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Organizational leadership and institutional factors related to the implementation of online educational programming in California community colleges

, University of Southern California, United States

University of Southern California . Awarded


Background. Community colleges represent an important access point for many individuals seeking to enter into the system of higher education. This is especially the case in California, where the state has indicated that these open-access institutions are supposed to provide education to the communities they serve and to reach those that are traditionally underrepresented in higher education. Online education represents a tool that could expand access to yet more underrepresented populations who lack the ability to attend college in the traditional manner. While there has been great expansion in online programs in the California Community College System, the growth has not been evenly distributed. As a tool in helping the community colleges expand their mission to increase access to higher education, it is essential that the manner in which online programs have been implemented is studied to investigate the factors related to successful creation of robust online educational programs. Specifically, this study seeks to determine: How do organizational and institutional factors relate the implementation of online education in community colleges; and how do individual characteristics and perceptions of campus leaders relate to the implementation of online education?

Methods. This study uses a case study design in which three community colleges within a single district were selected because of their differences in the size of the institution, enrollment, capacity of on-campus facilities, fiscal standing and the size of its online educational program. Document analysis was conducted on each campus' central planning documents. Quantitative data was analyzed related to the college enrollment and fiscal standing. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with faculty and administrative leadership, and analyzed to determine which factors were related to the successful implementation of online educational programs.

Results. The results suggest that a formal faculty leader in the initial stages of development may assist in garnering faculty support related to the endeavor and that later administrative leadership may be required when the institution has developed sufficient faculty support. In addition, the data show that colleges that have had difficulty reaching out to students through traditional programming may have a better ability to develop a college culture that is supportive of change and the implementation of new technologies, such as online programming. Lastly, while the position of online leadership does seem to relate to success, the personal characteristics of those leaders may be equally important. A thorough understanding of the culture and political nature of the college is required to navigate through the approval and leadership structures of the institution. In addition, it appears that the leader with a dedication to online learning and willingness to personally address concerns as they arise are associated with more successful implementation of online educational programming.

Conclusions. Organizational leadership interacts with institutional characteristics and the organizational culture to effect change. These interactions describe a model of change that is comprehensive and within the institutional cultural context. Future research should focus on the manner in which administrative leadership can enhance change and garner further institutional support.


Cornner, R.M. Organizational leadership and institutional factors related to the implementation of online educational programming in California community colleges. Ph.D. thesis, University of Southern California. Retrieved March 20, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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