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  • Gilbert Kruidenier

Change for Academics

This one is for the academics dealing with change!

In last week's Australia-wide Higher Education Change CoP (there is such a thing and it's pretty awesome) I was one of three changies sharing a case study of successful change in academia. Mine was from one of my many projects at Deakin university working with the talented Teaching and Learning team to get 30 courses onto the (then) new Futurelearn platform in under six months. It was one of those 'tough but good' experiences and still one of my favourite work experiences ever.

But more importantly, we talked about cliches and stereotypes that get in the way of working with academics. Turns out that most of them are just not trueThere is no such thing as a typical academic, just like there is no single 'office worker'. In the push and shove of change projects that nuance often gets lost and stereotypes take over.

As you will see in the data shared in slides, these people are working in very, very challenging circumstances with heavy workloads and so many demands on their time and person. Continuous admin and budget pressures, ever-increasing student expectations, learning a complete new way of delivering learning, staying up to date with the latest techniques and technologies, working in a very competitive commercial environment (make no mistake, univeristies are businesses) and having to deal with 10 different project and change managers who all want a bit of your time and smarts. Pfffff.

A bit of empathy, flexibility and dare I say it, agility on our part, will go a long way to meet them where they are. They're not scatterbained, they are BUSY!

Yes, I know they habitually challenge the logic of everything you say and do. Yes, they ask 30 questions every meeting. And yes, they struggle to get to your super important spreasheet on time...but walk a mile in their shoes and see how you would cope. I am 100% sure I would not do any better and probably would throw in the towel well before they even go looking for one to throw. Also, isn't it a small price to pay to get access to their big brains and thinking power?!

Next time you're working in academia (again), please look beyond the cliches and sterotypes and you'll find that there are many kinds of academics, most of whom welcome change, get excited about the new and want to help you make good things happen. 😊

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