Andy Hockley looks at how the digital world is affecting learning and the way we manage education. He provides some useful advice on what to consider and how to plan for online education management.
It’s increasingly apparent that education is moving and will move, to some extent, online. We can’t predict to what degree, but we can say with certainty that we cannot ignore the fact that some of what is now done in the classroom or as homework in a “self-study” format, will happen online. Personally I still believe that the face-to-face classroom is still the most effective place for learning and teaching, but this will be supplemented (and for some students replaced) by something that takes place online.
 
Much therefore has been written (and is continuing to be written) about how teaching and learning will change in the future – flipped classrooms, MOOCs, blended learning, language learning apps and so on. In addition, there is a growing body of literature helping teachers to make better use of this online environment to work with students and to get the most out of it. In short, online teaching and learning is now being written about and researched at great length, and this existing work provides valuable support for the educational community that is practising teaching and learning online.
 
However, very little has been written on the subject of managing this new online educational world. What do managers of language schools, for example, need to think about when they consider offering online courses and later on when they want to further develop those courses? As the director of studies, or school owner, or principal, or senior teacher, or coordinator, what do you need to know, and how can you ensure that you continue to offer the best quality of service possible to your students, while also supporting and aiding your teachers in their work?
 
It was with these questions in mind that Fiona Thomas and I set out to write 'Managing Education in the Digital Age'. This book follows the process from the first decision to go online, and pursues that through planning, building, marketing, working with teachers, and finally, monitoring the whole process of online education.
 
To give an example of what is included in the book and hopefully to inspire some ideas, the final chapter proposes a set of guidelines that you might consider in performing a self-assessment of your online course provision. These guidelines are divided into sections entitled Management and Administration; Human Resource Management; Academic Management; Student Services; Teaching; and Online Environment.
 
The following is the entry for student services. The idea is to use this set of guidelines like you might an inspection scheme – as a way to self-assess and also to find areas where you might develop.
 
Area Points to consider How you might self-assess and develop
Student feedback

How do you elicit and act upon students’ feedback? Is this systematic?

 

Check your feedback forms and other instruments. Decide whether you’re getting the information you need. Make sure the process for responding to student feedback is clear and followed.
Complaints

What is the procedure for students making complaints? Remember this may need to be different from a face-to-face complaint procedure. Do you have clearly specified procedures for dealing with student complaints? 

Look at procedures for student complaints. Check the procedures are clear to both students and teachers.
Drop-outs Does the school have a system of follow-up actions in case of student drop-out?

Online students drop out more often than face-to-face students. How do you follow up? What systems do you have in place to try and keep them on the course? Who contacts them? When? At what triggers? What’s the process to try and re-engage them?

Code of practice Do you have a code of practice which guarantees fair dealings and complete honesty?

Do you have such a code?  How easy it for students to find it? How do you adjust it to take into account the differing needs of online teaching/studying? 

 
In general we found that there was very little written in this crucial area, and we therefore hope that the book meets that need. We hope academic managers find this book useful and engaging, and that it helps them make informed decisions about online course provision and support.
 
To conclude, we hope that whether you buy the book or not, that the ideas here in this short taster have encouraged you as a capable and experienced education provider to look at your online provision (or, indeed, to consider taking the plunge in an informed way). In doing so, you will need to think about various areas – from your marketing and customer service processes, to the way that you support and develop teachers, through to decisions about materials, technical infrastructure and financing. In doing so, not only will you create the conditions for launching and sustaining successful online courses, but you will, inevitably, also find ways in which you can make your existing work more effective. The job of an educational manager is about ensuring that you are supporting teaching and learning – that is to say, giving the teachers what they need to do a good job, and responding also to student needs – as well as making sure that your online courses fit within a sustainable business model.
 
Readers of EnglishAgenda can buy this book at a special 50% discount. To do so, go to the book at the Smashwords website and when prompted enter the following code QS72X.
 

About the author

Andy Hockley is a freelance educational management consultant and teacher trainer based in deepest Transylvania. After 11 years of teaching English worldwide, he completed an MA in International and Intercultural Management in the USA. He has been training (both teachers and managers) for over 15 years and has been coordinating and training on the IDLTM (International Diploma in Language Teaching Management) since its inception in 2001. He is co-author of 'From Teacher to Manager' (CUP, 2008), 'Managing Education in the Digital Age' (The Round, 2014) and author of 'Educational Management' (Polirom, 2007). He is also the co-ordinator of the IATEFL Leadership and Management Special Interest Group (LAMSIG).
 
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