Organizational Resilience and Creativity: Exploring the Future of Educational Technology in Higher Education

What constitutes a resilient university? Do resilient universities need to be creative? What role does educational technology play in building creative and resilient universities? The ORC project not only analyzes this relationship, but also provides practical recommendations for universities and their staff members through innovative transfer formats.

ORC is a CATALPA project. In cooperation with the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG), this collaborative project investigates the future of educational technology at the university.

Project goals and research questions

In ORC, we explore the relationship between educational technology, creativity, and resilience in higher education institutions. ORC aims to conduct basic and applied research. At the theoretical and methodological level, foundational problems in this relationship will be considered. At the application-oriented level, practitioners working in higher education and with educational technology will be involved in various stages of the research process as means to provide practice-relevant research and recommendations. In ORC a wide range of methods are used to explore these multiple modes of impact through expert interviews, surveys, discourse analysis, case studies and qualitative network analysis.

The ORC project builds on the OrA project (04/2020 - 03/2023), a collaboration between HIIG and CATALPA that examined the organizational factors - leadership, strategy, communication, infrastructure - that contribute to the successful implementation of educational technology in international higher education institutions.



Predecessor project: 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 and Dr. Melissa Laufer

    • 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)

  • 2023


    • Deacon, B., Laufer, M., & Schäfer, L. O. (2023). Infusing Educational Technologies in the Heart of the University - A Systematic Literature Review from an Organisational Perspective. British Journal of Educational Technology, 54(2), 441–466. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjet.13277


    • Schäfer, L. O., Deacon, B., & Laufer, M. (in press 2023, in press 2023). Die Rolle der Digitalisierungsstrategie bei der Implementierung und dem Erhalt digitaler Lehre. Digitale Kulturen der Lehre entwickeln. https://dikule-symposium.de/



    • Timm, M., Deacon, B., Laufer, M., Schäfer, L. O., & Tschache, T. (2022). Atomisierung, Innovation und Organisation: Qualität der Lehre im ersten Digitalsemester. die hochschullehre, 8(1), 395–408.


    • Laufer, M., Deacon, B., & Schäfer, L. O. (2022, September). Leadership in Digital Change: An exploration of organizational trust and innovation in universities. EAIR Forum 2022: Accelerating the Future of Higher Education. https://www.eairweb.org/
    • Laufer, M., Schäfer, L. O., & Deacon, B. (2022). Resisting Digital Change: Is it a Bad Thing?: An exploration into why university staff resist digital teaching. SRHE Conference 2022, Mobilities in Higher Education.
    • Schäfer, L. O., Deacon, B., & Laufer, M. (2022, July). Organizational conditions and dynamics of digital teaching. Academic Practice and Technology (APT): Shaping Academic Practice Through Diversity and Flexibility. Parallel Sessions 2. https://reflect.ucl.ac.uk/aptconference/presentations-papers-archive/conference-2022-video/

    Chapters in Edited Books

    • Laufer, M., Deacon, B., & Schäfer, L. O. (2022). The Power of Informal Networks. How middle management, central leadership and trust can impact innovation at the university. In F. W. Hesse, C. Kobsda, & C. Schemmann (Eds.), Digital Transformation of Higher Education - Global Learning Report 2022. Global Learning Council (GLC). https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.21241/ssoar.73580
    • 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

    Web Documents



    • 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
    • Laufer, M. (2021). Spinning Stories: Communicating Internationalization Through Organizational Storytelling. Journal of Studies in International Education, 25(2), 167–181. https://doi.org/10.1177/1028315319893652
    • Laufer, M., Leiser, A., Deacon, B., Perrin de Brichambaut, P., Fecher, B., Kobsda, C., & Hesse, F. W. (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. https://doi.org/10.1186/s41239-021-00287-6


    • Deacon, B., Leiser, A., Hian, L. C., & Parchmann, I. (2021, September). Digital higher education: A divider or bridge builder? Leadership perspectives on digital learning for collaboration. 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. https://www.cher2021.edu.hku.hk/home
    • Deacon, B., Schäfer, L. O., & Laufer, M. (2021a, March). The Rapid Digital Turn: An Exploration into the Tight and Loose Coupling of University Structures. 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). 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). The Rapid Digital Turn: An Exploration into the Tight and Loose Coupling of University Structures. 43rd Annual EAIR Forum 2021: Transformation Fast and Slow: Quality, Trust and Digitalisation in Higher Education. https://www.eairweb.org/forum-berlin-2021
    • Deacon, B., Schäfer, L. O., Timm, M., & Laufer, M. (2021, September). 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). DIPF – Leibniz-Institut für Bildungsforschung und Bildungsinformation. https://www.dipf.de/de
    • Leiser, A., Deacon, B., Fredman, P., Ogan, A., Moser-Mercer, B., & Grabill, J. (2021, November). Panel-Discussion: Inequalities in higher education: A global perspective. University:Future Festival 2021 - Open for Discussion. Hochschulforum Digitalisierung. https://festival.hfd.digital/en/programme/sessions-2021/?id=281541
    • Timm, M., Deacon, B., Tschache, T., Schäfer, L. O., & Laufer, M. (2021, September). Qualität in der digitalen Lehre: Eine Untersuchung von Einflussfaktoren. Tagung der Gesellschaft für Hochschulforschung. https://www.uni-giessen.de/fbz/fb03/institutefb03/erziehung/abteilungen/hd/gfhf2021


    • Hesse, F. W., Kobsda, C., & Leiser, A. (2021). Digital Transformation of Higher Education - Global Learning Report 2021. Global Learning Council (GLC). https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.21241/ssoar.73580

    Web Documents



    • Laufer, M., Deacon, B., & Schäfer, L. O. (2020, October). Lehren in der Krise, Lernen aus der Krise? Erfolg & Verstetigung digitaler Lehr- und Lerninnovationen. University:Future Festival - Learning, Systems and the New Normal. Hochschulforum Digitalisierung. https://festival.hfd.digital/de/programm/workshops/
    • Leiser, A., Laufer, M., Deacon, B., & Kobsda, C. (2020, October). Re-imagining higher education: Shifting gears and shifting visions. University:Future Festival – Learning, Systems and the New Normal. Workshops:Day. Hochschulforum Digitalisierung. https://festival.hfd.digital/de/programm/workshops/

    Web Documents