Speaking the Same Language: Online Administration Concerns and how Faculty can Effectively Communicate with Leaders

Concurrent Session 2
Streamed Session

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

A panel will contrast executive online leaders concerns with those of faculty and instructional designers,  offering practical examples of the types of information and questions to help faculty and Instructional Designers speak the language of leadership, in order to better effect change and gain support for online learning and projects.


Jonathan Small is a higher education executive and entrepreneur with over 18 years of experience in the areas of online learning and distance education. As a respected leader in the field, he manages efforts at Regis College in Weston, MA to increase access to high quality graduate and undergraduate education through the online modality. Prior to joining Regis, Small worked with universities as an independent consultant and at Meteor Learning, an education technology startup, to create and expand online education and training programs. He also held leadership positions at several Boston area schools including Director of Online Learning at the Wentworth Institute of Technology; Director of Online Programs at Bay State College; and eLearning Program Manager at New England College of Business and Finance. In these roles, Small launched each school's initial online degree programs and built teams, processes, and infrastructure to support online students and faculty. In his six years as a workshop consultant with the Online Learning Consortium he partnered with experts to create online professional development workshops for higher education faculty and administrators. The topics of these workshops included best practices for online teaching and the adoption of cutting edge technologies and techniques related to distance education.
Dr. Anthony Piña is Associate Provost for Instruction and Online Learning, and Distinguished Lecturer in the Graduate School at Sullivan University, Louisville KY, where he oversees academics, policy and development for over 30 fully online degree programs and more than 500 unique online courses. In his three decades in the field of instructional technology and distance learning, Dr. Piña has been a consultant to Fortune 500 corporations, small businesses, local government agencies, the U.S. Coast Guard and numerous educational institutions. He is also an accreditation peer reviewer for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Dr. Piña is tthe recipient of many national awards, including the 2019 Wagner Award for Distance Learning Leadership at the Distance Learning Administration Conference. He is author/editor of six books on online learning, including the award winning "Leading and Managing e-Learning: What the E-Learning Leader Needs to Know,” published by Springer, and more than 70 academic publications. He serves on the editorial review boards of three scholarly journals and has delivered over 200 presentations—including several keynotes—at conferences across the country. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT). He is Past-President of AECT’s Division of Distance Learning and is General Editor of AECT’s Instructional Design Standards for Distance Learning. He has recently been elected to a three-year term as a Trustee of the AECT Non-Profit Foundation.
Firm Faith Watson currently serves as the Director of the Faculty Development Center at Murray State University. In this capacity, she organized various faculty development initiatives including the New Faculty Orientation, Online Course Design Institute, and Fall Faculty Summit. She is also host of the freely available This Works for Me Virtual Summit. She developed a love for teaching while serving as a lecturer at the Jamaica Institute of Management. She completed a Master of Science in Education degree with an emphasis in Workforce Education and Development at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC). Subsequently, she earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Learning Systems Design and Technology at SIUC. She also earned several professional certifications that have honed her faculty development skills. Firm Faith’s faculty development experiences include serving as the Instructional Designer in the University Center for Excellence in Teaching (UCET) at Indiana University South Bend (IUSB) for over five years. While serving in that capacity, she developed various professional development opportunities to help faculty design and facilitate face-to-face, blended and online courses. She also conducted the annual assessment of the faculty development activities provided by UCET. Prior to serving at IUSB, Firm Faith served as an online course manager at SIUC, for over five years, where she taught online courses and trained online course managers to teach online.

Extended Abstract

Executive leadership, faculty and instructional designers can have vastly different interests and concerns when each is considering how to approach new online learning initiatives. While faculty members or instructional technologists are deeply interested in those areas that most directly affect them--often at the individual course level--those who lead online at the institutional level often answer to program or institution-level issues. When faculty or instructional designers tasked with researching new initiatives reach out to executive leadership for support or funding, these requests may be denied. Although the information presented may be academically rigorous, it may not be the type of information that executives need to allocate funds for new projects. It may seem as though they are speaking different languages.  In this session, administrative, teaching and design issues will be addressed, with ideas to help all three groups “speak the same language.”

Session Objectives:

At the conclusion of the session, participants will be able to:

  1. Describe some of the main concerns facing online leaders at the university level.

  2. Discuss emerging trends that online leaders must understand to develop and grow online learning at their institution.

  3. Use strategic communication skills to help faculty and instructional designers present more effective proposals to university leadership to help them make well-informed decisions. (Align proposals with concerns of university leaders) 

Presentation Organization: 

This presentation will feature a panel of well-established online administrators who lead the online learning divisions of their universities. Their general scope of responsibilities include: course development, faculty training, program development, marketing, enrollment, vendor management, policy development, and budget oversight for suites of online programs.  

The session will feature a combination of “seed-questions” to get the presentation started and to encourage the audience participants to ask questions of the panel. The session will begin with panel members interacting with audience participants regarding online learning issues that tend to be of most concern to faculty and instructional designers. These will be contrasted with the responsibilities and concerns of those who lead and administer online learning at the institutional/executive level. The panelists will then provide examples of how these differences can result in faculty and instructional designers “speaking a different language” than administrators, resulting in worthy initiatives being denied and decisions being made with a lack of academic input. Panel members will also solicit examples from audience participants.

Next, The panel will field questions from the audience regarding emerging trends that online leaders must understand to develop and grow online learning at their institution, such as determining “in-house” capacity for online learning, negotiating OPM relationships, and online program and curriculum management, evaluation, authorization, accreditation and compliance,  

The panel and participants will conclude with a discussion of  strategic communication skills that will help to bridge the language gap between faculty/instructional designers and administrators The panelists will provide attendees a practical framework of how to more effectively present requests for funding and support.