Innovation incubators: Not your typical teaching support center

Universities have long provided teaching support centers to faculty as a way to give access to the latest teaching tools. But in today’s age of unprecedented classroom technology, many teaching support centers are evolving beyond “support” and into “innovation incubators,” resources for innovation that go far beyond simply providing access to and training in teaching tools.

One way universities are overcoming obstacles to innovation is by outfitting faculty with cutting-edge training technologies and providing encouragement to experiment with these incubators.[1]

Innovation incubators

As universities look to chip away at those obstacles, teaching support centers are increasingly converting into “innovation incubators.”[2] These incubators provide a space for faculty to exchange and consider new ideas to help drive their classrooms to new heights of student engagement and learning potential. But for innovation to come out of these incubators, what has to go in?

According to Thomas Carey, a research professor at San Diego State University and former Associate Vice President of Learning Resources and Innovation at the University of Waterloo, for a teaching support center to foster innovation, it may need to move beyond “incremental innovation.”[3] That means freeing up opportunities to explore, experiment and exploit new ways of advancing teaching and learning for student success.

Collaboration required

To get beyond incremental innovation that is so firmly rooted in the methods of the past, faculty need access to the teaching and collaboration tools of the future. Already proven in innovative boardrooms and classrooms alike, technologies that enable visually interactive learning experiences like video conferencing between an innovative incubator and another classroom or campus, or collaboration-driven interactive presentations between students and faculty, can aid these incubators.

In an Educause study, 30 percent of education leaders cited “institutional culture” and “lack of resources” as the top impediments to innovation.*

Start your innovation transformation

1. Facilitate collaboration in the development of new ideas

2. Provide hands-on experience with cutting-edge classroom equipment to help spark insights through experimentation.

Providing faculty access to the teaching tools enables them to explore unique uses of them, finding and then significantly expanding the boundaries of what are considered today’s best practices. Without that access, your innovators are starting in the past and are left to guess at the capabilities of the near-term future. While these are not insurmountable goals, it is worth remembering how big of an obstacle higher education innovation leaders consider a lack of resources to be and know that there are available resources to address this challenge.

  1. 1. MJ Bishop et al. "Leading Academic Change: An Early Market Scan of Leading-Edge Postsecondary Academic Innovation Centers." Educause.
  2. 2. Jeffrey R. Young. "Many Colleges Now See Centers for Teaching With Technology as Part of ‘Innovation Infrastructure". The Chronicle for Higher Education. November 3, 2015.
  3. 3. Thomas Carey." Can a Teaching Support Center also be an 'Innovation Incubator'?" Inside Higher Ed. January 4, 2016.