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Implementing A DL EMBA Program at A Research University: A Systems Approach. Jim Suchan Graduate School of Business and Public Policy The Naval Postgraduate School. Goals. Examine factors that influence the successful implementation of EMBA DL Programs

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implementing a dl emba program at a research university a systems approach

Implementing A DL EMBA Program at A Research University: A Systems Approach

Jim Suchan

Graduate School of Business and Public Policy

The Naval Postgraduate School

  • Examine factors that influence the successful implementation of EMBA DL Programs
  • Provide a tool to diagnose difficulties that occur in program implementation and maintenance
  • Surface possible conflicting assumptions about learning, communication, and technology that can undermine appropriate and skillful use of new DL technologies
  • Assumptions about DL EMBAs
  • Technology as an equivocal organizational artifact
  • Organizations as systems that require alignment
  • Instructional routines and norms have grooved and regrooved faculty thinking about effective teaching
  • Implementation of or change in DL technologies can represent major organizational interventions
  • DL technologies are not self-evident artifacts; they can be interpreted in different ways by faculty groups and administrators
  • Organizations are complex systems in which DL technologies are embedded
  • System elements need to be aligned to increase possibility of DL organizational effectiveness
gsbpp context factors tenure track faculty
GSBPP Context FactorsTenure Track Faculty
  • Publications in quality refereed journals is of paramount importance
  • Faculty need to secure 1 quarter of funding through reimbursable research projects
  • Teaching is viewed as very important; however, measures of instructional effectiveness are weak
  • DL and residential instruction receive the same rewards; former DL premium has been abolished
  • Significant split in attitude toward and use of DL between tenured, old (pre DL days) faculty and new (relatively young) tech-savvy tenure-track faculty
interpretive schemes and dl technologies
Interpretive Schemes and DL Technologies
  • Interpretive schemes organize and limit objects and information we attend to and influence how we construct and interpret those objects and information
  • Interpretive schemes function as internal control systems that enable individuals and groups to formulate scripts—standard plots that govern action possibilities
  • Schemes, scripts, and actions generate rules of action—behavioral norms –that can be institutionalized into policy or SOPs
  • Organizational groups develop different interpretive schemes, scripts, and behavioral norms (rules for action) due to job role, task differences, reward systems, information access, and other organizational factors
  • These different schemes and scripts can cause multiple and conflicting interpretations of a new DL technology
dl interpretative scheme model
DL Interpretative Scheme Model





Rules of Action (Norms)





Interpretation of

DL Technology

examples of significance differences in interpretive schemes and dl technology
Examples of Significance Differences in Interpretive Schemes and DL Technology

Senior Level Administrators: economic lens

  • DL a “student multiplier”
  • Necessary technology to satisfy external stakeholder expectations
  • Means of providing additional resources: Cash cow
  • Essential to appear relevant and cutting edge

Faculty Members (tenure track): quality of work life

  • Threat to instructional effectiveness due to limited interactivity: knowledge constructed through rich interaction
  • Decreased research time due to increased time spent on instruction
  • About as much fun as “going to the dentist”
  • Tactic to reduce tenure-track positions
administrator metaphors to describe dl
Administrator Metaphors to Describe DL
  • “Convert,” “duplicate,” and “translate” F-T-F courses to DL versions
  • Determine cost effective ways to “transfer” knowledge to students in remote locations
  • Find a “conversion algorithm” to “deliver” learning
  • Knowledge and learning viewed as a commodity having market value
  • DL technology viewed as a conduit or pipeline to transfer, carry, or deliver knowledge from faculty to students
faculty language to describe dl
Faculty Language to Describe DL
  • DL undermines the “art” of instruction, particularly facilitating and managing case discussion
  • “cold,” “antiseptic,” “abstract” experience: all you’re seeing are dots on a screen
  • DL will push people to lecture and to use PowerPoints; interaction will be compromised
  • DL will “suck time” from research and fundamentally alter the balance between instruction and research
impact of these d ifferent interpretations
Impact of These Different Interpretations
  • Successful applications of DL technology overlooked (faculty)
  • DL technology shortcomings are overlooked or minimized (administrators)
  • Limited language about understanding and using in different ways the DL technology (both groups)
  • Ineffective conflict leading to breakdowns in listening (both groups)
  • Best faculty talent may not be in the DL “classroom”
decreasing differences in administration and faculty dl interpretations
Decreasing Differences in Administration and Faculty DL Interpretations
  • Inform faculty about the external environment factors that create the perceived need to explore DL as an instructional option
  • Enable faculty to participate in the sense-making dialogue about the environment, the role of new instructional technology, the capabilities and appropriate uses of the technology, and so on
  • Provide opportunity for groups to voice their DL interpretations and to explore differences and overlaps
  • Examine institutional systems to determine what needs to be done to insure those systems are aligned to support DL programs
decreasing differences in dl interpretation organizational systems alignment
Decreasing Differences in DL Interpretation: Organizational Systems Alignment
  • Incentives shape faculty thinking and action
  • Many faculty are risk averse: they dislike feeling helpless and looking like less than an expert
  • Administrators may need to devote significant resources short and mid-term to provide the support and incentives faculty need
  • Providing unique instructional content (e.g. defense management education) to students who could never attend residential classes might represent a common framing of the DL imperative
organizational systems requiring alignment
Organizational Systems Requiring Alignment
  • Reward
  • Resources
  • Technical (Design and Support)
  • Training and Development
  • Measures of Effectiveness
systems model
Systems Model












DL Need











reward system alignment
Reward System Alignment
  • Is DL instruction more demanding and difficult than residential? If so, by how much?
  • Are the organizational rewards/incentives appropriate for the degree of work, risk, and satisfaction associated with effective DL instruction?
  • Have funding schemes been altered to insure departments have enough resources to provide faculty with release time for course development or additional teaching credit for DL instruction?
  • Is there public recognition for DL instruction, particularly faculty using the technology in novel, creative ways?
  • Do DL rewards complement those for research?
measures of effectiveness alignment
Measures of Effectiveness Alignment
  • Administrator measures


--number of students enrolled in remote locations --key internal and external stakeholder perceptions

  • Faculty measures

--interactivity (student –instructor and student-student)

--student and instructor satisfaction

--student performance (discussion, role plays, etc.) and learning

--technical and instructional design support

--ease of technology use

  • Is there enough overlap in effectiveness measures to provide appropriate resources and rewards?
technical support and faculty development alignment
Technical Support and Faculty DevelopmentAlignment
  • Necessary Assumption: DL instruction is fundamentally different from residential instruction
  • Is skilled technical support immediately available at the instructional and student sites to solve technical problems?
  • Is there instructional design help to enable faculty to make smart decisions about course pacing, establishing communication protocols, discussion management, graphics’ design, etc.?
  • Do faculty get adequate release time to reconceptualize course material, more tightly organize the course, better pace the course, and develop new instructional strategies?
  • Is there adequate support staff to communicate to DL students before the class starts and to provide students with materials during class?
technical dl design alignment
Technical DL Design Alignment
  • Who determines DL design? Do faculty have input about design decisions?
  • What are the pedagogical assumptions that drive design decisions? What are the implicit concepts of learning that inform design decisions?
  • To what extent does design support a wide range of instructional techniques: case discussion, student role plays, dialogue/discussion, and so on?
  • Does DL design support instructor and student satisfaction?
  • What feedback mechanisms are in place to gather faculty and student feedback about design? Is that feedback acted on?
final observations
Final Observations
  • Organizational context factors have a significant impact on DL implementation strategies
  • A process needs to be established so that faculty and administrators have common understanding of the need for DL and input into the specific DL technology implemented
  • Administrators should think of their organization as a system and do everything possible to insure that systems are aligned to support DL work
  • Faculty need to recognize that adoption of and experimentation with new technologies is now part of their instructional role