The academic world does not stand still, undergoes constant changes and transformations. Countless innovations and educational projects appear annually, digital research does not stop and brings great results. It seems that nothing could stop progress. At the same time, there are factors slowing it down. Experts from Pro-Papers have analyzed the 9 key barriers in the article below.
1. Risk avoidance
There is always the probability of failure. Professors and administrators understand that not all their experiments would be successful, are afraid that wrong new methodology would spoil university’s reputation that was somehow maintained during all previous years, oppose innovations even if they are not satisfied with the actual state of things, prefer using well-tested, even though ineffective approaches. Old methods bring little benefits. But, at the same time, they bring no harm.
Academics should have adventurism and curiosity to try something new. Of course, it is necessary to foresee all possible outcomes before introducing an innovative strategy, spend much time and energy on research. Since educators are always busy, they have no desire and opportunity to do this work.
2. Zero-sum thinking
Most universities and colleges nurture the culture of competition and fight for resources with each other. Such confrontation may be observed even between faculties of one university. Each structure thinks only about oneself and believes that there is not enough funding for everyone. Innovational projects are viewed as threats, and their developers – as enemies going to deprive departments of financial support. As a result, this struggle brings only losses to all parties. They reject great opportunities to change their learning environments for the better.
3. Traditions and culture
It is worth not underestimating the power of traditions. Some educators cannot imagine tablets instead of textbooks, interactive whiteboards instead of chalk blackboards, and an electronic database instead of a traditional library. Old-school professors strive to preserve a long-standing academic atmosphere, experience nostalgia, and believe that the magic of university life would disappear without all these details.
When choosing college presidents or provosts, people usually do not think about their ability to promote changes, develop original ideas, and address nontraditional challenges. Of course, these talents are regarded as advantages, but nobody attaches great importance to them. As a result, academic leaders are unable to seek and introduce innovations, do not understand how to handle them, and prefer something old and safe. It is clear that a new decision-making and leadership format is needed in modern conditions.
5. Little autonomy
Decisions on budget and grant allocation are often taken at a state level. Those who are on the top of hierarchical structures prefer avoiding possible threats, do not support risk-taking, limit autonomy, and oppress initiatives.
At the same time, professors working on the front line know much better what the educational system needs and what competencies graduates should have to be compatible on the labor market, realize the inevitability of changes, and need financing to implement new approaches. It is hard for schools and universities to reach large academic organizations and motivate them to support progress.
6. Organizational silos
Many institutions and faculties are internally focused, do not want to look outside their silo and find some useful ideas in the surrounding world. At the same time, the academic environment is constantly changing. At some point, academic leaders can find their structures hopelessly lagging behind the dynamic market of educational services. The ability to evolve and adapt, revise assets and skills management strategies is very important in today’s fluid environment.
This sounds odd enough, but success also can be a barrier to innovation. Some people feel the enthusiasm to work harder after accomplishing important goals, while others prefer to relax, linger in this pleasant state, and do nothing in order not to spoil it. Successful institutions are proud of their status, values, and traditions. Changes may deprive them of these advantages. That is why universities continue using old and relatively effective strategies.
It is important to show foresight, realize that no one can rest on laurels forever, think about the future and not only enjoy today’s success. The moment of upswing is the best time for innovations because educational institutions have enough resources to embody ambitious ideas.
8. Scripted curricula
Taking into account high professors’ workload, bureaucratic pressure, and controversies around nonstandard methods, some institutions prefer showing no initiative, evading responsibility, and adopting scripted curricula. They hope that somebody smarter and more experienced has already analyzed all important factors and obtained an ideal learning formula, comfort themselves with the thought that standardized educational plans bring discipline and order to the academic world and help all institutions to provide the same knowledge level. It is much easier to control learners’ results being guided by a universal scale. But, unfortunately, this approach blocks positive changes and makes professors less productive.
A curriculum should be flexible and respond to the needs of each student group. Static and non-living academic programs limit creativity, deprive learners and educators of the opportunity to form the most suitable and efficient educational environment.
Meetings make education less flexible and accessible. For example, working students find it challenging to juggle academic and labor activities. E-learning is increasingly popular today. It allows young people to study wherever and whenever they want, choose the most comfortable working pace, save time and money. Despite these advantages, most public institutions insist on obligatory attendance and doubt the efficiency of online education.
Of course, on-campus classes and lab experiments are necessary to form strong practical skills. It is simply impossible to solve some tasks in Skype and instant messengers. But with an abundance of progressive tools, digitalized information carries, and media platforms, theoretical knowledge quite may be transmitted in an electronic form.
There is no need to spend long hours in a class every day. E-books, instructive videos, and learning apps greatly simplify students’ life. Assignments may be submitted to professors via e-mail. Also, there are countless opportunities for online tutoring.
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