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Learning Leaders in Online/Blended Classrooms Topic

Haley Harbaugh

Project Description
I created this project based on a concept of intertwining the student with real-world functions
to obtain credit hours for a graduate program. When I initially constructed this project idea, I
envisioned the student being able to apply for the position of Learning Leader, much like a
graduate assistant, and receive credits instead of pay for the work. As I started to write out the
internship description, I realized that there is a certain on-site connotation with internships,
which is why I named this an “eTernship” – meaning electronic internship. Additionally, I
wanted to attract candidates to this position to gain leadership, cognitive, and functional skills
in online and blended learning environments, so offering three credits, instead of one, for the
duration of the eTernship is more appropriate.
As an online graduate student, I can see the need for a liaison between the teacher and
students. This person would be able to interact seamlessly and undetected as a Learning Leader
to their peers. Also, when given the opportunity to help construct, manage, and assess the
course, the Learning Leader obtains more hands-on opportunities and skills. I also hypothesize
that through this eTernship, the students come away from the course with more passion for
online and blended learning and are more interactive during future classes. In the next few
pages, I discuss the basics, findings, obstacles, and future of Learning Leaders.

Project Fundamentals
So, what are Learning Leaders?

Learning Leaders are a new concept within Online and Blended Learning courses similar to
“secret shoppers” of earlier retail days. These students are able to figure out what concepts are

not resonating with their peers, they can foster dialogue amongst teachers and students, and
their primary function is to nurture a more robust learning environment for the course through
interaction and information.
Who are they? Learning Leaders are current graduate students enrolled in an online or blended

learning class.
Features: Use Learning Leaders to promote discussions, adopt new content, support teacher and

other student questions, and utilize new information to foster the online and blended learning
Need in FOBL: Learning Leaders learn critical skills related to the online and blended learning

platform and can utilize that knowledge in future educational or training settings. Learning
Leaders are pulse points for the entire class, the teacher, peers, and themselves. Because
leadership is not a skill learned immediately, it is important to encourage students who do not
present as a traditional leader to enroll in a Learning Leader position for the semester.
Argument for Learning Leaders
Learning Leaders gain crucial development and leadership skills. Click here

for Figure I.1 (p. 4)

from Van Velsor et al (2010) which, “shows that developmental experiences and the ability to learn have
a direct impact on each other. Being engaged in a developmental experience can enhance a person's
ability to learn, and being more readily able to learn can lead one to draw more development from any
set of experiences” (p. 5). Van Velsor et al go on to explain three integral aspects that Learning Leaders
can gain from enrichment in developmental experiences:

1. Create a variety of rich and integrated developmental experiences that provide
assessment, challenge, and support

2. Enhance people's ability to learn from experience
3. Align leader development with the leadership context

Van Velsor et al, p. 18

Potential Issues with Learning Leaders
Despite significant benefits from introducing Learning Leaders in the classroom, there are still some
clear obstacles. In Curtis and Lawson (2001), several areas where Learning Leader obstacles are cited are
verbal exchanges, synchronous and interactive solutions to problems, ongoing conversation and
dialogue, and individual student autonomy (p. 22). By recognizing these challenges, potential Learning
Leaders and faculty gain a better understanding of potential stumbling blocks, and can think of proactive
way to mitigate these obstacles or remove them completely.
Curtis and Lawson (2001) explain that alternative interactions in the online classroom, compared to face
to face, must offer “…options such as symposia, debates, role plays, case studies, discussion groups,
brainstorming, and project groups” (p. 23-24). The concerns of traditional classroom dynamics is a
regular hindrance for online and blended instructors and students. However, as online and blended
learning becomes more established, the Learning Leader can incorporate strategy, forward thinking, and
alternatives to these traditional interactions.
Future of Learning Leaders
Learning Leader Resources
Learning Leaders are a new concept in the online and blended learning realm. I compiled a few
resources here that promote the concept of Learning Leaders to foster adoption, education, and
Click for

Link to


Click for

Link to

Curtis, D. D., & Lawson, M. J. (2001). EXPLORING COLLABORATIVE ONLINE LEARNING. JALN, 5(1), 21-32.
Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., Freeman, A. (2014). NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Higher
Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.
Van Velsor, E., McCauley, C. D., & Ruderman, M. N. (2010). Center for Creative Leadership Handbook
of Leadership Development (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass.