COM 597: Digital Transformations of Organizations

**Please note that this class meets only 3 hours a week, but is a 5-credit course. The professors have designed the course to require weekly observations that serve as an equivalent to an hour of class time. The course has a prerequisite: a Memo of Understanding signed by the student and his/her organizational liaison is required to receive an add code for registration in the course. Please read the full course description below for more details.

Course Description:

Watch a video introduction to the course from Dr. Kirsten Foot.

The process of transforming organizations– whether for-profit companies, non-profit organizations, or government agencies– is often complex, even more so when digital information and communication technologies (ICTs) are involved. There are many reasons why technology adoption fails, why people resist the introduction of new tools, and why these tools have unintended consequences and effects. Managing technology change within organizations or being a “change agent” is rewarding yet extremely challenging work. This course prepares students to take on such roles. Using a case study approach, students in this class will learn how to identify potential roadblocks to change and develop analytical lenses for assessing digitally-mediated changes in organizations. Together we will examine several aspects of such changes including innovation cycles, change leadership, technology breakdowns, resistance to ICTs and/or organizational change, and collaboration.

During the second half of autumn quarter, this course will synch up with a “sister course” for professionally-oriented graduate students enrolled in a Communication masters degree program at Shenzhen University, located in China’s leading tech-industry city. We will experiment with real-time discussions between the two classrooms via video conferencing, and students in both locations will exchange some of their fieldwork observations and insights in English (and Mandarin, if desired) in order to develop cross-cultural and international understandings of ICT-mediated organizational change processes.

This course involves weekly assignments based on students’ fieldwork in a local organization, along with reading academic journal articles, organizational reports, case studies, and other types of documents, and writing weekly reports and other analyses. At the end of this course students will be able to identify key strategies for assessing and managing ICT-related organizational change, and analyze change processes in ways that support organizational development.

In order to obtain an add code to register for this course, students will first need to identify a local organization in which they can conduct fieldwork on a weekly basis during the course. The organization should be at least 5 years old, have at least 10 staff, and have undergone– or be undergoing– ICT-related change processes (tips for finding such an organization here). Each week the student will spend an hour at the organization’s headquarters, to interview a staff member and observe staff working with ICTs. The organization can be in any sector, and a UW department or office that meets the criteria above would be fine. Students should consider their schedules, organizations’ business hours, and transportation logistics when selecting an organization. Each student will print and sign this memo of understanding of the fieldwork for this course, and ask a staff member from the organization to confirm his/her consent by signing it. Heather Werckle will provide add codes upon receipt of MOUs signed by both a student and a staff member of an organization that meets the stated criteria.

Course Prerequisites:

  • Basic word processing, Excel, and Power Point skills, and the ability to access Canvas regularly
  • Access to and understanding of how to use Canvas
  • Ability to spend an hour each week during the 10 weeks of the course at the headquarters of a Seattle-based organization that has the characteristics described above
  • A Memo of Understanding signed by the student and his/her organizational liaison is required to receive an add code for registration in the course