Change and Innovation in European Library and Information Science Education

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Change and Innovation in European Library and Information Science Education

 

[Versió catalana]


Sirje Virkus

Professor at the Institute of Information Studies
Tallinn University

 

Abstract

This review article examines current trends and developments in higher education and considers how library and information science institutions have responded to these. The contribution of LIS institutions to innovation and change in Europe is examined through institutional case studies in the following institutions: the Institute of Information Science and Information Systems, University of Graz, Austria; the Institute of Information Studies of Tallinn University, Estonia; the Department of Library Science and Information Systems, the Alexander Technological Educational Institute of Thessaloniki, Greece; the Faculty of Communication of Vilnius University, Lithuania; and the Swedish School of Library and Information Science, University of Borås, Sweden. This paper follows up an earlier study conducted by Virkus and Wood in 2003 (2004, 2005), analyzing trends and developments in higher education and the responses to these by LIS institutions. The findings of the study are used to identify the main challenges for LIS education.

Resum

L'objectiu principal d'aquest article és oferir una perspectiva de les tendències i avenços actuals en l'àmbit de l'ensenyament superior, així com il·lustrar algunes de les respostes que les institucions de Biblioteconomia i Documentació (BiD) han donat davant d'aquests canvis. S'analitza la contribució que fan les institucions de BiD a la innovació i el canvi a Europa, mitjançant cinc estudis de cas duts a terme a les institucions següents: l'Institute of Information Science and Information Systems de la University of Graz (Àustria); l'Institute of Information Studies de la Tallinn University (Estònia); el Department of Library Science and Information Systems de l'Alexander Technological Educational Institute of Thessaloniki (Grècia); la Faculty of Communication de la Vilnius University (Lituània); i la Swedish School of Library and Information Science de la University of Borås (Suècia). Aquest treball complementa l'estudi de Virkus i Wood (2004, 2005), en el qual s'analitzaven les tendències i avenços registrats en l'ensenyament superior i les respostes que les institucions de BiD van donar davant d'aquests canvis. Es presenten els reptes més importants a què ha de fer front l'ensenyament de BiD sobre la base dels resultats de l'estudi.

Resumen

El objetivo principal de este artículo es ofrecer una perspectiva de las tendencias y los avances actuales en el ámbito de la enseñanza superior, así como ilustrar algunas de las respuestas que las instituciones de Biblioteconomía y Documentación (ByD) han dado ante estos cambios. Se analiza la contribución que hacen las instituciones de ByD a la innovación y el cambio en Europa, mediante cinco estudios de caso llevados a cabo en las siguientes instituciones: el Institute of Information Science and Information Systems de la University of Graz (Austria); el Institute of Information Studies de la Tallinn University (Estonia); el Department of Library Science and Information Systems del Alexander Technological Educational Institute of Thessaloniki (Grecia); la Faculty of Communication de la Vilnius University (Lituania); y la Swedish School of Library and Information Science de la University of Borås (Suecia). Este trabajo complementa el estudio de Virkus y Wood (2004, 2005), en el que se analizaban las tendencias y avances registrados en la enseñanza superior y las respuestas que las instituciones de ByD dieron ante estos cambios. Se presentan los retos más importantes a los que tiene que hacer frente la enseñanza de ByD sobre la base de los resultados del estudio.

 

1 Introduction

In today's environment, change has become the norm for organizations who want to sustain their success or even go on existing. Although many approaches and methods have been suggested to manage change, the failure rate for change initiatives launched inside organizations remains in the region of 70 % (Balogun; Hope Hailey, 2004, p.1). There is also widespread recognition of the importance of innovation to European competitiveness and growth. Europe 2020, the EU's growth strategy which aims at achieving smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, puts developing an economy based on knowledge and innovation among three mutually reinforcing priorities. The Strategy states that Europe's "average growth rate has been structurally lower than that of our main economic partners" influenced by "lower levels of investment in R&D and innovation, insufficient use of information and communications technologies (ICT), reluctance in some parts of our societies to embrace innovation, barriers to market access and a less dynamic business environment" (European Commission, 2010, p.5).

