Leadership in Online Learning

Welcome guest blogger Holly Caracappa. She connects leadership with online education. I’ve taken many online courses and can attest to the applicability of her comments. Enjoy.

Online education boasts of convenience, independence and flexibility – students can study in their home on their own schedule. The tradeoff for such advantages is the personal interaction component of education. Because of the remote nature of eLearning, traditional leadership tactics must be adapted to fit the distance learning arena.

Unlike physical campuses where leaders can implement study sessions, create campus organizations and spearhead group projects, eLearning leaders take on a more invisible role. Even though distance learners rarely find themselves engaged in live debates with their peers, online study requires a great deal of discussion and collaboration to be successful. Forums substitute written communication for verbal discussion.

Students attending accredited online degree programs must learn to lead through thoughtful and relevant writing. This stimulating engagement will evoke participation from fellow classmates and helps to build an interconnected, productive learning community. Moreover, in virtual learning environments students not comfortable with public speaking can find their voices, making online education conducive to fostering a broad leadership base.

Don’t believe that subtle leadership works? Consider a jazz ensemble. Jazz musicians do not improvise in isolation, but instead listen to the group’s initial direction, respond to it, and subsequently influence others in the group through their authentic response. It is a call and response leadership model.

Rather than spewing words into online forums, insightful e-learners digest the contributions of others before responding, leading the group toward the ultimate learning goal. In this sense, online leadership mirrors in-person leadership where a person must listen, reflect, and devise a plan of action in response to the group. This subtle leadership by participation fosters a collegial environment ready for intellectual inquiry, debate and exchange.

(Holly Caracappa is a writer for eCollegeFinder.org, an online education portal dedicated to matching students with the top online schools and best accredited online colleges.)