree or reskill to remain relevant in our economy.


We recently completed a study of over 170 higher education provosts and other academic leaders to understand the evolving learning experience (LX) landscape. Results were resounding: nearly every leader believes that designing new learning experiences or redesigning existing courses/programs is “important”, and the large majority consider it “very important”. And, to demonstrate this point, nearly every institution is undergoing more than one LX initiative, including course redesign, new online programs, affordabliity/OER, workforce alignment and adult completion.

What are some of the practices that help institutions succeed in accelerating innovation? Over and over, leaders cited the following three practices


1. Create a Coalition of the Willing. Several leaders characterized their faculty as a mix of the “willing” and “unwilling”. The “willing” want to try new practices and evolve the way they teach in order to improve student learning. Successful Institutions build momentum by harnessing the power of the willing, giving them new skills, tools and support, and getting them excited about transformation.


2. Focus on Implementation. Success is 100% correlated with strong implementation. Too many leaders described initiatives that had a strong start and that fizzled when the various team members got sidetracked with other initiatives (or with their day jobs). Change happens slowly, particularly on a decentralized college campus, and the implementation has to be geared towards a marathon--not a sprint.


3. Create External Collaborations. Increasingly, academic leaders collaborate with other institutions, within a system or a consortium. And, many collaborate with firms like mine who bring extra resources to support the initiative. Leaders stressed that external collaborations can help them bring new perspectives, efficiencies and energy--all needed in order for them to succeed in accelerating innovation.


O’Donnell Learn is thrilled to be part of this conversation. We are actively listening and you will see us responding in 2020. We are building a design partnership of institutions that want to collaborate to accelerate innovation. And, in the upcoming months, we will be launching LX Acclerate, a new suite of solutions designed to help institutions transform the student learning experience by building capacity without creating expensive overhead and infrastructure.

Carrie O’Donnell is the CEO of O’Donnell Learn, a leading learning experience (LX) design firm dedicated to helping learners achieve their goals and flourish in life. ODL is passionate about partnering with institutions and their faculty to deliver learner-centered design and innovation.

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