Leaders in Online Education

UPCEA is dedicated to advancing quality online learning at postsecondary institutions. UPCEA is uniquely focused on excellence at the highest levels – leadership, administration, strategy – applying a macro lens to the online teaching and learning enterprise. Its engaged members include the stewards of online learning at most of the leading universities in the nation. Each UPCEA member institution has the opportunity to identify a chief online learning officer—the decision-maker for an online enterprise, whether at the unit, college, or institutional level—to represent them on Council for Chief Online Learning Officers (C-COLO).

UPCEA advances online learning by providing:

  • professional development and events
  • industry-leading networking
  • quality standards and best practices
  • research and benchmarking  
  • advocacy; and
  • consulting

View the The Council for Chief Online Learning Officers (C-COLO) and its members.

Located in Washington, D.C., UPCEA is the leading association for professional, continuing, and online education.  


Members repeatedly rate networking as one of the most important aspects of membership. In addition to ample networking functions and other opportunities at in-person events, the UPCEA leverages UPCEA’s professional member community, CORe, to provide online professionals with a state-of-the-art forum to discuss topics of interest as well as to post key questions and challenges they are facing.  Members are generous in sharing best practices and what has worked – or hasn’t worked – at their institutions.

Council for Chief Online Learning Officers

The Council for Chief Online Learning Officers (C-COLO) is the body for senior leaders charged with driving online strategy at the unit or campus level. C-COLO and its leadership are focused on leveraging the strategic potential of online learning to transform institutions of higher education and society.

Each UPCEA member institution has the opportunity to identify a chief online learning officer—the decision-maker for an online enterprise, whether at the unit, college, or institutional level—to represent them on C-COLO. Institutional delegates to C-COLO are able to attend the invite-only events and participate in other exclusive content hosted by C-COLO.


  • Meet for peer-to-peer networking and to discuss issues related to leadership, strategy, management, and public policy at the Roundtable Convening. 
  • Have access to special content focusing on the COLO perspective at UPCEA events such as the Summit for Online Leadership and Administration and the UPCEA Annual Conference.   
  • Communicate via exclusive listserv and online community for COLOs to allow sharing of candid questions and comments with peers. 

*What is a Chief Online Learning Officer (COLO)

A Chief Online Learning Officer (COLO) is the decision-maker for an online enterprise (whether at the unit, college, or institutional level). COLOs are accountable to the online enterprise and make the decisions to advance the strategy, leadership, and vision of postsecondary online education. At the operational level, a COLO makes the critical path decisions for an online enterprise (e.g. technology, outsourcing strategic enrollment management vs. building internal teams, etc.). UPCEA recognizes there is diversity in such roles and decisions. COLOs are sometimes professional or continuing education deans with online in their portfolio, while others are solely focused on online learning. 

If you are a current UPCEA member and wish to inquire about becoming or marking your institution's COLO, email us at [email protected]

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Professional Development & Events

Summit for Online Leadership and Administration + Roundtable

SOLA+R language: SOLA+R (Summit for Online Leadership and Administration + Roundtable) is the leading event focused solely on the postsecondary online enterprise.

Online learning is integral to the financial stability as well as access mission of today’s institutions, and SOLA+R blends the best practices, thought leadership, and strategy that online leaders need.

SOLA+R attendees (vice presidents, deans, and other senior staff responsible for the design, delivery, and strategic direction of the online learning enterprise at the top-ranked universities in the country) will focus on groundbreaking models of successful leadership development, enabling professionals to foster a culture of innovation, creativity, and curiosity throughout their organizations.

eDC ThinkTank Roadshow: The eDC ThinkTank Roadshow introduces eDesign Collaborative (eDC) Network members to various types of design shops models and practices, allows members to collaborate to find best practices, and support the networking needs of eDC members.

By partnering with universities throughout the country the eDC Network provides opportunities for instructional and learning designers to engage via on-site visits with concurrent virtual experiences along with stand-alone virtual conferences. Each host institution will highlight their expertise in a topic that will serve as the theme for the ThinkTank experience.

