What is needed to make DL as respected as B&M?

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by SurfDoctor, Oct 10, 2010.

  1. SurfDoctor

    SurfDoctor Moderator Staff Member

    What is needed to make a degree earned at an online school as well-respected as a degree earned from a B&M school? Will a degree earned online ever be accepted into the inner circle of academia? Is there anything that can be done? Is it hopeless, or will it turn around naturally as a new generation comes into power?

    These questions are intentionally general. Please respond to them in any way you find most interesting.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 10, 2010
  2. wmcdonald

    wmcdonald Member

    Time and experience my friend. It is becoming more main stream every day, and with time, it will be much more widely accepted. Evidence can be found in the traditional institutions now participating. I wish you well in your quest.
  3. djacks24

    djacks24 New Member

    An online degree offered by a B&M school. Or for all B&M schools to concede defeat to online schools. Or all B&M schools to cease to exist where online is the only form of education. Or all B&M school students to make a mass migration to online schools.
  4. SurfDoctor

    SurfDoctor Moderator Staff Member

    I agree. I was especially impressed that USC is offering an online master's in education. Still, I doubt they would hire one of their own graduates of the online program. I have heard of this issue a few times; B&M schools will offer an online program and then refuse to hire its graduates. So DL is making progress, but there is a very long way to go before degrees earned at online schools are considered equal.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 10, 2010
  5. ITJD

    ITJD Active Member

    .. you mean aside from the whole bit about finding a way to stop people talking about why they're not as respected in the first place?

    Just kidding but if I do a google search on respected online programs I get a ton of listings pulling me back here to discussions about respect, the majority of which destroying certain online programs :)

    To the point of the question though, death will result in the long term respect of online programs. When academia's market eventually flattens like all the others have and the elitists pass away.. you'll see parity.

    Of course, by then we'll have commoditized academia, making the prospects of jobs in education less appealing, but that's the rub.

  6. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    What's an "online school"? What kind of respect? From whom? What's "a degree earned at a B&M school"?

    Just addressing the last of those, there are open-admissions programs that accept anyone and there are extremely selective programs seeking cream-of-the-crop applicants. Some programs are vocational, others are scholarly. There are RA, NA, non-accredited programs, and no end of different kinds of foreign B&M offerings. Departments have very different faculty strengths with unique specialties and emphases. Some programs are famously research productive while others seemingly aren't the least bit interested in scholarship.

    In other words, the idea that B&M programs or DL programs are all perceived the same way isn't very credible to me.

    If you are asking what will make a DL doctorate fully competitive with top-school B&M programs in faculty hiring, the answer is that it will happen when whoever is making the decisions perceives the DL program as being a strong academic program.

    Roll out some DL programs that compare well with the leading B&M programs in the same fields. These DL programs will need to have equally strong faculties, comparable student support, be similarly selective, maintain equal academic standards, and boast impressive research productivity and exciting intellectual lives.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 10, 2010
  7. SurfDoctor

    SurfDoctor Moderator Staff Member

    Interpret those questions in any way you find most interesting, Bill. I intentionally left it general because I'm not seeking information; I don't have any questions that I would like answered. It was just a general question that was asked because I'm interested in sparking some discussion on the subject. Just for fun!! Please don't attack. :smile:
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2010
  8. DBA_Curious

    DBA_Curious New Member

    I've been thinking about this one for a bit because I've recently cut back on a LOT of the adjunct work that I'm willing to do because of some issues I have with a particular school.

    I think the biggest change will happen when more for profit schools begin to actually partner with the professions for which they espouse to train folks. For instance, I know of a large University (nameless by choice) that recently began a 'criminal justice' program in my area by doing nothing more than hiring some adjuncts. There were no needs assessments to see if the program was needed. There was no partnership with local LE agencies. And many of the students being admitted into the program are VERY likely to struggle with actually gaining employment in the field. In short, the program was created to earn revenue for the college and not to meet a need.

