Last week I enjoyed offering a workshop about online learning strategy to leaders of theological schools at the Association for Theological Schools Bieennial Meeting. This is an exciting time of transition into online learning across higher ed and theological education in particular, and it was energizing to discover what these schools have already done and are in the process of doing.

I found it challenging to choose the right workshop approach for this audience. I had been invited to present on the topic of Online Pedagogy, but at the same time I was encouraged to focus on the needs of leadership and administration. I created a framework that started with vision and strategy and narrowed into the specifics of sound pedagogical course design.

Discussions prompted these leaders to prioritize based on their own contexts, and helped us reveal that technology was not a priority for anyone.

To begin the workshop, participants took the following categories in groups and were tasked with choosing the MOST IMPORTANT step of a six-step process for bringing online learning strategy into focus: Envisioning, Resourcing, Planning, Developing, Testing, and Implementing (see below). As you can imagine, there is no hard, fast answer, but the discussions prompted these leaders to prioritize based on their own contexts, and helped us reveal that technology was not a priority for anyone.

Next, we went over some basics of pedagogically sound course design, which can be found in our free eBook on Course Environment Design and Rationale. The participants were particularly interested in ways to help faculty move from the early stages of exploration and experimentation with online learning tools, and into a more purposeful and intentional learning strategies with these tools.

The best part of the workshop experience was learning about the current initiatives and challenges of these schools. I was interested to learn about shared resourcing within the theological education community, including the use of consortia for digital library resources and learning management systems.

If you are currently working towards improving your school’s online learning strategy, take a look at how we articulate the process and steps below and let us know what you think.


  • Identify stakeholders and sources of information that should influence the vision.
  • Determine the purpose of the program.
  • Determine the mission of the program.
  • Determine the audience of the program.
  • Align the vision with institutional and accreditation requirements.
  • Gather feedback on drafts of the vision statement.


  • Describe the current technological infrastructure for online learning.
  • Determine sources of financial support.
  • Identify faculty and staff with online learning experience.
  • List curricular resources for program development.
  • Start the hiring or contracting process for the online learning skillsets.
  • Recruit the influence of supportive faculty and staff.


  • Seek experienced input for planning.
  • Describe how the program fits into the existing school structure.
  • Draft course development compensation and reuse protocols.
  • Anticipate needs for integrating the program into the existing infrastructure.
  • Anticipate needs for program scaling and sustainability.
  • Develop a timeline.


  • Seek expert and experienced input on course design and development.
  • Arrange for designers and subject matter experts to collaborate on course environment design.
  • Require an iterative approach to design and development.
  • Provide support and resources for course development and tool training to faculty and staff.
  • Request regular status updates to monitor design and development progress.
  • Require designers to provide a rationale for their choices.


  • Require a pilot of program courses with faculty and students.
  • Request reporting on data from the pilot through surveys, interviews and analytics.
  • Include faculty and staff feedback group in the evaluation process.
  • Arrange for an external evaluation of courses.
  • Arrange for a technology-focused testing of platforms and tools.
  • Use pilot results to inform design tweaks and implementation.


  • Coordinate with registrar and admissions for online learning schedules.
  • Introduce online learning evaluation protocols.
  • Provide an Online Learning Polices & Procedures manual.
  • Maintain faculty development for online learning.
  • Keep the service desk updated for technology support.
  • Maintain a repository for reusable courseware.