Europe 2020 acknowledges the need for a fundamental transformation in education and training to address the new skills and competencies that Europe will require to remain competitive. Innovation in education and training is a key priority in several flagship initiatives (e.g., The Agenda for New Skills and Jobs, Youth on the Move, The Digital Agenda, and The Innovation Union Agenda). Educational stakeholders also recognise the contribution of ICT to fulfilling these goals, and the crucial part played by ICT as a driver of innovation and creativity in education and training and in learning in general. It is also believed that educators could be doing much more to exploit the potential of ICT and that few innovative projects actually survive beyond the early adopter stage to be integrated in educational practice (Kampylis et al., 2012, p.1).

Although higher education (HE) institutions play an important role in Europe 2020, their potential to contribute to Europe's prosperity remains underexploited and too few institutions are recognised as world class in the current, research-oriented global university rankings (European Commission, 2011, p.2). Therefore, the 2013 EC Communication Opening up Education: Innovative teaching and learning for all through new technologies and open educational resources proposes "a European agenda for stimulating high-quality, innovative ways of learning and teaching through new technologies and digital content" (European Commission, 2013, p.2) and also consolidates the work of recent EU projects like Rethinking Education and European Higher Education in the World and also the flagship initiative Digital Agenda. It is believed that ICTs will broaden access to learning opportunities at different levels and in varied educational contexts; that they will enable teachers to better respond to diversity and heterogeneity in the classroom; that they will enrich teaching, improve learning experiences and support personalised learning. They are also expected to facilitate access through distance learning, create virtual mobility, streamline administration and generate new opportunities for research (Redecker et al., 2011, p.81; European Commission, 2011, p.5). Thus, Europe 2020focuses on innovation, new skills and jobs, digitisation, resource efficiency and poverty reduction.

This paper follows up an earlier studyconducted by Virkus and Wood in the spring of 2003 (2004, 2005) analyzing trends and developments in HE and the responses of library and information science institutions to these. In that study, the contribution of LIS institutions to innovation in Europe was examined through three case studies conducted at Manchester Metropolitan University, Robert Gordon University and the Tallinn Pedagogical University (now Tallinn University). A total of twelve interviews were carried out at the three universities, which also made formal contributions on how they perceived innovation and change.

During the years since that study, our learning environment has changed significantly; there are new societal needs, students' expectations, technological developments and learning and information practices (Lisbon SCOP 2013). Education paradigms are being adjusted to accommodate more online learning, blended and hybrid learning, and also collaborative teaching models (Johnson et al., 2014). With the development of open education philosophies that focus on open content, open data, and open educational resources together with the rise of massive open online courses during the last decade, the courses, programmes, learning objects, providers and practices have moved increasingly across national boundaries (Virkus; Uukkivi, 2015).

For all these reasons, it was decided that a new study should be conducted. In this new study, the contribution of LIS institutions to innovation and change in Europe was examined through five institutional case studies: the Institute of Information Science and Information Systems, University of Graz, Austria; the Institute of Information Studies of Tallinn University, Estonia; the Department of Library Science and Information Systems, the Alexander Technological Educational Institute of Thessaloniki, Greece; the Faculty of Communication of Vilnius University, Lithuania; and the Swedish School of Library and Information Science, University of Borås, Sweden. The rest of this paper reports on that work in four sections: a brief overview of the main innovative changes that have had an impact on European HE; an explanation of the methodology used in the new study; the contribution of LIS institutions to innovation and change in Europe, as perceived by the academic staff members of the institutions that participated in the study; and finally, the author's conclusions.

