Our team has spent over a year preparing for the conversion from Blackboard to Sakai (something I haven’t talked about here too much because we hadn’t told Blackboard we were leaving until recently). We’ve seen a significant amount of resistance to the conversion from several of our long-time facilitators, and it’s been a struggle to figure out how to ease them through this transition. Some of our facilitators have been extremely stressed out about the change; one person described a conversation as “talking [the instructor] down from her ledge of terror.”
It’s really hard for me to understand that level of stress with technology. It’s hard for me to fathom being so terrified of changing software that I was driven to making death threats. Honestly, I’m not quite sure how to deal with that intensity of emotional resistance to change. Fortunately, I’ve seen most of this stress from a distance. I lurked in the forums to see what questions were raised and how the discussions went, but I had only limited direct interaction with the facilitators. The woman who did facilitate the most emotionally intense field test is an excellent instructor with a lot of experience, who thankfully handled the distress much more expertly than I would have.
In spite of the stress and resistance, by the end of the field tests attitudes were much more positive towards Sakai. Even some of the most recalcitrant participants acknowledged that some things will be easier for them now than in Blackboard and that Sakai opens up some new possibilities. While I’d love to say that this change of heart is because I designed such a fabulous course, I think a lot of it has to do with simply allowing people enough time to get comfortable on their own terms. For a few individuals, it took almost no time at all; I remember one person in the usability testing who had never used any LMS before but was able to complete all the tasks in Sakai quickly and without any instruction. For others, it took several weeks and a lot of time in practice courses trying things out with coaches available to help before their confidence improved. I expect some people still aren’t completely comfortable yet, and probably won’t be until they’ve completed their first course.
Our facilitator training included multiple stages spread out over several weeks.
- Self-paced tutorials and self-assessments focusing on the technical skills (built in Captivate)
- A 2-hour webinar with the vendor that hosts our LMS, providing an overview of how everything fits together and allowing people a chance to ask questions about procedures and policies
- Live practice courses with a list of common facilitator tasks to complete, including grading assignments from dummy student accounts
- Mentors available for support during and after the practice courses
- Mentors received separate training, and many participated in the field test of the training that will be used for new instructors in the future
When we built this, we really were aiming for giving people multiple opportunities to practice the skills and to learn in different ways. We weren’t thinking about the change management benefit of spreading out the training over several weeks to give people that time to accept and adapt to the new environment. It has ended up giving us that advantage though. If I were planning something like this again, I would definitely work to space out the training, both for the learning benefits and for the change management ones.
If you’ve done a major project like this, how much resistance to change did you encounter? How did you address it? Did it get easier with time, or has the resistance just continued?