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Opportunities Abound

Who becomes an e-learning manager?

Many managers may be moved into the e-learning realm due to being highly qualified within their current managing positions.  It may be considered an easy transition, or even a promotion, for a company to move someone into that role from a prior managerial position.  Other practitioners become e-learning managers out of necessity, having no previous managerial experience.  The “Well, you’re it!” moment, so to speak.

How do people prepare or study to become an e-learning manager?

Employees moved into an e-learning position may not necessarily feel prepared for the responsibilities of managing an e-learning team.  This is particularly true if the individual has no prior managing experience.

This is certainly not a reflection on their capability to perform duties and be successful.  An effective leader can organically grow into a changing role, adjusting to new responsibilities in any situation.  However, educational best practice is to prepare someone as fully as possible before you are able to accurately assess their performance.

The National Research Business Institute reports that “23 percent of employees leave for lack of development opportunities and training.”  Therefore, in the long run, if supported by training or education regarding their role in online education and the business world, e-learning managers will feel more successful, acclimated, and effective in their positions.  Additionally, the company or institution overall will feel confident in the professional growth of their team.

General Management “Hats” or Responsibilities include:

  • Delegating and organizing chunks of tasks
  • Staffing, strategic planning, budgeting
  • Cross-department strategies, problem solving/support, coordinating communication
  • Quality assurance oversight for products

E-learning Management “Hats” or Responsibilities include:[1] 

  • Change Agent” –  constantly updating techniques and technology and encouraging others to adapt to new ways of accomplishing tasks
  • Technician” – technology operations management and quality assurance
  • Conciliator” – managing the relationship between IT departments and content/design departments, as well as the personnel staffing a client’s IT or training departments.
  • Negotiator” – organizing both internal and external trainings and resources (whether online or in-person), including creation, integration, and assessment for stakeholders
  • Accomplishing many of the management responsibilities above at a distance

Educational Programs that prepare you to be an e-learning manager:

Many state and private universities have offered a range of degrees for Business, IT, Education, or Management fields for decades.   Now, several institutions are offering more customizable or specialized educational opportunities to address the increasing interest in combining aspects of these, such as for e-learning management.  Choices include degree programs and certification programs— with delivery options ranging from full-time, part-time, online, in-person, or a combination.

These programs promise to effectively prepare individuals for a career that combines online/distance learning and management skills.  Most are intended for individuals who already have achieved at least a Bachelor’s degree.  This article from the Center for Digital Education makes a solid argument for the need to increase the number of advanced degree programs to train distance education leaders.

We have compiled a short list of a few existing programs to consider:

  • Colorado State University (Global Campus) –CSU offers online degree programs including a Master of Science in Information Technology Management or a Master of Science in Teaching and Learning with an emphasis on Applied Business Management.  Additionally, CSU offers certification for non-degree students in business as well as e-learning, Options for certificates include Contemporary Practices in K-12 Online Learning, Information Technology, Information Management, Online Teaching, and Organization Training and Instructional Design.
  • LaSalle University – The College of Professional and Continuing Studies has an Instructional Technology Management program similar to CSU’s in that it offers both a Masters and certificate track to learners.  This is a program that particularly caters to individuals interested in corporate and professional education.
  • UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies –UW-Madison offers Distance Education Professional Development for online educators that can benefit individuals who already have managerial backgrounds.  The Professional Certificate in Online Education with a focus in Instructional Design teacheslearners about the process of online education design and delivery “from start to finish.”
  • University of Maryland – Maryland’s University College features another certificate, on Distance Education Leadership, that focuses on building theunderstanding of teaching and managing online.
  • UW-Platteville –Universities are also inviting e-learning managers themselves to step into the role of teaching.  Web Courseworks CEO Jon Aleckson joins the UW-Platteville faculty to co-teach the Master of Science in Distance Education Leadership program this year.  He is excited to offer a management perspective to online learning.  Learners will be prepared to oversee the “technological change on people and processes” that online learning provides and adapts to.
  • George Washington University – The Educational Technology Leadership program includes graduate certificates and a Masters Degree, all through online courses.  Certificate options include Instructional Design, E-learning, or Multimedia Development.
  • Texas A&M University-Commerce—The M.S. in Global eLearning program offered online by Texas A&M has a unique international perspective that may particularly intrigue certain prospective learners.
  • Capella University – This for-profit private school, Capella University, also offers various Master’s and Doctoral levels for Information Technology (Project Management or Education specializations) and Education (Instructional Design for Online Learning specialization).

