Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Nicholas Sauers

Second Advisor

Dr. Sheryl Cowart Moss

Third Advisor

Dr. Greg Middleton


Online learning programs are becoming more and more popular; however, they are challenged with creating digital content catered to individual students’ needs and interests (Ziphorah, 2014). The concept of personalized learning is not new but advancements in educational technology have increased the potential for online learning programs to implement personalized learning courses to meet the needs of individual learners. A review of the literature reveals that teachers can use technology to customize the learning experience for each student (Collins and Halverson, 2010), yet the school principal holds the power to execute new school-wide initiatives to embrace personalized learning through online courses (McLeod, Bathon, and Richardson, 2011). The purpose of this study was to examine the process of redeveloping digital content with personalized learning pathways with a focus on the role of the school principal. This study was guided by the following research questions: (1) what are the instructional leadership decisions and actions of an online school principal to launch the creation and development of personalized digital content? (2) what are the course developers’ perceptions of the impact of leadership behaviors on designing and implementing personalized digital content?

This qualitative case study was conducted in one district-led online school in a large urban school district in the Southeast region of the United States. Data were collected through interviews, observations, and a review of documents. Participants included the principal, an assistant principal, three technology coordinators, and three teacher/course developers. Data were organized into three pre-determined categories based on Hallinger and Murphy’s (1985) instructional leadership framework - defining the school’s mission, managing the instructional program, and promoting a positive school learning climate. Three key themes emerged from the data – (1) aligning the initiative with the school’s goals, (2) providing necessary resources, and (3) empowering teachers and students. These three themes highlight the potential impact of online school principals on creating digital content with a personalized learning approach. Findings from this study contribute to the research on online learning, personalized learning, and instructional leadership.


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