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Francesco Marinucci DEPM 604 Section 9040 6/19/2012 A2 Case study part-1

Strategic plan for the Regional University Background The Regional University (hereinafter RU), object of the strategic plan outlined below, has been successfully delivering a masters degree and a certificate of advanced graduate study for the last 10 years. Since the beginning the university has offered both programs in a format comprising online classes and a one-week intensive summer residency face-to-face session. Despite the additional costs and disadvantage of travel and residency the summer residency has been a hit with the students. The major reason for its popularity has been the opportunity students have had to strengthen their sense of belonging to the institution through direct interaction both with faculty and other students. As a result of improved empathy, students have increased their social presence with the overall outcome of more satisfying learning experience (Garrison, 2009). Besides the increased satisfaction of students, teaching staff has also benefitted from the one-week residency since it has represented an additional source of income. Due to the increasing enrollments in the master program in the last five years, the residency week has become an optional activity but many students still have opted to cover the additional costs to attend the face-to-face session. Why intervention is warranted The first intervention of the new director of online graduate programs has been to advocate for the immediate termination of the summer residency considered not compatible with true distance education programs. On one hand, this decision has raised discontent among

students who have planned to attend the face-to-face session, and among faculty who supported the summer session in the past. Besides, the dean has been inclined to support the residency because of the added value it has represented for the online program. On the other hand, the department chair has been favorable to the elimination of the summer session for both programs. As a consequence of the matters arising from the directors announcement, RU has instituted a task force with the goal of identifying potential strategies to solve the dilemma. Diagnosis of the strengths The primary strength of RU is that both advanced graduate study programs have promoted a blended teaching and learning approach that has been quite successful among students and faculty. These programs have had merit in creating a model that has led to increase students population and to expand the geographic catchment area of RU over time. This has represented a valid system for RU to improve the visibility of its educational offer beyond its previous boundaries and, at the same time, to increase the revenues of the institution. The significant expertise in terms of delivery mode and distance education pedagogy is a valuable asset for RU distance education programs. Diagnosis of the weaknesses The primary weakness of RU is the leadership stalemate as it relates to future direction of distance education within RUs strategic plan. A major factor contributing to this impasse is the different opinions key players within the institution have in regard to distance education. This inconsonance is undoubtedly due to the different expertise and knowledge of distance education that has led stakeholders to have biased perspectives on the future of these two programs. It is likely that all the key players weigh differently the eight ingredients of blended learning framework as described by Singh (2003). The newly appointed director is probably more focused

on the management aspect, while the dean is more concerned of the institutional dimension. At the same time, it is likely that the department chair predominantly directs his attention to resource support, while the faculty is more concentrated on the pedagogical aspect. While all the key players seem to be interested in distance education, it is clear that there is neither a champion nor enemy. Development of a strategy for changing the situation A major opportunity for RU is to continue building the distance education offer based on the model positively evaluated by students and already implemented with success for the past 10 years. This uniqueness can consolidate RUs role in the distance education arena and it also offers tremendous opportunity for RU to grow distance education programs and student base. When compared to full online and face-to-face programs existing at different universities, the model developed at RU has the potential to attract students whose learning styles do not fit in these two approaches. The task force appointed by the dean has identified nine potential intervention strategies summarized in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1 - Potential intervention strategies at RU

Based on the present scenario at RU, and considering the dynamics among key stakeholders and the previous experience at RU on distance education, authors preference goes to strategy 5. The other two options having identical delivery format (strategy 1 and strategy 9) were rejected because they are considered too restrictive. Strategy 2 and strategy 3 were ruled out because, in authors view, it makes more sense to maintain the residency as optional for the certificate. Similarly, strategy 4 and strategy 7 were considered unsatisfactory for master degreeseeking students willing to attend the face-to-face session. Lastly, even if strategy 6 and strategy 8 offer the summer residency for both programs, this is alternately mandatory. To reach broader students population and accommodate different learning styles it is the authors view that the face-to-face component cannot be imposed. The option recommended offers the best combination to ensure that each perspective on distance education at RU is included by providing comprehensive educational offer to students. By keeping the summer face-to-face session available as an optional basis, the director and the head of department have the opportunity to evaluate better its efficacy and pedagogical effect. At the same time, integrating the residency with online teaching and learning gives the director and the head of department the chance of giving their imprinting to redesign online courses, and it also allows them to work together with the dean by involving her in the process. Proposed leadership style required to affect intended outcome In the authors view, either the lack of leadership or the wrong leadership style is the major cause of the current impasse at RU. Because of the two distinct schools of thought on distance education among RU key players, the transformational leadership style is probable to be ineffective. Similarly, the fact that there are two opposite perspectives makes transactional leadership style, based on reward and punishment, not the best approach to start the process