Online administrators will also find content germane to online programs and strategy at other UPCEA events:

  • Annual Conference
  • Marketing and Enrollment Management Seminar
  • Regional Conferences
  • Webinars (complimentary for members)

Who We Serve

Through its Council for Chief Online Learning Officers (C-COLO), UPCEA serves Chief Online Learning Officers and other senior leaders charged with driving online strategy at the campus level. Roundtable Convenings are held annually with virtual Roundtable events held throughout the year.

UPCEA serves online leaders at all levels (program directors, student and faculty support professionals, marketing and enrollment managers, etc.) of online education through the Online Administration Network.

And it serves instructional designers and teams through the eDesign Collaborative Network.

Quality Standards & Best Practices

Online education is critical for the future of America's universities, and the UPCEA Hallmarks of Excellence in Online Leadership outline the concerted institutional strategy and structure necessary for successful online programs. A high level of institutional quality is imperative to advancing innovative post-secondary learning and expanding access.

The Hallmarks are endorsed by the American Council on Education, the Association of College & Research Libraries, Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB), EDUCAUSE, MERLOT, NACUBO, NASPA, and Quality Matters.

UPCEA Hallmarks of Excellence in Online Leadership

Developed with a goal of identifying the range of what constitutes successful online leadership, the Hallmarks of Excellence in Online Leadership include standards, aspirations and principles essential to online education. The Hallmarks identify seven facets of leadership and organizational development: internal advocacy, entrepreneurial initiative, faculty support, student support, digital technology, external advocacy, and professionalism.

Hallmarks of Excellence in Online Education Review

The National Council offers on-site consulting and review of the seven facets of online leadership, outlined in the Hallmarks of Excellence in Online Leadership, the industry standard for strategic planning and leadership for top online education units, to help you:

  • Outline ideals, strategies and criteria for successful online programs
  • Achieve and exemplify the highest ideals and practices in online learning
  • Support and encourage faculty to create an exceptional online experience
  • Innovate and imagine while facilitating responsible change

Research & Benchmarking

UPCEA leaders also receive insight in online education from the UPCEA Center for Research and Strategy, the gold standard of research and benchmarking information in the industry. Under the experienced leadership of Jim Fong, the Center conducts several free studies per year for the benefit of all UPCEA members. See the Center's latest research in trending areas here.


UPCEA advocates on behalf of the online and professional continuing education education field, and for the students served by these programs. UPCEA's policy efforts are designed to position members as thought leaders on their campuses. UPCEA is a steering committee member of the Today's Students Coalition and the National Council for Online Education.  Through this work and these coalitions, UPCEA seeks to advance the online learner agenda through a unified voice representing the these learners and institutions that serve them.



Our lead consultants are available to provide brief, rapid responses for members who have questions about all aspects of online and professional continuing education programs and strategy. 

Marketing & Enrollment Management

Whether you need to assess the viability of a new program, find out how you stack up with the competition or would like a program portfolio review, we can assist with research and data that will help move your unit forward. Your decisions impact the quality of your operation, as well as the bottom line. The UPCEA Center for Research and Strategy offers a variety of custom research options through a variable pricing model including new program feasibility analysis; program portfolio assessment; occupational analysis, trending, and forecasting; and more.

Online Leadership & Strategy

UPCEA provides onsite consultations designed specifically around the needs and capacity of institutions. These consulting relationships can include Hallmark Reviews, training sessions, on-site workshops, and strategic planning. Ongoing consulting relationships can include a very small number of yearlong engagements, during which time the consultant makes three to four site visits to check on progress, and participates in regularly scheduled staff meetings.

Peer-to-Peer Consulting

UPCEA deploys teams for on-site consultations at discounted pricing for members that include a strategic review of infrastructure, program mix and services and a host of related topics customized to meet the needs of your institution.


Get Involved with UPCEA

Professional development isn't just about attending sessions. Get involved with UPCEA to meet members from other institutions, share the great work your institution is doing, and hone your own skills. From submitting a session proposal for a conference or an article for a publication to serving as a volunteer on a conference planning committee, there are as many ways to engage with us!


Awards of Excellence

Since 1953, UPCEA has recognized its members' outstanding contributions to the Association and the field, as well as their achievements in innovative programming, marketing and promotion, community development and services, research and publications, and many other areas.