The research of digital learning plays a significant role in a time of change. The systematic study and application of new models, methods, and processes examines our value assumptions while deepening our understanding of learning in the digital age. As higher education continues to go digital, employing new methods of experimentation and research can help us articulate (with evidence) the value of a residential liberal arts education.
How, then, will we account for innovation with R&D experiments?
Accounting for anything is fundamentally about aligning your assessment appropriately to the system you are measuring. Higher education is a complex adaptive system – not mechanical and ordered, but ecological and messy. By design.
Drawing from the Cynefin framework, our focus for R&D work will be on understanding the learning experience within the domain of complexity. Assessing for that complexity is essentially managing for emergence, within flexible boundaries. Using a tool called Sensemaker, we will combine complexity theory with narrative research to make sense of these experiments.
Sensemaker is a ‘probe-sense-respond’ methodology that looks at what is and isn’t working in real time. The tool collects the stories from the experience being measures, while empowering the storyteller, rather than the researcher, to interpret the meaning. The resulting mix of statistical and narrative data from these stories will help us manage innovations in real time by revealing the signals within the noise.