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In the early drafts of this story, I concluded this section by saying, “the program we conceived of and built is, for all intents and purposes, a shadow of itself. We will never have the hard discussions, nor will we be able to complete the course linkages and support the BHAG. Camelot has fallen, and the round table sits, abandoned, in an empty and unused room.” To a large extent, I believe that this is still true – the idea of a shining castle on a hill and a group of faculty with mutual interests sitting at a round table seems hollow, if not dead, to me. However, as the semester has moved along and reflection has occurred, all of the personnel changes have actually increased at least the possibility of integrating the courses and the way we support the BHAG. I now teach in both EDL 601 and in EDL 602. FME took over EDL 603 and we have co-taught EDL 604 several times. In one sense, the two of us are in position to achieve what seven of us could not. I can’t help but wonder though, whether this is really a good thing. While shared responsibility can be messy and time consuming, bi-lateral decision making runs counter to what we try to teach program participants.

The morals of the story

As I reflect on the events of the past five years, I see many lessons. I will limit this discussion to three of them. While these lessons are applicable to many programs, I think they are especially pertinent to online leadership programs. What I take away from our experiences is the importance of intentionality, the impact of leadership, and the centrality of relationships in developing and sustaining rich online leadership programs.


Where we succeeded and failed are closely related to the idea of intentionality. We live in a world of mandates, accountability practices, and a certain degree of cynicism. Reaching for a dream requires an intentional decision to discard the confining influences of other forces, to believe in possibility, and to build community. Intentionality also requires us to examine and shed light on individual assumptions, and to anticipate potential areas of disagreement and address them early in the process. At a time when many programs are moving to online and hybrid formats for the sake of convenience or cost savings, intentionally designing an online program that capitalizes on the strengths of the medium and the faculty becomes a moral leadership imperative.


Leadership makes a difference at every level. This story demonstrates both the ability of leadership to nurture and sustain an online program, and the capacity of leadership to quickly weaken a strong program and demoralize its faculty. Program leadership should be structured in a way that minimizes burn-out, and planning for program leadership succession might help create more fluid transitions. A strong faculty community can mitigate negative effects of leadership to a degree, but sometimes our best efforts are futile. Change happens, and when leadership change happens, program faculty need to become nimble, much more strategic, and politically astute.

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Source:  OpenStax, Ncpea handbook of online instruction and programs in education leadership. OpenStax CNX. Mar 06, 2012 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11375/1.24
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