Don't fall for these 5 myths about campus innovation

If you want to create real change, you need to address the underlying attitudes and beliefs getting in the way of innovation on your campus, writes Michelle Pacansky-Brock for EdSurge

Pacansky-Brock  draws on her experience as the innovations lead of teaching and learning innovations at California State University, Channel Islands to suggest five common cultural barriers to look for–and how to solve them:

Myth 1: Mistakes should be avoided at all costs

Improving oneself requires taking risks; this is true for colleges and universities as well. In fact, being vulnerable is the first step toward innovation, according to research by Brene Brown, a professor at the University of Houston. But, Pacansky-Brock writes, people on many campuses feel intense pressure to avoid mistakes, which encourages them to avoid risks.

Myth 2: The faculty will never do it

The notion that all professors are resistant to change must end, writes Pacansky-Brock. The reality is that, on every campus, there are faculty who are more open to new practices and technology, she says. Pacansky-Brock encourages colleges to celebrate these early adopters and share their stories as a way of winning over those who are more skeptical. 

Why don't more faculty adopt learning innovations?

Myth 3: Social media has no value for senior leaders

The web and social media are excellent tools for finding new ideas and sharing what's worked on your campus, writes Pacansky-Brock. But, she points out, university leaders can't access these ideas if they aren't engaged online. Digital engagement is a professional obligation, says Christopher Long, a dean and faculty member at Michigan State University.

Myth 4: Experimentation is dangerous

Pacansky-Brock argues that many campuses enforce strict top-down policies about what technology faculty may and may not use. She says this discourages faculty innovators—or would-be innovators—from sharing their ideas because they're afraid of getting a slap on the wrist. But, she argues, this "grassroots experimentation" can be a valuable source of new teaching methods and early adoption.

When such policies are made, the discussions often leave out part-time faculty, Pacansky-Brock writes. Given that adjunct faculty now make up the vast majority of collegiate instructional staff, they too deserve a seat at the table when it comes to strategic decisions, says Pacansky-Brock. This is especially true when the decision is about adopting a campus-wide practice or tool, such as third-party teaching software. 

Myth 5: Everyone needs to be here in person

According to a 2014 survey, 90% of responding institutions required faculty who teach online classes to be physically present on campus to do so. Pacansky-Brock points out that, not only is this ironic, but it may also be getting in the way of attracting a more diverse, talented workforce. She argues that colleges should follow use technology to offer their employees more flexibility in their work schedules and locations (Pacansky-Brock, EdSurge, 4/28). 

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