Leveraging Organizational Learning and Best Practices in Online Leadership: Do It, Be It, Know It, Test It, Revise ItVickie Cook | Director of the Center for Online Learning, Research and Service, University of Illinois Springfield
Most of us have attended many conference sessions and webinars on best practices within our field of online learning and online leadership. But, how might we leverage what we learn in these informative sessions? How can we best implement what we have learned so that these practices have a lasting effect on our institutions? This article will discuss the concepts of Do It, Be It, Know It, Test It, and Revise It.
Leveraging the process of organizational learning to build best practices in online leadership is an important consideration for today’s leaders charged with building and sustaining online initiatives. Competition within the field of online learning is greater today than ever before. Finding, strategically implementing, and evaluating creative solutions is critical to on-going success of any online initiative. In order to leverage best practices and lessons learned in an organization, it is necessary to follow an organizational learning roadmap.
Leveraging the concept of organizational learning doesn’t rely on budgets that are often being reduced today. It doesn’t rely on a large staff, nor does it rely on being or becoming a large institution. The concept of organizational learning does rely on practicing five distinctive components to achieve leverage of best practices in online learning that will lead to success for the institution:
The position and professionalism of online leaders within the institution cannot be over-emphasized. Connected online learning leaders are a key component to building and delivering high-quality, sustainable online learning programs. Chief Learning Officers (CLO) who are dedicated to being the organizational voice for online learning are crucial. They lead the organizational learning processes to map practices and to effectively use data to drive decisions, improve accountability, and advocate for the resources and the value-added components of online learning that are critical to success.
Mapping practices of organizational learning requires institutional commitment by CLOs to set a clear vision and act as champions for best practices in online learning across the institution. Leaders who have taught online are authentic advocates for the online learning practices and policies.
Leveraging high-quality online learning requires commitment and immersion into the institutional culture. Online learning that is woven into the fabric of the institution through inclusion in strategic planning, budgeting, facility resource management, alignment to institutional mission and institutional brand, and positioning online learning within the cultural norms and values of the institution is inherent to the overall connection of online learning to the campus. While some institutions have chosen to create a stand-alone online initiative, there remains the need for integration in to the campus culture and brand.
Additionally, a culture of excellence in program structure, high student satisfaction, high faculty satisfaction, and attention to support for teaching allows the institution to leverage best practices in teaching and learning to move their institutional mission forward. Adherence to continuous high quality education becomes part of the institutional culture when all modalities are accepted as tools to advance the brand and mission of the institution. In my own institution, at the University of Illinois, Springfield, faculty routinely point to their experiences in teaching online courses as having a positive impact on their classroom teaching and management skills.
Organizational learning that relies on the implementation and embedding of best practices in the daily operations and processes allows an institution to set up communities of practice in teaching and learning excellence. Agendas for these communities of practice include learning and building knowledge around online learning discussions, accessibility, workload, class management, student and faculty satisfaction, open educational resources, best practices in student engagement and motivation, mobile learning, heutagogy, and other relevant topics that allow for knowledge to be shared across the institution.
Distilling knowledge will assist with change leadership and implementation of best practices in online leadership. Technology solutions that allow for data to be easily collected, extracted and analyzed are consistent with leveraging best online leadership practices. Data used effectively will facilitate evaluation for testing practices.
Building an environment where risk is an associated and expected occurrence as part of the process of growth and development is key toward becoming a learning organization. Institutions that strategically engage in activities that stretch and expand current practices toward new endeavors and processes embrace the concept of testing processes for growth initiatives. Testing practices for institutional fit and cohesion is an important consideration in building the learning organization. In the face of naysayers and pundits, best practice of the online leader is to stay true to the mission and strategically mapped direction.
Distributing information across campus from the testing and evaluation process is integral in continuing a culture of transparency and buy-in from various campus constituents. Revising practices to better leverage resources, outcomes, and policy development is inherent to continued growth and sustainability. While the revision process may not often be considered a standalone component of organizational learning, it is a critical element of success that will determine future growth and sustainability. Institutions, which either by choice or default, continue with the same practices and policies throughout significant change and iteration in higher education struggle to understand why their efforts are not successful. Attention to revision may be the key component that is missing in their attempt at online leadership.
Leveraging the process of organizational learning to build and sustain best practices in online leadership is critical for today’s leaders. Regulation compliance, resource considerations, increased global competition, and other factors that are prevalent within the field of online learning continue to increase the need for strong online leaders. A quick look at any higher education job board will reveal multiple positions for campuses looking for strong online leaders today. Successfully negotiating these and other considerations are best done through leveraging best leadership practices and lessons learned by an organization. Practicing the five distinctive components of organizational learning to achieve leverage of best practices in online learning will lead to success for the institution.
Do It, Be It, Know It, Test It, Revise It.
Author Perspective: Administrator