Organizational Adaptivity in the German Higher Education Context (OrA)

OrA is a CATALPA project.

Is it up to the leader that educational technology is successfully implemented or not? What role do culture and communication play in the implementation of educational technology? The OrA project not only explores the factors, but also conducts knowledge transfer workshops with concrete recommendations for practice.


Project goals and research questions

Organizational Adaptivity in the Higher Education Context (OrA) is a cooperation project of the research center CATALPA with the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society and its research program Knowledge and Society. The project investigates how institutions and their stakeholders (e.g. leadership, teaching, and administrative staff) implement digital teaching practices and ensure their adaptivity and longevity. The research project is designed to further our understanding of the digitalization of higher education as well as translate research findings into concrete recommendations for higher education practitioners through an Interactive Research Model and Knowledge Transfer Workshops. To this end, the project encompasses three empirical studies with two main topics.

Currently, we are conducting in-depth comparative case studies of higher education institutions which use educational technology to different degrees. Through a mixed-method design, we explore the organizational conditions – e.g. institutional leadership, communication, culture – that hinder and foster the implementation and sustainability of educational technology in different institutional and international settings.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we conducted two empirical studies which examined national and international responses to the rapid digital turn in higher education. In the first study, we analyzed the experiences of instructors, working in various disciplines and German higher education institutions. Through their experiences, we identified commonly occurring as well as specific subject challenges related to online teaching in addition to institutional crisis management responses.

In the second study, we investigated, through the experiences of higher education leaders at universities and intermediaries, how the pandemic created new challenges, sparked innovation and collaborations, as well as exposed new and existing inequalities across diverse higher education institutions and organizations.

  • Feu: Prof. Dr. Dr. Friedrich W. Hesse and Dr. Len Ole Schäfer
    HIIG: Dr. Benedikt Fecher

    • Melissa Laufer, M.A, (HIIG - operational project management)
    • Bronwen Deacon, M.A. (HIIG)
    • Tiana Tschache (FeU)
    • Freia Kuper (HIIG)
    • Maricia Aline Mende (HIIG)
  • April 2020 until March 2023

  • Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG)

