Technology can change overnight, ren­dering college practices and programs obsolete. The answer is a more “agile and responsive education system,” according to Bruce Chaloux and Larry Ragan.

E-learning is proving to be a major disruptive force on education across the globe — from primary to advanced study.

This force is causing significant upheaval as it challenges long-standing norms of practice in the field.

This impact is being realized at all levels, including students, instructors, program, institutional, national and global.

Many of these forces are causing reflection and questioning of long-held beliefs of what constitutes a “traditional” educational experience.

One of the greatest impacts of e-learning on “traditional” educational models has been a reconsideration of the dynamics of the teaching and learning process.

Most directly, this has impacted the role of the instructor. There are two primary themes of change occurring that often get conflated in this re-envisioning dialog — that of pedagogy and technology.

New understandings of how we learn combined with the affordances of emerging technologies create new and exciting opportunities for learning on both the part of the teacher and student.

Leaders of educational systems must assimilate and accommodate these converging forces in order manage and direct the impact on their instructional resources.

For the learner in this rapidly emerging learning system, the world suddenly becomes accessible, open and increasingly less structured.

The opportunities presented by today’s complex learning systems require a higher degree of awareness of academic integrity, time management and collaboration — all skills which apply in today’s workplace as well. The systems and services institutional leaders provide to enable student’s success will determine the overall institutional health for the future.

Without a proper setting of the institutional context, students may seek alternative options for fulfilling their learning needs.

Many institutions are embracing the e-learning platform as a way to address the needs of today’s learners by offering new and flexible learning programs targeted towards specific learning outcomes.

Program directors will need to employ a flexible and creative mindset to frame their course of study as relevant, fresh and high quality.

The number of colleges and universities developing or expanding e-learning programming continues to grow at a dramatic rate.

Once the domain of ‘non-traditional’ institutions or units within institutions, some of the world’s leading academic institutions are developing e-learning programs to maintain competitiveness and to reach new markets.

Similarly, smaller institutions seeking to address declining enrolments in traditional campus programmes are turning to e-learning.

Through these changes institutions are seeking to address new challenges including faculty development and preparation, student learning environments, curricular change, student services, and a broad array of policy changes.

Those that effectively address these challenges will be able to effectively manoeuvre in the global market, while those that can’t will not succeed.

The traditional campus and time-based model, still predominant, is being altered, not only by how higher education is delivered, but also by what is offered, when it is available and how learning is recognized.

Programs are being designed to be more responsive to student demands and needs, with a clear emphasis on application. Global ‘executive’ programs at the graduate level are popular and expensive as ‘market pricing’ replaces more traditional tuition and fee structures.

Today’s rapidly changing global culture of learning presents a new set of leadership challenges.

In essence, the “rules of engagement” have changed and call for a more agile and responsive educational system.

What was once valued by the consumer will no longer be adequate to meet the needs of tomorrow’s learners. Today’s leaders of educational systems have a new selection of options to drawn upon in order to fashion a learning environment that is globally connected, nationally aware and learner-centered.