 

2 Trends and developments in the higher education environment

There is evidence that demographic trends and the financial and economic crises are seriously effecting European HE (Sursock, 2015, p.34).The bleak economic forecast comes with an increase in youth unemployment across Europe. For this reason many governments, the EC and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development have stressed the importance of creating closer ties between universities and industry to favor the development of innovation policies and generate graduate employability; and European universities are responding by focusing on their students' practical and entrepreneurial skills, and on stepping up innovation and stakeholder partnerships (Sursock, 2015, pp.23–24).Other key trends in the last decade are evidenced by the developments in ICT and the growing strategic importance of internationalization; and greater attention is also being paid to university rankings and institutional positioning (Sursock, 2015, p.34).

A number of publications name technology as one of the most important future drivers of change in higher education. For example, the brief Technologies in Higher Education: Mapping the Terrain, published by theUNESCOInstitute for Information Technologies in Education, provides an overview of the major ICT-related developments which influence HE (UNESCO IITE, 2014). The internationally recognized NMC Horizon Report series, which is addressed to various stakeholders including professionals in policy and education management and also university lecturers, provides a clear explanation of emerging ICTs and their influence on education and research. The NMC Horizon Report series and regional NMC Technology Outlooks are part of the NMC Horizon Project, a comprehensive research venture established in 2002 that identifies and describes emerging technologies whose use in education will become generalized in the next five years (Johnson et al., 2013, p.3). As Johnson et al. observe in the executive summary of the NMC Horizon Report, "Educational leaders worldwide look to the NMC Horizon Project and both its global and regional reports as key strategic technology planning references" (Johnson et al., 2015, p.1).

The 2014 Higher EducationEdition of the Horizon Report identified six emerging technologies that were likely to have an impact on HE in the next five years, sorted into three categories according to their time-to-adoption horizon: (a) Flipped Classroom and Learning Analytics; (b) 3D Printing and Games and Gamification; and (c) Quantified Self and Virtual Assistants (Johnson et al., 2014). In the 2015 edition, these were: (a) Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and Flipped Classroom; (b) Makerspaces and Wearable Technology; and (c) Adaptive Learning Technologies and TheInternet of Things. BYOD and Flipped Classroom are expected to be increasingly adopted by institutions in one year's time or less to make use of mobile and online learning. The time-to-adoption for Makerspaces and Wearable Technology is estimated to be within two to three years, while Adaptive Learning Technologies and The Internet of Things are expected to be fully integrated in universities and colleges within four to five years (see Table 1) (Johnson et al., 2015).

Emerging technologies and time-to-adoption horizon
2014
2015
Near-term horizon (one year or less) Flipped Classroom Bring Your own Device
Learning Analytics Flipped Classroom
Mid-term horizon Horizon (two to three years) 3D Printing Makerspaces
Games and Gamification Wearable Technology
Far-term horizon (four to five years) Quantified Self Adaptive Learning Technologies
Virtual Assistants The Internet of Things

Table 1. Emerging technologies whith an impact on HE (Horizon Reports 2014, 2015).

The NMC Horizon Reports also indicate the key trends that are very likely to influence changes in HE across the world over the next five years. These trends are sorted into three time- and movement-related categories: fast trends, whose impact will be seen in the next one to two years, and two categories of slower trends (mid-range trends and long-range trends), whose impact will be seen within three to five years or more. The key trends listed in the 2014 Report are: growing importance of social media; integration of online, hybrid, and collaborative learning; rise of data-driven learning and assessment; shift from students as consumers to students as creators; agile approaches to change; and evolution of online learning (Johnson et al., 2014). In the 2015 Report the key trends are: Increasing use of blended learning; Redesigning learning spaces; Growing focus on measuring learning; Proliferation of open educational resources; Advancing cultures of change and innovation; and Increasing cross-institution collaboration. Each of these trends has numerous implications for teaching and learning practices (see Table 2) (Johnson et al., 2015).

Trends
2014
2015
Fast trends (next one to two years) Growing importance of social media Increasing use of blended learning
Integration of online, hybrid and collaborative learning Redesigning learning spaces
Mid-range Trends (next three to five years) Rise of data-driven learning and assessment Growing focus on measuring learning
Shift from students as consumers to students as creators Proliferation of open educational resources
Long-Range Trends (next five years or more) Agile approaches to change Advancing cultures of change and innovation
Evolution of online learning Increasing cross-institution collaboration

Table 2. Key trends whith an impact on HE (Horizon Reports 2014, 2015).

The NMC Horizon Reports indicate a number of challenges that are barriers to the mainstream use of technology in HE. These are sorted into three categories: solvable challenges that we both understand and know how to solve; difficult challenges that that may generally be understood but still haven't been solved; and wicked challenges, which are complex even to define and thus require additional data and insights before solutions will be considered (see Table 3) (Johnson et al., 2014).

Challenges
2014
2015
Solvable Low digital fluency of faculty Blending formal and informal learning
Relative lack of rewards for teaching Improving digital literacy
Difficult Competition from new models of education Personalized learning
Scaling teaching innovations Teaching complex thinking
Wicked Expanding access Competing models of education
Keeping education relevant Rewards for teaching

Table 3. Challenges for the HE in the coming decade (Horizon Reports 2014, 2015).

The significant challenges mentioned in the 2014 Report are Low digital fluency of faculty and Relative lack of rewards for teaching as solvable challenges, Competition from new models of education (which include the rise of MOOCs) and Scaling teaching innovations as difficult and Expanding access and Keeping education relevant as wicked (Johnson et al., 2014). In the 2015 edition, Blending formal and informal learning and Improving digital literacy are perceived as solvable, Personalizing learning and Teaching complex thinking are considered difficult and Competing models of education and Rewarding teaching are defined as wicked (see Table 3) (Johnson et al., 2015). Improving digital literacy is considered as one of the solvable challenges in 2014 and is already addressed by several institutions. For example, the Open University in the United Kingdom (UK) developed the Digital and Information Literacy Framework to better integrate DL in their curriculum and Cornell University has made online resources available for learning key technology skills (Johnson et al., 2015, p.1).

All of these emerging technologies, trends and challenges are very likely to influence technology planning and decision-making over the next few years. And as the Report says, each one of these has been associated with "essential questions of relevance, policy, leadership, and practice" (Johnson et al., 2014). The Trend 2015 report provides evidence of the changing policy landscape in Europe, noting that it is becoming more varied and fragmented and that "a number of gaps between policy making and institutional priorities should be addressed" (Sursock 2015, p.35). However, two trends in particular are expected to have a strong impact on policy decisions in the next five years: the proliferation of open educational resources (OER) and measuring learning through data-driven practice and assessment. For example, the EC's Institute for Prospective Technological Studies launched the Opening Up Education initiative to assist in the formulation of guidelines in OER adoption and implementation and the UK's Open University has created policies that support the ethical use of learning analytics (Johnson et al., 2015, p.6). Thus, traditional educational models are being challenged by increasing numbers of online courses, OER and MOOCs that provide opportunities to learn autonomously instead of pursuing formalized degrees on university campuses (van Rij, 2015, p.33). MOOCs have also focused attention on a range of issues related to learning pedagogies and the use of ICT-based learning (Sursock, 2015, p.33; Rajabi; Virkus, 2013). However, and as van Rij has observed, in primary and secondary education as well as in HE "many institutions and many teachers are not aware enough or even if they are aware are not capable to utilize the new changing learning opportunities" (van Rij, 2015, p.14).

The internationalization of HE has been a priority for international organizations, governments and educational institutions for many years and this trend is expected to continue. Universities have developed strategic approaches to HE (Sursock, 2015, p.26), as evidenced in their curriculum design and delivery, teaching and learning, mobility (including virtual mobility), research and administration. This is also evidenced in staff policies on international recruitment, academic experience gained in another institution and internationalizing staff through staff mobility (Sursock, 2015, p.14). Finally, however, note that these trends, challenges and emerging technologies are also interconnected and exert major influence on European HE in general and LIS institutions in particular.

 

3 Methodology

Following a presentation given at the III International Seminar on Library and Information Science Education and Research (LIS-ER Barcelona, 4 and 5 June2015), this paper reviews current trends and developments in higher education and provides examples of how LIS institutions have responded to these.

As regards the methodology, a convenience sampling technique collected data to illustrate the change and innovation process in the LIS institutions selected. The institutions themselves were selected because of their accessibility to the researcher. Note that because the paper set out to provide illustrations rather than generalizations, the sample was intended not to be representative of LIS education in Europe as a whole but to inform what was essentially a small-scale study.

A total of 15 academic staff members from five LIS institutions participated in the study, which was conducted in the spring of 2015. These institutions were: the Institute of Information Science and Information Systems, University of Graz; the Institute of Information Studies of Tallinn University; the Department of Library Science and Information Systems, the Alexander Technological Educational Institute of Thessaloniki; the Faculty of Communication of Vilnius University; and the Swedish School of Library and Information Science of the University of Borås. Two academic staff members from each institution answered a questionnaire comprising open questions. In addition, three interviews were conducted with teaching staff at the Institute of Information Studies of Tallinn University and two interviews were conducted with staff members of the Department of Library Science and Information Systems, the Alexander Technological Educational Institute of Thessaloniki.

The study determined where the innovations and changes had originated and which professionals were instrumental in introducing and implementing change. It also considered the participants' attitudes to change and the general impact of the change on both the pedagogy and the departments concerned. The staff were asked how they perceived innovation and described what they understood to be the most important examples of innovation in their respective institutions during the five years prior to the study.

 

4 The contribution of LIS institutions to innovation in Europe

The concept of innovation was central to this study and so it was important to examine how the participants perceived and understood this. All of them agreed that innovation could be defined as the introduction or initiation of something new and original that did not exist before. Innovation was perceived as a new idea, product, service, process, approach, instrument, solution, technological novelty or advancement; it was also understood to involve new methodologies, research directions and results, and best practices and technologies. However, several participants connected innovation mainly with technological novelty. For example, one member of staff described innovation as "an implementation of something new in your everyday life", meaning that it might involve philosophical ideas, methodologies, scientific research results, best practices, new technologies, etc. Another noted that innovation was "the introduction of a novelty or a novel aspect which brings some kind of improvement", referring by "novelty" to a product, service, or process that could offer an improvement in quality, functionality, cost, or productivity. One participant observed that "innovation is a new way of doing something or a new instrument for accomplishing some task" and argued that "it always comes with a positive improvement connotation or offers some benefit or pleasure; it makes things easier and helps to save time or space or money". The idea of innovation as a process of developing novel, useful ideas is also observed in Light's Sustaining Innovation (1998), which argues that public sector innovation must be about facilitating the work of our primary constituents in ways that are new and useful (in other words, about that innovation should be about doing something worthwhile).

All of the participants agreed that there was a need to innovate. One member of staff observed that innovation and experimentation with new educational methods is a key element in education and another proposed that innovative thinking makes humans go forward and achieve things. It was believed that because innovation is associated with improvement, it is constantly necessary because there is always room for perfecting something.

The participants understood the main examples of innovation in their institutions in the five years prior to the study to be structural, occurring at a departmental or institutional level. For example, one reported that their university was undergoing an institution-wide restructuring process in which 19 disciplinary institutes were being replaced by five interdisciplinary focus fields (namely: educational innovation, cultural competencies, digital and media culture, healthy and sustainable lifestyle, and open society and governance). And as this participant explained, when the restructuring process has been completed it will reduce staff numbers and lead to fewer curricula. Another member of staff described departmental restructuring at their institution in terms of human resources (an older generation of staff members leaving and, due to financial cuts, various departments having merge and operate as one). In another example, a department was involved in an innovative process of reorganization and became part of a faculty. One institution had also created a new body to coordinate and harmonize teaching the same courses in different programmes, which enabled easier planning and saved time for the teaching staff.

The second most common set of changes after structural changes were considered to be related to ICT. These included the use of learning management systems (e.g., Moodle), teleconference systems and e-books. The participants also mentioned: the development of ICT-based learning objects and OER; the integration of social media into learning and teaching; the use of learning analytics and MOOCs; experiments with BOYD; cross-country teaching and ICT-assisted learning; transferring the curriculum to online and blended modes; and the implementation of the new system of booking business trips and accounting. For example, one participant observed that "in general the department is making an effort to introduce the new technologies in the programme of studies either in the form of new courses that are clearly supported by new technologies or by introducing new educational methods based on new technologies". One department considered the introduction of the learning management system Moodle to be innovative. And one institution had discussed the idea of supporting the professional development of librarians through MOOCs and argued that ICT helped improve the effectiveness and quality of learning and teaching and also provided an environment for personalized learning and contributed to the internationalization process. ICT was therefore clearly considered to be an important innovation that affected the institutions, even though the ICT infrastructure itself varied from one institution to another.

The third main area where the participants considered innovation to be common in their institutions was in the development of new programmes, courses and teaching methods. For example, one department had designed a new online programme in digital library management, while another had begun to run a joint master's degree (the degree, Global Studies on Management and Information Science, or GLOMIS, is discussed further below). One institution had created online and blended learning modes for the campus programme of its joint master's degree in digital library learning. Several participants described new courses that were closely linked with the new technologies, and the development of curricula in new inter-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary designs. In one department, English language lectures in the German language curriculum and the increased use of case studies in teaching and learning were mentioned as examples of innovation. Thus, in the area of learning and teaching, many initiatives were seen to improve the quality of studies and facilitate access to education through alternative learning opportunities. The needs analysis of target groups (LIS students, professionals, employers and professional associations) enabled institutions to introduce new teaching and learning models, design new course programmes and revise existing curricula.

The process of internationalization, forming new partnerships and collaboration were also perceived as innovative, as were the following actions: new international partnerships; cooperation with the Greek Librarians Association for organizing demonstrations on various subjects; cooperation with the Organising Committee of Library Reinforcement; the initiation of interdisciplinary research and development projects with other institutes within the university and other universities; cross-border exchanges and collaborations; the development of international joint master's programmes; and the creation of contacts with university leavers who had entered the professional world.

The participants understood that the main triggers of innovation were connected with the financial crisis and inadequate financial resources, which is not surprising when we consider the profound effect these have had on many HE institutions (Sursock, 2015). Along with economic factors, they cited the following drivers of innovation: emerging technologies; the constant pressures in HE to change; the need to keep abreast of changes in LIS and ensure that LIS education is relevant to the professional world; the competition with other players; negative demographic trends, which are obliging institutions to find new ways to recruit students; the increasing number of international students; the need to provide broader routes of access and reach new target groups; and the demand for personalized learning and lifelong learning. The participants felt that an analysis of the job market and new programmes could help attract more students and bring prestige and authority to their institution. One member of staff observed of their institution that "the innovation was literally forced [...] due to financial cuts and directives to cut down staff" while another commented that the introduction of innovation was linked with "changes in the discipline, changes in teaching and learning approaches, anticipated changes in student patterns of study and recognition that continuous development for librarians depends upon them". However, one participant also observed that the main triggers were "the rector's desire for change" and "the university's desire to obtain a quality certification" while another commented that "there were several pressures, first of all the rapid development of the digital environment that brought the need to modernize, not only in the content of curricula but also to offer new approaches in teaching methods and learning processes". This member of staff also noted that "the changed environment offers new jobs and also requires the employees to have new skills" and argued that "the demographic situation also has to be taken into account". Finally, another participant added that "there is always the danger that one day our institution will simply close; but if it can demonstrate the benefits it offers our faculty, this remains much less of a danger".

