Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name



Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Rita C. Richey


Taking the perspective that establishing large-scale online programs at universities is a matter of leading organizational change, this research examined the online efforts of institutions successful in online learning (OL). Best practices and leadership strategies for the move to OL were first identified and then a model for OL implementation that encapsulated these practices and strategies was developed.

The participants of this study were eleven institutions successful in OL and ten OL leaders, individuals with lead responsibility for institution-wide online initiatives at these institutions. All the participating institutions were under public control and most had faculty tenure systems. Three were university systems; four were classified as research institutions and four as master's. This research was conducted using qualitative methods. Data were gathered through one-on-one interviews with the OL leaders. Four prominent organizational change models were used to develop a framework that guided data collection.

The Leadership and Change Model for OL implementation developed in this investigation is associated with three leadership components:

1. Institutional leadership;

2. Faculty leadership; and

3. The OL leader.

The model consists of nine major phases, several of which are further constituted by multiple elements. Best practices and strategies are mapped to each of the elements. The phases are:

1. Create a vision and goals for OL;

2. Draft a strategic plan;

3. Motivate the move to OL;

4. Communicate vision and goals for OL;

5. Develop political support for OL;

6. Manage the transition to OL;

7. Measure outcomes of OL;

8. Ensure quality of OL; and

9. Sustain the OL initiative.

Best practices and leadership strategies for OL implementation that emerged in this investigation both validated and added to the critical success factors for OL described in the literature. This research offers a unique perspective by integrating individual OL success elements within a theoretical framework for leading change. While the model developed in this study may be adopted for any online initiative, some aspects of it may not be as relevant or applicable in different institutional contexts. Further research is needed to ascertain the relative importance of model conditions, components, phases, elements and strategies.