Department of Conflict Resolution Studies Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Conflict Resolution Studies

First Advisor

Urszula Strawinska-Zanko

Second Advisor

Robin Cooper

Third Advisor

Cheryl Duckworth


complex adaptive systems, digital learning, digital technology, disruption, organizational conflict, sociotechnical change


Today’s unprecedented technology growth impacts at many levels—from individuals to groups to society. This study aims to characterize how exponential digital technology growth and organizational change is explained and experienced in a university setting deploying new instructional technologies—and how or where conflict emerges. Organizational conflict is a phenomenon that takes many forms and may not be fully recognized. This dissertation highlights theories of technology invention and disruption, the dynamics of sociotechnical change (defined as the interdependencies between people, technology, and the environment) and response in organizations, complex adaptive systems, and practice theory of change. It considers current technological forces at work; digital use and literacy in higher education; mechanisms by which digital technology affects stakeholders; how institutional technical capacity is assessed; how technology is adopted; and ultimately, how a lack of contextual understanding or awareness of conflict may contribute to acute disruption for incumbent academic institutions. Quantitative research and Theoretical Thematic Analysis (qualitative research) were employed concurrently. Thematic insights from interviews and surveys converged to identify patterns of sociotechnical change, and the conflict that emerged, during COVID-driven requirements to implement all courses fully online. The intent was to substantiate theoretical underpinnings for organizational strategy in today’s times. This approach illumined the decisions that were made and how they were deciphered, how change was experienced, as well as how conflict was managed. Modeled was the multidisciplinary approach prescribed through a conflict lens—making a viable contribution to the study of sociotechnical change in organizations and institutions.