All of the participants reported being involved in the processes of institutional innovation they described, although to varying degrees. A small number considered themselves to have played a more influential role in which they contributed more. However, when institutional innovation occurred on a larger scale, all considered that they had been involved in the process. Most believed they had helped to implement change but only few felt they were initiators of innovation. One member of staff explained the experience of this as follows: "The initial idea was born from a colleague from the German partner university. However, I was closely involved in the implementation of GLOMIS at our university from the very beginning and, thus, also had a great influence on its design". Another explained that "basically, the whole of the teaching staff was involved (experimenting) and the department management (initiating and stimulating) and the programme and study directors (leading)". "I thought it would make my job easier and help to diminish the workload," another participant said. The same participant then expressed a belief in therapeutic organizations and said that they would participate in anything that helped made these true.

According to the participants, innovation and change were mainly introduced in departmental meetings and seminars, or announced by email. One institution also reported the use of personal invitations to teaching staff to participate in innovation processes, but several participants were critical of how innovation and change were communicated to the staff. One reported that changes were not actually communicated at all until the members of staff approached the person or office in question. One participant explained this in detail:

At the university level, those announcing the changes probably planned to use the communication media in the best possible way; but in reality, all the information we got seemed to be contradictory and all the committees, commissions and working groups and communication media (lists, intranet, newsletters, etc.) kept their distance from the academics. There is a huge gap in how the innovative structural changes in the university are seen from the top management and from the academics' point of view.

Further observations on the institution in question revealed that innovative developments were indeed very much top-down and came as actions to be taken, so that the teaching staff had less occasion to feel involved. One member of staff mentioned that structural changes had been very time-consuming and had a negative impact on teaching and research activities. Several participants highlighted the need for better leadership and management in the change and innovation process.

The staff also felt that academics in their institutions were generally well-disposed towards the change and innovation process, but participated to varying degrees. One observed that the staff in their institution were all "very excited and positive" but that hardly any of them "actively participated", while another added that innovation and change had been "stage- and situation-dependent", observing that there had been "some unhappy periods along the way for all through the confusion and misunderstandings, but mainly regarding the whole process as necessary and alleviating the work".

Researchers have observed that when the type of change is clearly identified, the most appropriate methods to promote change can be used (Al-Haddad; Kotnour 2015, p. 242). With this in mind, the participants were also asked to identify the type of innovation and change that occurred in their institution. This prompted a number of responses. First, they saw small improvements and extensions to existing processes as incremental forms of innovation. However, they also identified radical and architectural types of innovation. As one participant said, "I believe that the structural change as an innovation process has an impact on all the university and staff and that we can therefore talk about radical innovation". Some members of staff identified innovation as a combination of incremental, radical and architectural change. On the subject of restructuring staff responsibilities, one participant observed the following: "I would describe them both as radical as well as architectural, as some aspects were completely uncharted territory, and were thus radical, whereas some others involved restructuring".

A number of impacts were also noted. In terms of competing with other departments, all the participants found that the introduction of innovation was a good strategy. In several institutions the result of innovation was an upgraded curricula and courses, and it was felt that the quality of the course offering increased. The participants were also happy that new programmes were successful and continued to run and that more information science courses were being offered in English. As one observed, "the impact of the change has been encouraging and testifies to our having taken the right decisions. At the moment we are still in the phase of implementing the innovations in curricula and any thorough analysis will only be possible after two or three years when we have had the first graduates from the full programmes". The use of ICT in education was also perceived to have a positive impact on teaching and learning. In one institution it was believed that learning objects and OER had helped make learning more flexible and positively influenced the teaching and learning process. In another institution the staff had been strongly encouraged to create online courses (indeed, the institution currently offers 54 online courses). As the participant observed, the result of this initiative is that "most of the courses have their material online and easily accessible for all those students that do not have to be on campus to access the material and communicate with their peers and teachers". E-books were felt to be appropriate for distance students and the system of business trips hampered staff members' freedom, but offered financial advantages. Finally, the coordination and harmonization of teaching was considered to have a substantial impact on saving staff time.