  • Refereed articles in journals, conference proceedings, or edited volumes

    • Deacon, B., Leiser, A., Hian, L. C., & Parchmann, I. (2021, September 1). Digital higher education: A divider or bridge builder? Leadership perspectives on digital learning for collaboration [Panel]. CHER 33rd Annual Conference Promoting Closer Relations and Scholarly Dialogues Between European and Asian Higher Education Researchers. University of Hong Kong; CHER Board of Governors, Online, Hong Kong, China. https://www.cher2021.edu.hku.hk/home
    • Deacon, B., Schäfer, L. O., & Laufer, M. (2021a, March 30). The Rapid Digital Turn: An Exploration into the Tight and Loose Coupling of University Structures [Paper presentation]. Understanding Digital Transformations of Higher Education Teaching and Learning in the Nordics and Beyond. Universities of Agder (Norway), Aarhus (Denmark) and KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden), Online, Agder, Norway; Aarhus, Denmark; Stockholm, Sweden. https://cedit.uia.no/understanding-digital-transformations-of-higher-education-teaching-and-learning-in-the-nordics-and-beyond-call-for-papers/
    • Deacon, B., Schäfer, L. O., & Laufer, M. (2021b, September 10). The Rapid Digital Turn: An Exploration into the Tight and Loose Coupling of University Structures [Paper presentation]. 43rd Annual EAIR Forum 2021: Transformation Fast and Slow: Quality, Trust and Digitalisation in Higher Education., Online, Humboldt University of Berlin. https://www.eairweb.org/forum-berlin-2021
    • Deacon, B., Schäfer, L. O., Timm, M., & Laufer, M. (2021, September 10). Enge und lose Kopplungen in der Hochschule – Die COVID-19 Pandemie und digitale Lehre. Soziologische Betrachtungen zur Digitalisierung der Lehre (in der COVID-19-Pandemie) [Paper presentation]. DIPF | Leibniz-Institut für Bildungsforschung und Bildungsinformation., Online, Frankfurt am Main. https://www.dipf.de/de
    • Elsholz, U., Fecher, B., Deacon, B., Schäfer, L. O., & Laufer, M. (2021). Implikationen der Covid-19-Pandemie für digitale Lehre: Organisierte Freiheit als Veränderungsparadigma. MedienPädagogik: Zeitschrift für Theorie und Praxis der Medienbildung, 40, 472–486. https://doi.org/10.21240/mpaed/40/2021.11.29.X
    • Elsholz, U., & Schäfer, L. O. (2020). Covid-19 und die Digitalisierung der Hochschullehre—Die Krise als Chance?,. mobile.Hochschule, Online, Hagen.
    • Hesse, F. W., Kobsda, C., & Leiser, A. (Eds.). (2021). Digital Transformation of Higher Education—Global Learning Report 2021. Global Learning Council (GLC). https://doi.org/10.21241/ssoar.73580
    • Laufer, M., Deacon, B., & Schäfer, L. O. (2020, October 7). Lehren in der Krise, Lernen aus der Krise? Erfolg & Verstetigung digitaler Lehr- und Lerninnovationen [Paper presentation]. University:Future Festival - Learning, Systems and the New Normal. Hochschulforum Digitalisierung., Online, Berlin. https://festival.hfd.digital/de/programm/workshops/
    • Laufer, M., Deacon, B., & Schäfer, L. O. (in press). The Power of Informal Networks. How middle management, central leadership and trust can impact innovation at the university. In Global Learning Council (GLC) (Ed.), Global Learning Report 2022.
    • Laufer, M., Leiser, A., Deacon, B., Perrin de Brichambaut, P., Fecher, B., Kobsda, C., & Hesse, F. (2021). Digital higher education: A divider or bridge builder? Leadership perspectives on edtech in a COVID-19 reality. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 18(1), 1–17.
    • Leiser, A., Deacon, B., Fredman, P., Ogan, A., Moser-Mercer, B., & Grabill, J. (2021, November 11). Panel-Discussion: Inequalities in higher education: A global perspective [Panel]. University:Future Festival 2021 - Open for Discussion. Hochschulforum Digitalisierung, Online, Berlin. https://festival.hfd.digital/en/programme/sessions-2021/?id=281541
    • Leiser, A., Laufer, M., Deacon, B., & Kobsda, C. (2020, October 8). Re-imagining higher education: Shifting gears and shifting visions [Workshop]. University:Future Festival - Learning, Systems and the New Normal. Workshops:Day. Hochschulforum Digitalisierung, Online, Berlin. https://festival.hfd.digital/de/programm/workshops/
    • Schütz, J., Rosenkranz, L., Deacon, B., & Elsholz, U. (2022). Never walk alone. Über das Verhältnis pädagogischer Professionalität und organisationaler Verantwortung an Hochschulen in Zeiten der Corona-Pandemie. In H. Angenent, J. Petri, & T. Zimenkova (Eds.), Hochschulen in der Pandemie (pp. 58–73). transcript Verlag. https://doi.org/10.14361/9783839459843-004
    • Timm, M., Deacon, B., Schäfer, L. O., Tschache, T., & Laufer, M. (in press). Atomisierung, Innovation und Organisation: Qualität der Lehre im ersten Digitalsemester. Die Hochschullehre. Interdisziplinäre Zeitschrift Für Studium Und Lehre.
    • Timm, M., Deacon, B., Tschache, T., Schäfer, L. O., & Laufer, M. (2021, September 16). Qualität in der digitalen Lehre: Eine Untersuchung von Einflussfaktoren [Paper presentation]. Tagung der Gesellschaft für Hochschulforschung, Online, Siegen. https://www.uni-giessen.de/fbz/fb03/institutefb03/erziehung/abteilungen/hd/gfhf2021

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