You are here:

Probing, Sensing, Responding - How to implement digital learning innovations by using the Cynefin framework

, FernUniversität in Hagen, Germany

EdMedia + Innovate Learning, in Amsterdam, Netherlands Publisher: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE), Waynesville, NC


When implementing innovations, decisions need to be taken at a systemic level. A useful framework is Cynefin, developed by Dave Snowden (Snowden & Boone 2007). In the Cynefin framework areas of contexts are defined that can be described as simple (obvious), complicated, complex, chaotic (or in disorder). These contexts differ from each other in the way cause and effect are related with each other. As there is an obvious relation in simple contexts, expert knowledge is needed in complicated contexts. In complex contexts the relations can only be recognized from a retrospective, while in chaotic contexts there are no patterns at all. Every field of context requires different decisions for actions. Contexts at universities can be described as complex, so, for example, trying to implement best practice is not an effective action strategy, whereas experimenting is promising. At FernUniversität in Hagen university management has established a dialogue with its learning and teaching practitioners. By openly supporting innovative digital learning projects through an internal funding program, an experimental field for digital innovation occurs. Ideas are supported that emerge from the faculties and thus an experimental field is provided. So, implementing digital learning innovations first takes probing into account before sensing and responding – which would mean to fully take them over into regular operation.


Bils, A. (2018). Probing, Sensing, Responding - How to implement digital learning innovations by using the Cynefin framework. In T. Bastiaens, J. Van Braak, M. Brown, L. Cantoni, M. Castro, R. Christensen, G. Davidson-Shivers, K. DePryck, M. Ebner, M. Fominykh, C. Fulford, S. Hatzipanagos, G. Knezek, K. Kreijns, G. Marks, E. Sointu, E. Korsgaard Sorensen, J. Viteli, J. Voogt, P. Weber, E. Weippl & O. Zawacki-Richter (Eds.), Proceedings of EdMedia: World Conference on Educational Media and Technology (pp. 2010-2015). Amsterdam, Netherlands: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved February 24, 2019 from .

View References & Citations Map


  1. Berger, J.G. & Johns, K. (2015). Simple Habits for Complex Times. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, N. 7.
  2. Bremer, C. (2011). ELearning als Innovation in der Lehre – Ansätze zur hochschulweiten Organisationsentwicklung. Zeitschrift für Hochschulentwicklung 6 (3), S. 89–98.
  3. Ehlers, U.-D.(2017). Hochschulbildung digital. Abschied vom Ideal der Universitas?
  4. Gorzeń-Mitka, I. & Okręglicka, M. (2014). Improving Decision Making in Complexity Environment. Erziehungswissenschaft, 2-2017, S. 47-57. . & Snowden D.J. (2003), The new dynamics of strategy: Sense-making in a complex and Preußler, A. & Bastiaens, T.J. (in press). Digitalisierung und Lehre – Blended Learning an der complicated world, IBM Systems Journal 2003, Volume 42, Number 3.
  5. Rogers, E.M. (1995). The diffusion of Innovations. New York (4th edition). Snowden, D. & E Boone, M. (2007). A Leader's Framework for Decision Making. Harvard business review. 85. 68-76, 149.

These references have been extracted automatically and may have some errors. If you see a mistake in the references above, please contact

Also Read

Related Collections