Ideas for further innovation included collaboration with other LIS departments either in the participants' own countries or abroad and having visiting teachers from other departments providing fresh ideas and teaching methods. As one member of staff said, "Since the EU fund is granted only for four years, we plan to find sponsors from the private companies in the future. This would also strengthen relations between our institution and private enterprises". Another participant explained that "at the moment we're looking ahead to further innovations grounded from the merge of structural units of informatics, information science and mathematics. It gives us different possibilities for innovation both at academic and organizational levels". Finally, in one institution digital science was also considered an opportunity for LIS institutions.

 

5 Conclusions

In the last five years European LIS institutions have had to meet a number of challenges including the financial crisis, negative demographic trends in some countries, emerging technologies, internationalization and globalization. For this reason they have constantly needed to find innovative ways to survive and achieve their educational goals. There is pressure on HE institutions to do more with less and to answer the question of how to achieve excellence in teaching and learning in a time of costs and cuts. The five institutions examined in this study have attempted to respond to these challenges and innovate constantly in order to maintain efficiency, effectiveness and economy.

The main examples of innovation in those institutions were seen to involve structural changes at both a departmental and university level, in course and programme development, ICT developments, internationalization, and collaboration and partnerships. The participants in the study, who were academics in those institutions, believed in the need to constantly innovate. They also considered that the main triggers of innovation were: the financial crisis and inadequate financial resources; emerging technologies; the need to keep abreast of the changes in LIS and ensure that education is relevant to the professional world; competition with other players; negative demographic trends, which are obliging institutions to find new ways to recruit students; the increasing number of international students; the need to expand access and reach new target groups; and the demand for personalized learning and lifelong learning.

The participants in the study made mention of some of the trends, challenges and technology developments listed in the Horizon Reports of 2014 and 2015. Specifically, the challenges they mentioned were Expanding access and Keeping education relevant, which the expert panel for the 2014 edition of the Horizon Report perceived as wicked, and Personalized learning, which the 2015 panel qualified as difficult. The trends the participants mentioned were Growing importance of social media and Integration of online, hybrid, and collaborative learning, which the 2014 edition of the Report qualified as fast trends, and Evolution of online learning, which it perceived as a long-range trend; and they also mentioned Proliferation of open educational resources, which the 2015 edition qualified as mid-range, and Increasing cross-institutional collaboration, which it considered as long-range. Finally and with regard to the emerging technologies listed in the Report, the participants only mentioned Learning Analytics and BOYD.

Although ICT was used in teaching and learning in all five institutions, two focused on developing ICT, while the other three had invested more in the programme and course development. Two had experienced significant structural changes and three invested more in the internationalization process. All the participants in the study felt involved in the change and innovation process, although to varying degrees. Their attitude towards innovation was generally positive and they recognized the need for change. In most cases, they regarded the changes that had been made in their institutions as incremental, but they also identified radical and architectural types of change. Some understood that the process of innovation had involved a combination of incremental, radical and architectural change.

The attitude of the participants towards innovation and change resembled the attitude expressed by the staff members who had participated in the earlier study, in 2003, as did their perception of their personal involvement in the innovation process. (Note that the institutions were not strictly the same.) However, they were more critical (and self-critical) about the innovation and change process, which they perceived somewhat differently to the earlier group. The participants in the earlier study had been more forward-looking and optimistic and several had referred to the Bologna Process. In the present study, however, no mention was made of Bologna. On the other hand, the differences of national context did not appear to lead to any pronounced disparities. Finally, it should be remembered that these conclusions are drawn on the basis of five case studies and a limited number of participants, so that the results may not be representative of a wider base.

 

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Recommended citation

Virkus, Sirje (2015). "Change and Innovation in European Library and Information Science Education". BiD: textos universitaris de biblioteconomia i documentació, núm. 35 (desembre) . <http://bid.ub.edu/en/35/virkus.htm>. [Consulta: 15-11-2019].