Career Possibilities for e-learning

1. K-12 Education

An e-learning manager would be an asset to a district or state that is working to implement virtual learning opportunities in their K-12 schools.  Student enrollment in full-time online public schools reached 275,000 in the 2011-2012 school year and around 2.5 million K-12 students took at least one online course.  The interest in e-learning has clearly increased greatly, with options ranging from completely online Virtual Schools, hybrid/blended programs with some face-to-face and online components, and college prep courses.

As K-12 opportunities expand, e-learning managers can help with the creating and integrating the online curriculum, facilitating communication between various departments and leaders in schools, analyzing the effectiveness of a system, and reporting findings to the district, state, or even national stakeholders.   Possible job titles include Director of Online Curriculum, Instructional Services District Liaison, and Educational Technology Coordinator.

2. Higher Education

Higher education is continuing to experience enormous growth in terms of e-learning opportunities.  This is good news for e-learning managers, who may find their skills well-suited to the academic and technological pursuits of universities. Possible roles available could include Instructional Design Manager, Director of E-learning, and Instructional Services Coordinator.

Where is the growth?  It seems to be across the board. Sloan Consortium reports in their 2012 findings that over 6.7 million college students took at least one online course in the fall semester of 2011—570,000 more students than reported the previous year.  More than 75% of American colleges and universities now offer online classes.  Distance education courses and programs—traditionally seen as “extension” efforts for non-traditional students—are now offered by mainstream academic departments.  Some higher education institutions offer all of their instruction online.  E-learning for higher education will continue to rise in importance and reach in the years to come.

3. Corporate Education

Online learning is increasingly becoming the vehicle for delivering corporate education—In 2011, 77% of corporations in America used online learning to achieve professional development and skill-building.  A similar percentage of companies reported that e-learning and other online initiatives helped their business “adapt more quickly to change” and move forward.  In fact, Global Industry Analysts predict corporate training will grow into a $107 billion market by 2015.

Clearly, this is one of the largest areas for e-learning managers to use their skills, as well as a very natural fit, since most managerial positions are within businesses already—it’s the e-learning aspect that needs further nurturing.  After it is achieved, managers can find themselves more smoothly transitioning into an e-learning position, developing and managing online learning for businesses.  These e-learning positions might be as a Technology Coordinator, Instructional Architect, or Distance Training Manager.

4. Continuing Professional Education

Continuing profession education is intended for non-corporate careers.  For example, professionals outside of private businesses may be required to satisfy association, state, or even federal requirements for advancing or maintaining licensure/certification.   These individuals include healthcare professionals, accountants, government workers, lawyers, and realtors.

Widespread emphasis on professional improvement for these groups has boosted the importance of distance education (and particularly, online education) in providing these opportunities.[2]   Thus, managers with e-learning training would be particularly suited for jobs with agencies or companies that coordinate and provide professional education for these groups. As such, positions could include Distance Learning and Content Manager, E-learning Developer, or Distance Training Coordinator.

[1] Based on this article from

[1] From Distance Education: A Systems View of Online Learning (2011).  Check it out on here.

Managing eLearning is written by the Blog team at Web Courseworks which includes Jon Aleckson and Meri Tunison.  Ideas and concepts are originated and final copy reviewed by Jon Aleckson.

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