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Partnering: Leadership Skills for a Networked World

When Lecturer Lee Teitel, Ed.D.'88, began designing his spring course, Partnering: Leadership Skills for a Networked World, a friend challenged him by saying, "If you are really teaching about leadership in a networked world, then why not approach this as a public network."

Teitel took his friend's comment to heart. Throughout April, he opened the class to scholars, educators, nonprofit workers, and anyone else interested in leadership around the world by using a public interactive module. An estimated 60 to 75 people from places as far as Chile, Australia, and Scandinavia tuned into the course via Wiki sites, public interactive video conferences, and social networking platforms like Facebook.

Today, with the invention of many new technologies, the world is becoming increasingly flatter and too complex for organizations to conquer on their own, Teitel explains. The course explored how this affects leadership and how to create effective partnerships in a networked world. For months, students in Teitel's class worked on building the public interactive modules. As a result, the course's objective transformed learning to lead into an experiential opportunity involving technology, leading, and working as a team.

Student Patty DePalma, Ed.M.'09, says she began Teitel's class with what is considered a more "traditional" approach to leadership. "I think the traditional definition of leadership is that you have your own universe to watch over and maintain and you don't look beyond your organization," she says. "This class actually pushes you to identify potential partners to make your organization better."

Using three technological platforms, the class was able to build a public network. The Wiki site was the class's main portal where they sent invitations, stored class information, and facilitated discussion. The Wiki site also captured the learning and thoughts of the class. Second, the use of Elluminate, software for online learning, helped facilitate discussion among outside participants by creating a virtual classroom. For three classes, outside participants could virtually "sit in" on the course, having the ability to see, hear, and ask questions. Every student in the course had a laptop in which they could monitor questions from virtual guests. Last, a Facebook page provided students and outside participants with a platform on which to contact each other and follow up on what happened in class.

A week before the first interactive video conference, the class sent out an invitation to join in and encouraged people to pass it on. "We ended up having some participation from around the world which surprised us. It was a very rich experience for the class to put this together," Teitel says. "What made this unusual is that the content of the class is about how you lead in a network world. This wasn't just about content of how to do a particular task -- it was living the network by doing the network."

The course forced both students and Teitel outside of their comfort zones. Teitel admits that he initially did not know much about technological platforms and sought the expertise of Professor Chris Dede and Kristin Lofblad of HGSE's Learning Technologies Center. In addition, Teitel also opened up the class to "outsiders," giving him a unique perspective as well.

"The module raised some interesting questions about the ways in which a class like this can be powerful for students ... and wider audiences," Teitel says. "This was about using technology and networks in service of a real learning goal. I think the experience for students and me, as well as the ability to have vision that learning can be shared outside of the boundaries of a university setting, are all powerful ideas."

DePalma says she now sees networking differently as a result of Teitel's class. "I'm starting to see every opportunity as one in which networking is possible. Prior to this [class], I really thought of networking as schmoozing and going to events to impress people and pass business cards," she says. "Now, I see networking as an opportunity to connect with competitors even. I pay attention more in every situation...I look around me and see a lot of potential to connect with people."