Graduate level education in professional degree programs, such as organizational leadership, is changing and evolving rapidly. As consumers demand non-traditional scheduling arrangements and mediated "any time, any place" learning, educational institutions have had to look at these options. This study explored the nature of graduate education in organizational leadership considering specifically the program focus, the characteristics, the faculty, costs, and delivery methods utilized. Based on the data gathered by reviewing more than 40 degree programs, there are clear indications that educational institutions are beginning to meet the needs of the nontraditional learner. Given the evolution of higher education, more specific research should be conducted.
Graduate education for working professionals has become one of the most common phenomena in higher education. The recently released Report of the Web-Based Education Commission highlights this change.
"For education, the Internet is making it possible for more individuals
than ever to access knowledge and to learn in new and different ways. At
the dawn of the 21st Century, the education landscape is changing .... On
college campuses, there is an influx of older, part-time students seeking
the skills vital to success in an Information Age." (p. 9).
Entire universities have thrived on this select niche market. Furthermore, the nontraditional graduate student is generally better able to understand the complexities of the content they are asked to learn, and are often more dedicated to the classes they take. This is in contrast to the traditional 18-22 year old student whose interest lies more in completing the degree rather than learning and applying theory. To meet these perceived market needs more institutions of higher learning are developing programs that cater to the needs of the non-traditional student-hence, the niche market. These institutions are willing to make substantive changes in the way that education is delivered. Consider some of the changes in educational delivery that the non-traditional professional graduate is likely to look for in graduate education:
* Non-primetime hours for learning (5 pm to 10 pm),
* Expanded use of technology in lieu of driving to campus for face-to-face classes,
* Use of "professional experience credit" arrangements,
* Less emphasis on research methods, more emphasis on practical professional skills,
* Flexible semesters and condensed semesters and classes.
Equally important are the changes that the professional graduate student will encounter when returning to the classroom. These content/substance-based changes are designed to help the non-traditional student learn more in a shorter time span. Consider some of the following changes:
* Direct application of theory to their practice.
* Class materials presented in a multi-media rich environment.
* Exams designed to provide culmination of learning, not just testing of knowledge.
* More "hands-on" learning, less "book" learning.
* Development of online communities/networks for student support.
In essence, these professional, non-traditional student focused courses adopt a radically different perspective on graduate education than does the more traditionally focused program. As the number of these alternative programs increase, there are likely to be implications to the entire graduate education and intellectual community.
Additionally, while more graduate programs have started to focus on the study of organizational leadership (Klenke, 1993), there are still many programs whose primary mission, while related to organizational leadership, is still quite remote from the educational mission of understanding organizational leadership. …