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Digitalization of learning resources in a HEI – a lean management perspective

Huay Ling Tay (Singapore University of Social Sciences, Singapore, Singapore)
Stephen Wee Kiat Low (Singapore University of Social Sciences, Singapore, Singapore)

International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management

ISSN: 1741-0401

Article publication date: 12 June 2017




Lean is considered as a major management approach for improving operational productivity and organizational performance. It is a systemic philosophy that emphasizes on fulfilling customer needs, waste minimization, and a commitment to a culture of continual improvement. In recent years, many higher education institutions (HEIs) have leveraged on the use of technology to provide flexibility in learning and just-in-time training for learners in the efforts to improve both the internal processes of course delivery and enhance the provisions of education quality. In recognizing these trends in HEIs, the purpose of this paper is to identify the key factors that facilitate the conversion of printed learning resources to e-learning resources in a HEI.


This study used a qualitative exploratory case study approach and examined a unique case of a HEI that is undergoing the transformation process from printed learning resources to digital sources to simplify the processes involved in educational service delivery and operational complexity. Data sources include semi-structured interviews with key personnel directly involved in the project of converting printed learning resources to digital sources, notes taken from informal discussions, and secondary data such as minutes of meetings, learning resource archives, and relevant literature. A retrospective perspective was adopted in the case analysis since the HEI has already completed 50 percent of the conversion phase when this study was carried out.


Abductive reasoning approach and well-established lean principles were used to make sense of the digital transformation process of the HEI. Based on the retrospective case analysis, the authors found evidence that characterizes lean management principles and identifies the critical factors (CFs) that have facilitated the HEI to achieve the key milestones in the conversion journey. These include common vision, top management support and leadership, timely information sharing, and relationship management with key stakeholders in the transformation processes.

Research limitations/implications

Since this research is an exploratory case study, the results obtained cannot be generalized. Future research can be conducted to provide an impact analysis of the potential risk factors of a system that employs only the use of e-study materials. In addition, future studies can also assess the quality of the learning services that is supported by the e-resources by gathering student feedback on their e-learning experience that is supported by the online digital learning resources and learning management system.

Practical implications

This study provides managerial insights into the levers to engender the transformation from a traditional print learning resources model to leaning with digital e-learning resources. The insights into the CFs aid education managers to introduce process innovations and encourage behavioral changes that will benefit learners, instructors, and administers.


The study is one of the first to apply lean management principles in making sense of the transformation processes involved in the use of digital innovation in higher education context. The findings provide a holistic view of the process transformations.



Tay, H.L. and Low, S.W.K. (2017), "Digitalization of learning resources in a HEI – a lean management perspective", International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Vol. 66 No. 5, pp. 680-694.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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