Academic journal article Quarterly Review of Distance Education

Leading the E-Learning Transformation of Higher Education: Meeting the Challenges of Technology and Distance Education

Academic journal article Quarterly Review of Distance Education

Leading the E-Learning Transformation of Higher Education: Meeting the Challenges of Technology and Distance Education

Article excerpt

Leading the e-Learning Transformation of Higher Education: Meeting the Challenges of Technology and Distance Education, by Gary Miller, Meg Benke, Bruce Chaloux, Lawrence C. Ragan, Raymond Schroeder, Wayne Smutz, and Karen Swan

Leading the e-Learning Transformation of Higher Education: Meeting the Challenges of Technology and Distance Education, by Miller, Benke, Chaloux, Ragan, Schroeder, Smutz, and Swan, seven pioneers and leaders in higher education online learning, is a welcome and valuable contribution to e-leaming literature. At a time when systemic change is being called for in higher education, institutional leaders are realizing that they must enter the e-leaming environment or run the risk of being left behind. In a recent report on the state of online education, Allen and Seaman (2014) noted that the number of students taking at least one online course in higher education institutions across the United States now totals 7.1 million. In this same report, the proportion of chief academic leaders who indicated online education is critical to their long-term strategy is at 66%. At the same time, Gaytan (2009), in a study of the impact of colleges' institutional contexts on their approaches to online education, found that colleges' structures for online education did not necessarily support and promote their learning outcomes.

This transformative time in higher education calls for strong leadership by individuals who can help develop the strategic changes needed to bring e-leaming into the higher education institutional mainstream in a way that supports and promotes student learning outcomes. The majority of research currently published in the online learning literature has focused at the micro level on teaching and learning from the perspectives of students and faculty. Very little research is available in the scholarly literature, however, that looks at the macro level organizational goals and strategic plans necessary to develop and sustain an e-leaming infrastructure. Written in an easily readable, yet professional tone, Leading the e-Learning Transformation fills an important void in the literature by addressing, on a macro level, how to integrate e-leaming into the higher education institutional mainstream in a way that addresses the importance of sustainability as a key to success.

The authors, who collectively describe themselves as the first generation of e-leaming leaders, explain that the purpose of this book is, "to provide insights into the challenges facing the field for a generation of emerging leaders who can expect that much of their careers will be devoted to continuing this transformation" (p. xi). Aptly so, this book focuses on the role of the online distance education leader in steering change in the larger institutional context. Throughout the course of 12 chapters, the authors carefully address three overarching themes: leading change, ensuring operational excellence, and sustaining the innovation. These themes are addressed in a manner that is reflective of the Five Pillars of Quality Online Education developed by Frank Mayadas for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation: learning effectiveness, scale (cost-effectiveness and institutional commitment), access, faculty satisfaction, and student satisfaction (Moore, 2002). Rather than serve as a primer on how to become an e-leaming leader, the authors provide valuable insights, lessons learned, key concepts, and a vision for the future that are critical for bringing about strategic change within higher education. Though the authors do a thorough job outlining the "insights into the challenges facing the field" as stated in the book's purpose, newly emerging e-leaming leaders may further benefit from additional resources that outline the steps necessary to bring about strategic change.

The first theme of the book, leading change, is discussed throughout the first four chapters and addresses the important concepts required to be a change agent within the broader higher education institutional context. …

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