The power of networks for spreading innovations in higher education: Social network analysis of the growth of competency-based education programs
Bruce Haupt

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Kentucky

Primary Discipline

While policymakers, practitioners, philanthropic organizations, and researchers promote networks as important in scaling educational innovations, there is limited higher education research on how inter-organizational networks support the spread of new ideas from a network perspective. Social network analysis (SNA) is thus employed to examine how collaborative social network structures and processes influence the implementation of new models and practices across postsecondary institutions. This study focuses on the Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN) as an example of a network initiative supporting the spread of higher education innovations. C-BEN is a membership network of postsecondary institutions formed to catalyze and support adoption of new competency-based education (CBE) programs and practices. Social network analysis and relational network leadership theories guide the inquiry with research questions aiming to describe: (a) what the association is between inter-organizational social network structures and implemented CBE practices; and, (b) how C-BEN as a network organization influences relationships and the CBE practices implemented by institutions. The study is operationalized with a mixed methods explanatory sequential research design. Data is drawn from the National Survey of Postsecondary Competency-Based Education (from the American Institutes for Research), IPEDS, and the CBE Social Network Survey (a custom instrument), plus semi-structured interviews and archival research. The study may lead to development of expanded theories on inter-organizational network leadership, along with providing insights to those in the field of competency-based education. It will also serve as one of the first mixed methods SNA studies of change in higher education.
About Bruce Haupt
Bruce Haupt is a doctoral candidate in the University of Kentucky's online Ph.D. program in educational leadership. After working for three years as a high school drop-out, Bruce got his GED and enrolled at Eastern Florida State College (earning an A.A.). Since then, he's aspired to a career in higher education where he could address educational opportunity and attainment challenges. Along the way, Bruce has completed a B.A. in Political Science at the University of Florida, and a M.P.P. at the Harvard Kennedy School. His education led to work at the City of Houston, the World Bank, and at Oman's Supreme Council for Planning. In Houston, Bruce served the Mayor and CFO in leading a new performance improvement and innovation team. He managed major restructuring projects, and also led the creation of: a citywide data analytics initiative; a lean six sigma educational program that achieved accreditation; and, a civic innovation not-for-profit organization with community and technology leaders. After moving overseas, Bruce advised on data innovation and private sector development projects for the World Bank, and was tasked with launching the national economic diversification program for Oman. These experiences are the basis for Bruce's research interests in educational innovations, scaling change, and multi-stakeholder collaboration systems. Bruce is now researching how new competency-based education practices spread across postsecondary institutions. In focus are knowledge transfer via inter-organizational relationships, and the role of network organizations in scaling change. The project is supported by the American Institutes for Research with funding from the Lumina Foundation.

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