Keep on Keepin' Online: Strategies for Staying on Track Amid Shifting Campus Leadership

Concurrent Session 1

Brief Abstract

Two online learning administrators share their process for addressing critical questions related to online program development and institutional support, and facilitate a discussion among session attendees regarding strategies for staying the course, even during changes in senior level campus leadership.


Dr. Jennifer Gramling is Director of Online Programs in Teaching and Learning Innovation. Prior to returning to her Alma mater in May 2013, she held a Project Manager position in the Office of Distance Learning at FSU and served as the Associate Director of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning at South College. Jennifer has been working in faculty development and online learning administration for over fifteen years. She holds Bachelor's degrees in English and History from the University of North Florida, and a Master's in Secondary Education and a Ph. D. in Education from the University of Tennessee. In her role as Director of Online Programs, Jennifer oversees the development of policies and procedures related to online and hybrid teaching and learning; and collaborates with faculty and academic administrators to identify and facilitate opportunities for online and hybrid educational and faculty support initiatives.
Dr. Jean Derco has over thirty years experience in designing course materials and curricula. The past twenty years have focused on the design and development of multimedia and online learning environments. In addition, she has extensive experience working with faculty toward the adoption of instructional technologies in higher education. At the University of Tennessee, Dr. Derco is the Executive Director of the Office of Information Technology's Support Organization.

Extended Abstract

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) is the flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and the largest single provider of higher education in the state. Recently, the university has undergone a series of senior level leadership changes which have influenced the campus community’s attitude toward online teaching and learning. The long-term impact of these changes remains to be seen. What is clear, however, are students’ positive response to more online and hybrid course options.

Critical Questions

When senior level campus leaders express ambivalence, or enthusiasm, about strategically growing online programming, where does that leave administrators who are tasked with facilitating innovative education and quality online teaching? How can academic support units adapt to changes in campus leadership and institutional support, while keeping the focus on student learning and success in online and hybrid courses? When resources are limited, how does the institution continue to move forward in the areas of online, hybrid and distance education?

Meeting the Challenge

Two online learning administrators, the Director of Online Programs and the Executive Director of the Office of Information Technology (OIT) Support, set out to address those critical questions. They began working independently and collaboratively to strengthen existing areas within their perspective offices, and establish new, more effective resources. These administrators will discuss these collaborations in the presentation, which include various partnerships, reorganizations, and process improvements.

Goals of the Presentation:

During the session, the administrators will detail their approach while presenting some of the artifacts of their efforts. The main goals of the presentation are to share strategies, facilitate an exchange of ideas through discussion, and empower attendees to adopt and apply new tactics (or modified versions) at their own institution. The presentation is meant to engage the audience and will include a short activity in which attendees reflect on and answer the following questions:

  • How is online learning organized at your institution?
  • Who has the final authority to make decisions about online course and program development?
  • What do you perceive is the biggest barrier to growing online learning at your institution?
  • If you could change one thing about how online learning is currently organized what would it be and how would you execute the change? 

The main ideas to be presented in this session will focus on flexibility and adaptability while keeping steady in the support services for online teaching and learning.