New, less “traditional” modes of delivery in higher education, particularly online, have been attracting quite a bit of attention lately. Although some may argue that this is just another fad in higher education that the media has latched onto, I personally would have to support Stanford University’s President, John Hennessy’s, stance that online delivery will play a big part in the next “tsunami” in higher education.
Research and Knowledge Services staff have noticed an increase in inquires related to online learning, e.g., questions on which online programs are AACSB-accredited; are there any accredited online doctoral programs; or does AACSB data support the trends discussed in the media? Joe Mondello’s previous blog post shows that in fact online delivery has definitely increased in the last decade within our membership, a trend that will most likely continue. Furthermore, a recent survey on online education published by The Learning House, Inc and Aslanian Market Research, titled, “Online College Students 2012,” identifies business administration and management to be the most popular area of study for both undergraduate and graduate level online programs.
Dean Jim Dean of UNC-Kenan Flagler recently shared with AACSB his experiences and insights with online learning and the MBA@UNC program; and more and more top business schools are starting to offer MBA programs online, such as Graziado School of Business and Management, and many others as listed on the BestBizSchools website. On top of that, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have been generating a lot of buzz causing many to speculate how this phenomenon can revolutionize higher learning (see below for additional reading on MOOCs).
With the proliferation of these different terms and labels for online and non-traditional delivery, I think it is important to gain better understanding of what each of these mean and how they differ from one another. From my observations, delivery of higher education seems to fall into one of the following four general methods:
- Hybrid (combination of online and face-to-face)
However, AACSB’s Business School Questionnaire (BSQ) provides survey respondents with a more detailed set of options to choose from, specifically:
- Integrated (incorporates both undergraduate and graduate coursework in a program, resulting in the issuance of a master’s level graduate degree)
- Evenings and Weekends
- Distance Education
- A program that can be “completed in full by students enrolled only in courses taught via distance education, including online, defined as any learning system where teaching behaviors are separated from learning behaviors. The learner works alone or in a group, guided by study material arranged by the instructor in a location apart from the students.” Can include programs in which instruction is delivered via distance education, but testing occurs in a face-to-face platform.
- A program that can be “completed in full by students enrolled only in courses taught online. Include programs in which some limited residency is required for orientation or testing.” (Programs that are online automatically fulfill the “distance education” option as well)
- A program that can be “completed in full by students enrolled only in courses taught at locations other than the main business school campus. This includes custom degree programs for corporations that are delivered at their facilities.”
- A program that “involves a formal partnership with another unit on campus, institution or organization to deliver courses required to earn the degree.” (Does not include bachelor's degree programs, where general education coursework is normally provided outside of the business program.)
Within the “less-traditional realm” of education delivery, a level of diversity and certain exceptions exist, for instance all online programs are considered to be distance education, but not all distance education programs are considered to be online. For many of the online programs being offered, schools will usually categorize the programs as being either synchronous or asynchronous. In a synchronous online class, the students and the teacher or instructor are online at the same time, and lectures or discussions occur at a specific time and day. On the other hand, in an asynchronous class, students receive lectures, class materials, assignments, etc. ahead of time and must either contribute to the class in a specific timeframe, or whenever they choose.
To some of you this may already be common knowledge, and you already have considerable experience with online learning. Yet, even with the abundance of information arising on this topic, some confusion remains as to what constitutes an online degree. The Dean of Kenan-Flagler Business School says during the most recent ENL broadcast, “We’re really in the very front end of all of this…years from now we will look back on what we are doing now and think of it as very basic.” If you have participated in, taught, or launched an online-type program at your institution, I welcome you to leave a comment!
Additional Resources on MOOCs:
- “What is a MOOC?” David Cormier: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eW3gMGqcZQc&feature=youtu.be
- “What It’s Like to Teach a MOOC (and What the Heck is a MOOC?)” The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/07/what-its-like-to-teach-a-mooc-and-what-the-hecks-a-mooc/260000/
- “Universities Reshaping Education on the Web” The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/17/education/consortium-of-colleges-takes-online-education-to-new-level.html?pagewanted=all
- “Online Higher Education for the Masses” University World News: http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20120525135513146