Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Business Student versus Employer Course Design Preferences: Can Both Educational Stakeholders Be Satisfied?

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Business Student versus Employer Course Design Preferences: Can Both Educational Stakeholders Be Satisfied?

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The concept of the stakeholder has been deeply ingrained in the concepts of total quality management (Fiegenbaum, 1983). In this context students and employers can easily be considered relevant and important stakeholders in the educational process. According to Thomas, Thomas, & Wilson (2012) the most important stakeholders in management education are students and organizations/employers. Input from these stakeholders regarding preferences can be used to explain how they derive value from course design. A traditional business customer helps to establish parameters for acceptable quality and delivery terms, while negotiating a price for the service. This value proposition fosters the search by businesses for value drivers that maximize customer satisfaction (Tracy & Knight, 2005).

Researchers have long debated the view of the student as "customer" or "product". Some academicians have resisted the concept of students as customers feeling that students do not necessarily act as traditional stakeholders who desire to maximize value in a purely academic sense. For example, students may rejoice when the instructor cancels class (getting less academic value for tuition paid). A traditional customer might behave differently in light of less value for the same expense. This gives some validity to viewing the student as "product". Snyder (2007) argued that students should never be led to believe that they are customers because faculty members always know what is best for students. Some faculty justifiably feel that students are incapable of deciding what should be taught and how it should be taught as they are not learned in the subject matter, particularly with respect to the future business endeavors they may undertake. Some faculty feel compelled to teach what they personally feel is academically needed, while others feel compelled to teach what they feel business wants based on their own experiences in business and consulting. Some faculty members even claim that these two approaches can be utilized simultaneously. If this perspective always holds true then the student as a "product" of academic exposure is all that matters.

However, how can academicians then explain the substantial marketing of university programs and their design to students as potential "customers"? Swanson & Davis (2000) evaluated academic service failures and how students believe that professors can create satisfaction. Similarly, Hatfield & Taylor (1998) discussed how AACSB's assurance of learning accreditation standards might best be implemented from a customer-orientation perspective. Clearly there is some room for viewing the student as an important stakeholder in the educational process. It is equally clear that viewing students solely as customers is troublesome.

One reason some have concerns with the students-as-customer model is that students are not the only financially invested stakeholders (Brennan & Bennington 1999; Scott 1999). Clayson & Haley (2005) held that students were neither customers nor products, but should be seen as partners in the educational experience. Researchers have repeatedly suggested that the educational process has other important stakeholders that also must be considered in the process. It would seem a reasonable conclusion that students' opinions should be considered, in addition to those of the businesses that hire students, and the academicians that prepare them for the marketplace.

Regardless of the position taken, the student stakeholder has become an increasingly important participant in the academic experience, given the competitive nature of recruiting a finite supply of students into a system with ample capacity. In an era of increasingly tight budgets, making the university experience "student friendly" has increased in importance as universities vie for the attention of incoming students. Once at the university an ever-increasing array of retention programs are provided while students are then asked to participate in the process of evaluating teaching and course delivery through student evaluations (d'Apollonia & Abrami, 1997; Greenwald & Gillmore, 1997a). …

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