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Beyond the Online Course: Leadership Perspectives on e-Learning

reviewed by Oksana Vorobel - June 08, 2017

coverTitle: Beyond the Online Course: Leadership Perspectives on e-Learning
Author(s): Anthony A. Pi˝a, Jason B. Huett, & Charles Schlosser (Eds.)
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1681235099, Pages: 440, Year: 2016
Search for book at Amazon.com

With the constantly growing number of distance education programs and students seeking their degrees online, many scholars have focused on the best practices of teaching online (Boettcher & Conrad, 2016; Ko & Rossen, 2017; Orellana, Hudgins, & Simonson, 2009; Vai & Sosulski, 2015, to name a few). Meanwhile, the topic of administration and leadership in e-learning seems to be overlooked. The book Beyond the Online Course: Leadership Perspectives on e-Learning, edited by Anthony A. Piña and Jason B. Huett, addresses this gap and provides an in-depth insight into various aspects of leadership as related to distance education. Through the collection of 25 articles, the editors aim at guiding future, new, and existing leaders in e-learning in higher education.

The book consists of five parts with four to six chapters in each of them, a foreword by both the Dean of eCore at the University System of Georgia, as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Melanie N. Clay, and finally, a preface by the editors, Jason B. Huett and Anthony A. Piña. The book covers the topic of leadership in e-learning from various perspectives, including those of administrators, faculty, staff, and students. It also addresses different aspects of leadership in distance education, from its institutionalization to legal and accreditation issues in higher education and, hopefully, paves the way for a similar project for K-12. Commendable is also the diversity of chapters in terms of theoretical frameworks and methodological design, which allowed for a holistic yet in-depth overview of issues in e-learning.

The organization and structure of the book is conscientious. First, the readers learn about the contextual factors, barriers, and solutions in distance education leadership (Part One), followed by program and course design in e-learning (Part Two). These build ground for the empirical inquiry into and practical suggestions about how to better support online students, faculty, and staff (Parts Three and Four). The final part of the book zooms in on standards, accreditation, intellectual property, and legal issues of accessible postsecondary distance education (Part Five). The book offers a well-balanced overview of issues in distance education, in addition to research studies that closely examine certain aspects that might be of interest for future and existing leaders in higher education. The book is coherent and logical, with its chapters building on and complementing each other, giving readers a better understanding of leadership in distance education.

In Part One on “Leading Innovation and Change,” for example, the author and co-editor of the book Anthony A. Piña identified and validated 30 factors that play a role in institutionalizing distance education programs in higher education. The three most important factors according to leaders and faculty were technological capacity, support, and policy. Thorough analysis of the differences between leaders’ and faculty members’ perspectives on these factors, between academic levels and institutional locale, can be especially interesting and informative for leaders who develop or wish to improve distance education programs in their institutions. In the next part of the book, “Leading Course and Program Design,” Atsusi “2c” Hirumi provides an excellent overview of learning theories, presents an updated and refined framework for designing and implementing interactions in online learning, and offers practical and sequenced steps for applying the framework when designing online courses, guiding future and current leaders, practitioners, and researchers.

In Part Three on “Leading the Development and Support of Online Students,” the focus of Huett, Moller, Young, and Bray’s chapter is on the enhancement of confidence and performance of undergraduate students in an online course. In this experimental study, the students in the treatment group who went through a confidence treatment outperformed the control group in the post-test. Further research is needed on the strategies to enhance students’ confidence and motivation to improve their performance in online classes. In Part Four, on “Leading the Development and Support of Online Faculty and Staff,” Anthony A. Piña and Larry Bohn investigate issues of evaluation of online faculty who are often assigned to teach already developed, existing courses, and are not responsible for the course design. Based on the data from administrators, faculty, and students, the authors identify nine “indicators for assessing online instructor quality” (p. 324), and report on the “minimum standards for instructor activity” (p. 325). The findings of this study are crucial, and should serve as the foundation for the development of peer observation rubrics as well as the assessment of faculty in distance education programs.

The last part of the book, Part Five, helps readers learn about an intricate maze of legal and accreditation issues in distance education. In Chapter Twenty-Two, Soonhwa Seok reviews the standards, benchmarks, accreditation, and guidelines, pointing out some existing issues that need to be addressed. Chapters Twenty-Three and Twenty-four examine intellectual property policies as well as distance education courses and concerns related to them. The final chapter of the book by Kevin Crow looks into legislation of accessible distance education. Overall, the overviews provided in the last part of the book as well as a thorough investigation of these issues at universities in the U.S. in Chapter Twenty-Four are informative for all engaged in distance education at the postsecondary level.

While the number of distance education programs and courses constantly and rapidly grows, more work is needed to adhere to the highest standards in delivering online courses and serving online students, faculty, and staff. The book Beyond the Online Course: Leadership Perspectives on e-Learning, edited by Anthony A. Piña and Jason B. Huett, aims at preparing leaders in distance education and excels at addressing a wide range of key issues to consider when planning, designing, and/or improving online programs and courses. The book is thoughtfully written and organized, and will be valuable to the broad audience, or anyone who is interested in e-learning. The collection of chapters written by multiple authors will benefit administrators, practitioners, and graduate students, and serve as a starting point in their further work.


Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. M. (2016). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Ko, S., & Rossen, S. (2017). Teaching online: A practical guide (4th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Orellana, A., Hudgins, T. L., & Simonson, M. R. (2009). The perfect online course: Best practices for designing and teaching. IAP.

Vai, M., & Sosulski, K. (2015). Essentials of online course design: A standards-based guide (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: June 08, 2017
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22030, Date Accessed: 5/26/2022 12:58:45 PM

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About the Author
  • Oksana Vorobel
    Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York
    E-mail Author
    OKSANA VOROBEL, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor at Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York. Her research focuses on second language literacy and writing, use of technology in language learning and teaching, and distance education. She has published in theáCALICO Journal,áSystem,áWriting & Pedagogy, andáTESOL Journal.
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