Online Learning Leadership and Support: Building the Structure and Keeping it Together

Concurrent Session 4
Streamed Session Best in Track

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

For 20-plus years, we assumed the systems in place at an institution could absorb the needs of a fully online program. This session will engage the audience to discuss what institutions need to do to succeed when supporting online learners (and teachers). Let’s build an ideal support department together!


John Vivolo is the Director of Online Education at the Katz School of Science and Health, Yeshiva University. As director of online education at the Katz School, John Vivolo oversees the school's online education efforts, from day-to-day operations to strategic planning for future programming. For over 15 years, John has dedicated his career to the growth and improvement of online learning. Prior to joining YU, he was the director of an award-winning and top-ranked online learning unit at New York University. He recently published a book on online learning leadership entitled: Managing Online Learning: The Life-Cycle of Successful Programs. He is also an Online Learning Consortium trained instructor and completed the Institute for Engaged/Emerging Leadership in Online Learning (IELOL) Certificate at Pennsylvania State University. John holds an MA in English from the City University of New York and is pursuing his doctorate in education leadership at Northeastern University.

Extended Abstract

You are in a meeting (one of many you have a week), but this meeting is about the introduction of a new online degree. There are conversations about learning outcomes and faculty availability, about student recruitment and technology needed. Most of the conversation seems to return to technology, and it seems as if the IT department is getting the most say in this process or maybe the senior faculty. Deans are just happy faculty are even considering online learning. In that moment, you realize that no one is talking about the support systems within the university.

You start writing questions on your pad: how will the school support a sudden influx of new students? Will online students be treated as second class citizens? Will there be a strategic leadership effort to grow support for online learning? Will marketing and recruitment give the online program the same attention? Can we just absorb this wave of new faculty and students without understanding their needs? Do we need a separate group to run this effort? Will our accessibility department support online learners and their needs?

This session will open with a conversation on how participants view the strengths and weaknesses of their institution’s support systems. We will dive deep into whether they are prepared to support online learners and teachers, especially those with next generation needs. Many institutions just roll over support for these efforts into existing departments, which are already understaffed. Attendees will work to create an ideal support system that best meets the needs for their institution as well as use roleplay scenarios for unique situations they may face.

Participants will walk away from this presentation meeting the following outcomes:

  • Identify the components that are needed for a successful online program
  • Discuss various scenarios that can be addressed by unique approaches to support systems
  • Prepare an analysis of their current support system
  • Create a plan for moving forward to improve support systems at their institutions

This session will be very interactive. This will include interactive (real-time) polls, group games (construct your support system), and a CatchBox mic for fun, yet respectful conversation.