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American Higher Education in Crises book cover

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22st Annual OLC International Conference
November 16-18, 2016 | Orlando, Florida | Walt Disney World Swan/Dolphin Resort

OLC Innovate 2016 - Innovations in Blended and Online Learning
April 20-22, 2016 | New Orleans, LA | Sheraton New Orleans Hotel

Developing 21st Century Systems: A Lean Approach to Leading and Managing in Complex Contexts

Jennifer M McVay-Dyche (Excelsior College, USA)
Additional Authors
Leigh Tedesco (Excelsior College, USA)
Session Information
October 16, 2015 - 11:45am
Leadership, Values and Society
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Theory/Conceptual Framework
Institutional Level: 
Multiple Levels
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Asia 3
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Concurrent Session 11

This describes one institution’s efforts to use the Lean philosophy as a tool for leading and managing successful eLearning teams and processes in rapidly-changing contexts.

Extended Abstract

Growing demands for demonstrating quality and efficiency in the midst of declining resource allocations requires that institutional leaders abandon deeply-embedded assumptions (Senge, 2006) about higher education and "fundamentally rethink how they respond to the needs and expectations of those served by higher education" (Balzer, 2010, p. 1). Derived from a manufacturing model for improving efficiency, the Lean philosophy provides a research-based framework for reviewing current processes to identify and eliminate sources of waste, minimize errors, reduce costs, enhance quality, and engage in continuous improvement (Balzer, 2010). Lean takes a systems approach, examining both people and processes, to create a culture that promotes and manages change as a continuous improvement effort.

This session describes how the leadership team within Excelsior College’s Center for Online Education, Learning and Academic Services has used using Lean and systems thinking (Senge, 2006) as frameworks for developing and leading teams and processes that can keep pace with rapid changes of the 21st century. During the session, attendees will gain insights into the following areas:

  • Principles of Lean philosophy and systems thinking in the context of online higher education;
  • Use of Lean philosophy to establish sustainable programs, processes, and/or departments that can meet the multiple missions of higher education;
  • Ways to capitalize on existing infrastructures, challenges, and initiatives to support operational efficiency and continuous improvement efforts within and across departments and schools.

Using personal examples, the presenters will share practical solutions to promote a Lean culture within eLearning contexts to create agile teams and processes that can support and adapt to changes in technologies, students, faculty, and society.

Balzer, W. K. (2010). Lean higher education: Increasing value and performance of university processes. New York, NY: CRC Press.
Senge, P.M. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York, NY: Doubleday.

Lead Presenter

Jennifer is Assistant Vice President-- Online Education in the Center for Online Education, Learning and Academic Services (COELAS) at Excelsior College where she oversees all facets of online course development and maintenance operations for the College, including instructional design services, technology integration, quality standards, and term-to-term course maintenance. Jennifer provides collaborative leadership for working with deans, faculty, staff, and other academic administrators to identify and implement products and services which advance the mission of the College. This is achieved through constant nurturing of collaborative relationships, active participation in college-wide strategic planning and implementation processes, and promotion of continuous improvement models that help the College maintain compliance with legal, regulatory, and industry guidelines.

Jennifer has over 15 years of experience teaching adults in online and face-to face settings, in corporate and academic settings. Additionally, she has over a decade of experience in higher education administration. Her research interests include leadership in higher education and online higher education administration/operations. She has shared her knowledge and skills at international and national educational meetings including the International Open and Distance Learning Conference in Eskisehir, Turkey, the Northwest eLearning Community's Annual Conference, the Online Learning Consortium's International Conference on Online Learning and the Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning in Madison, Wisconsin.