Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Second Department


Reader 1

Ronald Riggio

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© 2015 Sarah E.Shearer


This senior thesis is an examination of the major complexities and considerations encountered in developing an e-learning program. In light of the changing landscape of higher education resulting from technological advancement, combined with changing pedagogies and financial pressures, traditional institutions are under heightened scrutiny and most in need of innovation. Online learning as been proposed as a solution to many of these issues, but creating a successful program is no small feat. Furthermore, experimental research on specific course designs and delivery often fails upon real-world implementation. Looking through the lens of Design-Base-Implementation Research (DBIR), an emerging research model that seeks to rectify this inefficiency, this thesis will first affirm the crucial need for active leadership throughout the development and implementation process. Analysis will then turn to the most pertinent elements administrators must address, including the motivations and catalysts for innovation, funding, faculty engagement, IT support, course design and project evaluation; in keeping with DBIR methodology, each of these considerations will take different forms and require alternative courses of action based on the unique institutional attributes and circumstances. Finally, the exploration will culminate in reasserting the urgency for innovation in higher education, and concluding that a uniform “solution” will not only be pragmatically impossible but also detrimental to both institutional legacy and student education: a quality and sustainable program necessitates due diligence in acknowledging and working with the distinct characteristics of each institution.