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Introduction:

Quite suddenly and somewhat miraculously, less than 3 decades ago the advent of the World
Wide Web, the proliferation of desktop computers on campuses, the development of email, and
sophisticated computer based searching, storing, and sharing of digital information became
ubiquitous in the workplace and in learning organizations, resulting in profound organizational
changes.
While previously, waves of incremental change were absorbed with little disruption, the digital
era struck like a tsunami, and ushered in a confluence of forces requiring adjustment and
adaptation to entirely new modes of operation, encompassing structural modifications,
organization changes, pedagogical reforms, and the like.
In response to these changes and the new expectations carried with them, higher education
began to more strategically market and deliver its programs and services.
This trend of disruptive and continuous change creates unfamiliar challenges, as once stable
organizations are constantly being reshaped for and by the digital age and its transient nature.
In this dynamic context, what is actually changing? Or, perhaps more precisely, what is the
change that precipitates further change? Is it educational reforms that drive subsequent reactive
changes in technology to accommodate new ways of teaching and learning, or is it rather
technological innovation that influences new pedagogical practices?
So the question persists: did the trends chronicled above emerge because instructors and their
students clamored for alternative means and modes of pedagogy, or did these changes evolve
because new technologies made previous practices simply another option of choice representing
educational processes as they have always been accomplished? Visser's thought provoking work
on change in the context of learning suggests that what has changed most significantly in this
digital era is change itself.
What then are the implications for distance education systems and those orchestrating them,
and how may these endeavors be effectively guided? Is some type of "Dynamic" competency
model possible that can be responsive to the needs created by technological transience, and thus
be effective within volatile change contexts? In short, with technology changing so quickly and
constantly, is it possible to develop a leadership competency framework that is sufficiently
dynamic that the framework can function reliably regardless of the circumstances of the
moment?
CRITICAL ISSUES FACING DISTANCE EDUCATION LEADERS
Providers of online education, whether administrators, program planners, instructional
designers, teachers, student support personnel, and others in key roles are faced with
formidable challenges to ensure that distance education and training remains relevant and
effective in this digital age.
Within this context of impermanence, today's online educators and decision makers face many
complex challenges, many overt, others subtle, in ensuring effective and efficient design,
delivery, and sustainability of distance education.
Among the most vexing challenges are:

Managing Change, Rather Than Technology


The publications preface noted that the prior 10 years were about bringing technology to every
corner of higher education, and that the next 10 years would be about making that technology
more effective.
This preoccupation with technology rather than the application of those resources for teaching
and learning highlights an occupational hazard of online educators: not recognizing that one of
the most demanding roles of distance education practitioners is not so much the management of
technology, but rather, it is the management of change, a reality accelerated by technological
transience.
Maintaining a Meaningful Role for Instructors in Student-Directed Learning:

This posture can relegate faculty to increasingly limited roles that could compromise the
integrity of a students academic progress and success. Is the inability or unwillingness of some
faculty to engage in a more prominent role in facilitating their students academic work
reflective of a gradual lessening of a meaningful role on the part of many teachers?
Thus, instructors who willingly or unwittingly exercise a reductionist role as educators,
compromise not only their own value, but in the process, shortchange those students most in
need of academic mentoring. Exacerbating this tendency is the ongoing incursion of new
technology-assisted teaching and assessment tools that may tempt instructors to further
diminish their social and cognitive presence in online environments.
Maximizing Innovation and Minimizing Disruption
Sustainable technologies can ultimately foster improved performance, but if an organization no
sooner acclimates itself to an initially disruptive innovation only to then be faced with yet more
difficult choices, potentially equally disruptive, decision makers may find themselves in a
chronic state of disruption due to the transient nature of technology Most innovative elements
can ultimately be stabilized and sustained, but managers implementing them must recognize
what practices are effective in which situations and under what conditions.
The conflicting demands of disruptive and sustaining technologies requires leaders with the
capacity to resolve those tensions and create a con-text and culture in which, and by which, the
differing challenges faced by innovators become less of a dilemma, and more of an opportunity
to transform the environment to achieve productive and meaningful change.
Bridging the Digital Divide, Particularly in Cross-Cultural Settings
Technology transience can be a particularly vexing issue for providers introducing learning
resources supported by digital devices and other alternative modes of delivery within crosscultural, developing regions limited to archaic educational tools and technologies.
But launching and sustaining distance education projects, especially when attempted by
institutions that aspire to offer programs and services across cultural boundaries, is a complex
enterprise, especially for those with little or no prior experience in this arena.
Personal, professional, and institutional principles to guide day- to-day practice may be evident
and enforced in familiar surroundings, but ultimately distance educators must adhere to
attitudes and behaviors that reflect appropriate "best practices" in dealing with new populations
to be served, and new technologies becoming available that may or may not be compatible with
users' needs.

COMPETENCE IN THE CONTEXT OF CHANGE


the essence of competence with a focus on performance, emphasizing that it reflects the ability
to act within a given context in a responsible and adequate way, while integrating complex
knowledge, skills and attitudes.
Competency development requires a sophisticated and systematic process in order to arrive at
valid and reliable performance statements that reflect the most critical attitudes, skills, and
knowledge essential for effective practice.
Whether we label these as competencies or otherwise, and whether already held or aspired to,
they constitute a useful "tool box" with some applicability in most settings, while also
recognizing that each situation demands the ability to identify and apply the particular
combination of competencies deemed most relevant at that time and place with the stakeholders
involved.
Specific competencies include the following:
1. Accurately Diagnosing Situations and Devising Appropriate Strategies;
2. Ability to Create Conditions for Innovation via a Transformative
Leadership Style;
3. Maintaining Resilience and Perspective in Times of Glacial or Precipitous
Change;
4. Commitment to Prepare the Next Generation of Distance Educators;

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