Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Education Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. John B. Nash


As online learning continues to grow and became an integral component of many higher education institutions (Allen & Seaman, 2017), the role of leadership in guiding those online learning initiatives differs from institution to institution. At small, private colleges and universities, where online learning is seeing greater enrollment and growth (Clinefelter & Magda, 2013), teaching and learning centers (TLC) often have involvement in guiding and shaping online learning initiatives. This study investigated the role of TLC leaders in leading online learning initiatives. The value of this study is an examination of leadership during a period of transformation and change that requires TLC leaders to manage administrative directives, work with a diverse faculty base, and balance these sometimes competing interests.

This research study sought to explore the perceptions and lived experiences of TLC leaders in online learning leadership within small, private higher education institutions. Utilizing complexity leadership theory as a framework for exploring the various leadership functions of TLC leaders, the study employed a transcendental phenomenological methodology (Moustakas, 1994). Participants included seven TLC leaders or other TLC staff who were involved in online learning initiatives at their institutions. Data was collected through a series of three semi-structured interview sessions based on the qualitative interview design of Seidman (2005). Analysis of the data generated themes centered around the three leadership functions of complexity leadership theory: administrative, adaptive, and enabling leadership.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)