Master Series Applied! Central Facets for Leading Effective, Sustainable, High Quality Online Programs

Concurrent Session 2

Brief Abstract

This session will discuss the most pertinent topics for developing and sustaining a strong university online program based upon OLC's related Mastery Series workshop.


Dr. Redd is currently the Senior Director of eCampus at San Jose State University. Dr. Redd is an experienced teacher with specific expertise in teaching online. Dr. Redd is always looking at innovative ways to enhance the learning experience of students and to incorporate technology into the curriculum in meaningful ways.

Extended Abstract

There are multiple leadership strategies that a university can adopt when it comes to distance learning. This begins with a reflection upon the university organizational structure. It then requires a review and understanding of key components, such as academic programming, assessment, policies, finances, assessment, support services, technical infrastructure, delivery methods, and leadership. A leader needs to provide a vision, manage courses and programs, and motivate others (Nworie, 2012).

Although a leader within the distance education realm needs to maintain flexibility in the ever changing technology-enhanced learning environment, it is essential to have developed a strategic leadership plan to meet the needs and goals of the university. Strategic leadership involves developing action plans that are resourced, achievable, and sustainable (Garrison & Vaughan, 2013). Additionally, leadership involves an awareness of potential challenges faced in distance education and the development of strategies to address a variety of scenarios. Successful leaders need to develop a competitive advantage and secure resources that meet new technical specifications and opportunities as well as encourage excitement and collaboration from the faculty and staff involved in the implementation (Halfond, 2014). Although there can be variety in the strategies adopted by a university, leadership training that addresses best practices can provide additional guidance to meet the common needs.

The Online Learning Consortium offered a Leadership in Online Learning Mastery Series over a 2 Ω month span during the Summer and Fall of 2015. There were seventeen participants from thirteen states. The leadership series was broken down into three workshops: Organizational Structure, Policies in Distance Learning, and Financials & Economics in Distance Learning Leadership and Programs. It began with a week of discussion (both asynchronous and synchronous) followed by three weeks of hands-on development of different components that by the end of the series composed a distance learning institutional plan.

Through this leadership series, participants viewed the variety of strategies that are implemented at universities across the country. Similarities in the issues that were present were discussed and through the collaborative nature of the series, peer assistance was provided in discussing ideas and solutions to address the issues present on our own campuses. Now, transitioning into a facilitator role, two participants in this leadership series, have gathered the top issues that were discussed and will expand it to a broader audience. Topics will include: pros/cons of a centralized versus decentralized (and other) models for managing online learning, funding, training/workshops in distance learning, support structures for distance learning, and guiding principles of good practice/accreditation standards relevant to distance learning guidelines.

Participants will discuss the pros/cons of a centralized versus decentralized models for managing distance learning. We will discuss the importance of support structure in these different models of DL, drawing from our individual experiences.

Participants will discuss the most and least effective funding structures of self-supporting and as well as for-profit/not-for-profit organizations along with the pros/cons of each.

Participants will reflect on and discuss several of the guiding principles of good practice/accreditation standards relevant to DL/guidelines, and will recommend methods for implementation and adoption of these principles within their organizations.

The distance learning leadership strategies implemented at universities should reflect an understanding of the university's goals, accreditation standards, and distance learning guidelines. Leaders, through action plans, can identify paths to success and also anticipate challenges. With technological changes occurring often, a strong leader needs to advance educational innovation strategically to build interest and excitement that is both supportable and sustainable.


Garrison, D. R., & Vaughan, N. D. (2013). Institutional change and leadership associated with blended learning innovation: Two case studies. Internet and Higher Education, 18, 24-28.
Halfond, J. (2014). A case of do or die? The fundamental things that apply to online leadership. New England Journal Of Higher Education 1. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed October 27, 2015).
Nworie, J. (2012, Winter). Applying leadership theories to distance education leadership. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, XV (V). Retrieved from