L. Dunlap

Queens University of Charlotte (UNITED STATES)
What does it mean to have a program go fully online? Queens University of Charlotte is about to discover the answer to that question, since our M.A. in Educational Leadership will be totally online in the fall of 2013. As in the past, the program will lead to a North Carolina license in K-12 principalship.

It has not been a difficult decision to take the program online at the University. Since online learning is more in-demand than ever, it is going to be important for colleges and universities to “get on the bus” technologically speaking. While going totally online means that we will be training principals in a different way, we will do so with the same rigor as before. Rather than conversations in the halls of academia with classmates, the conversations are now with classmates from around the state—maybe even around the country! With this, the question always comes as to whether the discussions on-ground can be transferred to discussions online. If so, how does one make that happen? Can online discussions mimic those we have in the regular classroom? Can students really learn from each other in the same way they learn together? How does the instructor guide those discussions to make them as rich as they are in an on-ground course?

What about the instructor who believes there are parts of “my class” that just cannot happen online? We have all heard from instructors that “My personality just cannot come through in an online class.” How about this one? “I just want to be in front of the class as I talk.” How does one counteract that? It really is not about the professor; rather, it is all about the students we serve in the 21st century. They have grown up with technology, unlike many of us who thought the selectric typewriter was the best thing since sliced bread! How are we to accommodate technologically-savvy young people who want convenience at home more than conversation in the classroom?

As the courses are developed and readied for the fall, it is important to make the classes as engaging as those we have experienced face-to-face. Online learning is more than just a series of assignments that often translates into an “independent study.” Special efforts must be made to find learning strategies that are both engaging and educational. The use of chapters from e-books, videos, and case studies where discussion among classmates is encouraged, moves learning from just another course to courses where students log on with anticipation.

Finally, as we anticipate the move to online learning, one more area that is especially important is a way to apply course work to real life situations. Those discussions in the on-ground classroom that allow for application, conversation, and questions must be transferred to discussions online. What are some of the decisions that school principals make every day? Only a school principal knows for sure. These can be shared as appropriate by adding a section titled “Notes from the Field” to the “Lecture” section of the course. This allows the instructor to focus on events that are part of the school day. From chaos in the parking lot to termites in the library, students can learn and appreciate what principals do on a daily basis that cannot often be learned from the textbook. Learning from real life examples is beneficial in the transfer of leadership theory to leadership practice.
keywords: online programs.