Digital Pathways to Connect and Engage Students: Bridging Gaps with Online Leadership Development Opportunities

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Brief Abstract

This presentation outlines our Digital Academy initiative, which connects online graduate MPA students with educational resources beyond the formal course content. Particularly, faculty and program partners provide leadership best-practices through webinars, quick talks, and on-demand MOOCS. Each modality is hosted on a webpage for students to access at their convenience.

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Alexander Murray is the Director of Online Academic Programs and a Sr. Lecturer at Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs. He works in collaboration with other faculty and staff to develop and maintain the Online MPA program, as well as advise online graduate students. He also teaches various courses and workshops. Alex received his Ph.D. in instructional technology from Ohio University and a master of science. He also earned a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University.

Extended Abstract

As a director of online learning, it is important to continually explore opportunities in which online-distant learners can connect and collaborate with students, faculty, and resources that others benefit from that are closer to campus. Online learning professionals may benefit from the idea and structure of this initiative, given that it can be modeled for professional development; structured for blended course content outside of an LMS; positioned to present leadership best-practices topics, or structured to house on-demand learning content for students outside of the formal classroom.

The Digital Academy was created to provide our online students with opportunities to explore leadership topics that may benefit both personal and current job performance. While the department offers three delivery formats for MPA degrees (on-campus, Executive, and online), the online students are often not able to benefit from various leadership discussions, due to their distance from campus. As such, the Digital Academy is positioned to provide our online-distance students with opportunities to explore leadership best-practices by means of webinars, quick talks (short discussions), and MOOCS. Each modality is hosted from a dedicated webpage and content is provided in synchronous and asynchronous formats from our faculty and expert partners.

Learning development opportunities provided through the Digital Academy affords students a means for obtaining supplemental leadership instruction and resources beyond our structured MPA curriculum. It also makes it possible for online-distance students to connect with other members from the campus community and to collaborate with faculty and expert partners during synchronous webinar discussions.

I plan to present the webpage and integrated content, while explaining how it can be used for teaching and learning. I will also share information on the tools used to record and display the content, as well as the strategies used to build relationships with faculty content contributors. The attendees will gain an understanding of how to move beyond the classroom to engage higher education students and add relevant content for further development of leadership skills.