change at RU. The process change cannot be achieved by one person at RU; therefore, charismatic leadership is considered not a valid option for this specific scenario. The style proposed encompasses elements of both distributed and situational leadership. The decision-making process at RU should involve all the key players for the institutional change process to be successful. Distributed leadership allows retaining both individual leaders and hierarchy, and it perfectly fits the RU organizational structure by promoting multi-style, multi-participant process without altering the authority of the individuals involved. As pointed out by Dean (2007) in distributively led organizations, leadership is a collective achievement based on the contributions of every participants (p.4) that, in the authors opinion, needs to take into account also the political role-played by each participant within the institution. While expanding the decision-making process to multiple participants is likely to avoid wrong assumptions and favor a more equitable process, personal interests and leaders competing for influence are factors that might undermine the practice of distributed leadership. While distributed leadership perfectly applies to RU at the macro level and therefore it should be fostered for the entire length of the change process, situational leadership is also needed at different stages of the same effort. In the model presented by Hershey and Blanchard (1969), effective leaders should have the capacity of adjusting their leadership style to the readiness levels of subordinates. The level of maturity of the followers is among the situational factors not under leader control that, as described by Vroom and Jago (2007), determine the organizational effectiveness. In RU scenario leaders at different level of the hierarchical structure have to adapt their leadership styles based on the ability and willingness of their specific followers. Therefore it is likely that the dean, as top manager at RU, will have to adopt her style when dealing with the commitment and motivation of the head of department and director to

accomplish the specific task. Having a common institutional goal as it relates to distance education shared by top management at RU is probably the first step to move forward the change process. It is the deans role and responsibility to initiate this important step that will hopefully trigger off distributed leadership at RU. Analysis of likely reaction from stakeholders involved The status quo will be presented as an opportunity for RU stakeholders to renovate format and delivery mode of DE programs by maintaining the blended approach. The strategy will contain valid elements of each player so to be seen as a common goal. Due to the fact that she is not enamored with DE, the deans reaction at the recommendation of the task force of initiating the change process will not likely be positive. To soften her position the task force will provide valid argumentation to sustain the pedagogical benefits of the blended learning approach and the potential economic advantages DE offers to increase the revenues at her institution. Similarly, the feedback of the director and head of department to the proposal will likely be negative. To prevent their negative reaction, the task force will complement the proposal by providing track records of students satisfaction for the past 10 years and appropriate literature on the importance of satisfaction on students learning. It is likely that the response of the faculty who were previously involved in the summer sessions, and that of students planning to attend the upcoming session, will be positive. Description of next steps The process of implementing strategy 5 will comprise the following steps based on the eight stages described by Kotter (1996): 1. The task force presents the strategy to the stakeholders complemented by market analysis of the offer of DE courses in the same area and the role of students satisfaction on drop-

out rates. By presenting this data, the task force aims at establishing a sense of urgency described by Kotter as a crucial factor to gaining needed cooperation. 2. A guiding coalition comprising the dean, head of department, director, and few faculties creates a shared vision and strategies for achieving it. 3. Champions within the guiding coalition communicate the transformational vision to the stakeholders. 4. The head of department revisits department structure, and redistributes roles and tasks of faculty and staff to empower people. 5. The director creates short-term goals and rewards people responsible for the improvements. 6. The guiding coalition monitors the change process and takes action accordingly to reinvigorate the process with new initiatives. Concluding comment The different positions on DE of key stakeholders at RU have created an impasse that needs a new leadership style to be overcome. For this purpose the task force has used the dilemma as an opportunity to establish a sense of urgency and hence starting a change process by balancing authority-based leading and participation-style decision making. Based upon the reality of the situation, the best strategy aims at involving in the process all the stakeholders and at the same time differentiating the hierarchical roles within the institution. A further hope is that the participatory approach will create a shared vision and strengthen the common goal of all players by allowing RU to expand DE offer in the near future.

References Dean, D.R. (2007). Thinking globally: The national college of school leadership--A case study in distributed leadership development. Journal of Research on Leadership Education, 2(1), 1-62 Garrison, D. R. (2009). Implications of online learning for the conceptual development and practice of distance education. Journal of Distance Education, 23(2), 93104. Hersey, P. & Blanchard, K. H. (1969). Life cycle theory of leadership. Training and Development Journal, 23(5), 2634. Singh, H. (2003). Building effective blended learning programs. Educational Technology, 43(6), 51-54. Vroom, V.H. & Jago, A.G. (2007). The role of the situation in leadership. American Psychologist, 62(1), 17-24. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.62.1.17