Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Leading the Transition from the Traditional Classroom to a Distance Learning Environment

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Leading the Transition from the Traditional Classroom to a Distance Learning Environment

Article excerpt

Everyone knows the rules in higher education are changing. Today's university is no longer restricted to a specific time or place. An institution must apply today's technology to its curriculum and programs to meet the customer's needs, to compete with other institutions and possibly even to survive. How does one make a successful transformation from a traditional on-campus graduate program to one that is universally accessible? Save yourself time and effort: find out what others are doing -- what worked for them and what did not -- and decide what may work for your program. This paper describes how Western Carolina University met this challenge and the lessons we learned. Our process contains the following four steps:

* Evaluate your current mission, customer needs and program to determine your goals;

* Form a cross-disciplinary team;

* Develop a program structure; and

* Implement continuous improvement techniques.

Step One

Evaluate your current mission, customer needs and program. What are they now, what are the new needs and demands? Based on this information, what are your goals?

The Mission: In order to ensure constancy of purpose with the university and college mission statements, the Master's of Project Management (MPM) program faculty re-examined those mission statements and developed a new mission statement for the program. The new mission statement will serve as our guide throughout the current program transformation and in future decision-making processes as the program is continuously evaluated and tailored to meet customer needs.

Customer Needs: The demand for Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the internationally recognized Project Management Institute (PMI) is global and rapidly increasing. The PMP certification for program/project managers is mandated by various organizations worldwide including the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of Energy. A survey was conducted to determine the educational/training needs of business and industry. The results indicated that many industries have hired consultants and invested in other training mechanisms to deliver the necessary information for their employees to successfully complete the PMP exam.

While many institutions offer "certification" at the end of their course work, our survey indicated the market participants would prefer a complete graduate degree as a result of their efforts rather than partial credit toward a graduate degree or a certificate of training. As a result of our market survey, the major goal was to transition the current on-campus Master's of Project Management degree program into an asynchronously delivered, comprehensive, fully accredited, customer-centered and curriculum-driven program for delivery over the World Wide Web.

The Program: The current traditional classroom graduate program is based in Western Carolina University's College of Business, which is fully accredited by the International Association of Management Education, AACSB. It was the first Project Management Institute (PMI) accredited degree program in the United States offered in a fully accredited institution. The College of Business has offered an on-campus MPM degree since the mid-1980s; however, enrollment in this program has been relatively low compared to other Master's-level business programs at the university. This is due in part to the fact that a prospective student wishing to pursue this specialized degree -- which requires a one calendar year, on-campus commitment -- usually has been a full-time employee in business or industry, has family obligations and lives outside of a reasonable commuting distance from the WCU campus.

Step Two

Develop a cross-disciplinary team. Due to the public demand for this type of graduate degree, the MPM degree program was selected to be the first university-supported Internet distance learning effort. …

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