Change Management & Organisational Development

The sustainable anchoring of digital education formats in HEIs is far more than just a technical challenge. The successful digitisation of academic teaching constitutes a far-reaching institutional change process. The aim of the Change Management & Organisational Development thematic group is to make available an exchange platform and practical solutions and courses of option for this process.

Digital educational programmes offer very promising opportunities for the German HEI system – with regard to improving the efficiency and quality of teaching in spite of increasing massification, for the use of HEI marketing or recruitment, in life-long education and as a vehicle for social responsibility.

However, the current digitisation activities of HEIs are largely limited to basic infrastructure and ad hoc initiatives that are generally far removed from any systematic usage of the potential associated with digital education formats. It has been seen that digital educational programmes can only be anchored sustainably with substantial change processes in the real world of HEIs. To this end, structures and processes must be changed at the various institutional levels of the HEIs and far-reaching changes effected in attitudes and behaviour. The goal here is to take into account the special institutional attributes of the German HEI system.

The Change Management & Organisational Development thematic group aims to develop a change management model that identifies critical design conditions and factors as well as relevant influenceable process variables in the course of integrating academic digitisation activities at HEIs. For the model framework, practical recommended courses of action for German HEIs will be made available in the form of guidelines. In addition, the thematic group will collect HEI-specific cases relating to the integration of digital educational programmes and examine them with a view to identifying good practice examples. This outlined approach is integrated in the German Forum for Higher Education in the Digital Age, a dialogue involving all stakeholders, which is also actively shaped by the Change Management & Organisational Development thematic group. In this way, sequences of results are communicated and included in feedback processes – the thematic group plays its part in anchoring digitised teaching and learning in HEIs in order to proactively address the rising demands made of the German HEI system.

Previous and future work by the thematic group

Using guideline-based expert interviews, the thematic group examined a total of 14 public and private HEIs in Germany and Austria as “cases” with a view to identifying common process patterns in introducing and running digital teaching and learning formats.

The findings of the first case study analyses were shared and discussed with interested members of the public during two workshops – at the HEI symposium in Weimar (March 2015) and the annual conference of the GMW association for media in science in Munich (September 2015) – and published in a paper issued at the mid-term conference. In particular, relevant content relating to strategic courses of action were outlined and discussed in a presentation at Campus Innovation in November 2015 (presentation available here and subsequent interview with Michael Kerres and Wilfried Müller available here) and in a workshop for HEI administrations and CIOs in North Rhine-Westphalia in October 2015.

In January 2016, the thematic group’s comprehensive yet focused analysis was published in a basic paper in order to illustrate to those responsible in HEIs the empirically and theoretically founded courses of action open to them. For the beginning of June 2016, the thematic group is planning a high-profile event on the range of strategic options open to HEIs and, in this connection, the opportunities that exist for specific HEIs to establish their own profile.


Prof. Dr. Wilfried Müller (Themenpate)

“The digitisation of teaching should promote the shift from teaching to learning. This innovation cannot succeed without the consent of teachers and students. The Change Management & Organisational Development thematic group aims to promote this shift with its work.”

Publications by the thematic group

Anchoring digital education formats in German HEIs – just another large-scale project? (September 2015): In this paper, the thematic group’s specialists are concerned with change processes against the background of digitisation. The paper describes change management models, illustrating concrete processes and scenarios using case examples.

On the sustainable implementation of learning innovations with digital media (January 2016): In the study, thematic group members examined critical and influenceable design conditions and factors in the course of integrating academic digitisation activities at HEIs. The thematic group analysed 14 case studies that it conducted itself at HEIs in Germany and Austria.


Claudia Bremer
Director of “studium digitale”, Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main
Dr. Anja Ebert-Steinhübel
Director of Learning Leadership Institute, IFC EBERT, Nürtingen
Prof. Dr. Michael Kerres
Professor of Media Didactics and Knowledge Management, Duisburg-Essen University
Prof. Dr. Sönke Knutzen
Vice President Teaching, TU Hamburg-Harburg
Dr. Nora Krzywinski
Academic Change Management Consultant, TU Dresden
Prof. Dr. Wilfried Müller
Former rector, Bremen University (thematic sponsor)
Bettina Schlass
Client Manager, Blackboard
Prof. Dr. Sabine Seufert
Director, Swiss Centre for Innovations in Learning