    In other words, they just rolled out a product with glossy advertising. But the work that should've happened behind the scenes to make sure the product was responsible didn't happen.

    To see a different approach, check out this program -> Master of Science in Applied Economics (MSAE) | Online & Distance Education. What employer could doubt those graduates given that they're participating in real research.

    But that program is selective, rigorous and answers a real need.

    Until for profit schools adopt a different approach, they will be viewed with skepticism. I'm this close to severing all ties with my local campus.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 10, 2010
  9. JeepNerd

    JeepNerd New Member

    Great post by DBA_Curious. I think it is ALL about motivations and thus we come back to NFP DL vs For Profit DL. I think there will ALWAYS be more distrust with the for profit model. They have expanded the DL market a thousandfold and the B&M (NFP) have reacted.

    University of North Carolina Online: Home

    I don't think you will find a SINGLE degree in that link that is not as respected as any other standard, in-classroom degree. Just like the "Evening Degree" programs are widely accepted now, the DL FROM a traditional B&M (NFP / "state" Univ) is ALREADY accepted...right now. IOW, they are already accepted IMHO if you get the degree from a school that is not 'suspect.'

    So I think it comes back to WHOM you receive the degree from. For profits made DL a household name (everyone knows about the option today versus in the 70s, only those who happened to know about BEARS guide, etc), but the B&M (NFPs) / "state" schools are now going to compete with them for 1/2 or less of the cost.

    $6-8k for a Masters from East Carolina or $??,??? for the same degree from the BIG THREE is a no brainer.

    The for profits (online or local at THEIR B&M campus) WILL continue to serve a market for "open enrollment" students who cannot (or will not bother) to try and get in at the NFP/B&M/"state" university. The for profits are ALSO MUCH MUCH MUCH faster to adopt and change and offer degrees in new and expanding markets, react quicker, etc.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2010
  10. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    Similarly to what Bill said, I have a good impression of the UMass (Amherst) MBA program. This is partially due to hearing good things from a number of people enrolled but partly because of the way it's organized. You can take any percentage of your courses online. If you prefer you can do the whole thing in a classroom or you can do it entirely online. I'm told that there are very few people who do not take at least one course online (often this is simply due to scheduling conflicts). So the school itself makes no real distinction within its own program.
  11. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    The first post in the thread reads:

    You were contrasting things in those two sentences. Though you didn't actually say it, you clearly seemed to be suggesting that what you variously call "DL" or "a degree earned at an online school" isn't as well respected as "a degree earned from a B&M school".

    I questioned that initial premise.

    There are all kinds of DL programs and degrees, and there are just as many different kinds of B&M programs and degrees. Some are respected more than others, for reasons that typically have little to do with their DL or B&M modality. There are PhDs in physics from places like Columbia or Cal Tech and there are open-admissions night-school degrees from obscure vocational schools. Those aren't just going to be swept into the same 'more respected' category simply because both happen to be B&M.

    I'm not sure what the phrase "inner circle of academia" means, but I'm assuming that it means competitive academic hiring for full-time positions at good schools.

    The first step is to look at the kind of educational qualifications that successful new hires in those kind of situations have now. Where did these individuals earn their doctoral degrees? What kind of programs produced them?

    They aren't just being hired because they attended a B&M program. They aren't just being hired because they attended an RA program. To tell the truth, I don't think that university hiring committees pay very much attention to the B&M/DL distinction or to institutional accreditation. Those things might never come up in an interview.

    Candidates are being selected, in part, because they were trained at what the hiring committee believes are good programs, strong programs, programs with reputations in the area that the individual is being hired to teach.

    How does one distinguish a good program? There are lots of variables, each of which might be weighted according to circumstance. Faculty strength is a big one. That requires some awareness of who the names are in your field. Research productivity, knowledge which again requires staying current. Oftentimes strengths in appropriate specialties relevant to the open position. Grants and awards. Collaborations. Mentions in the professional media. Word of mouth. In a word -- intellectual excitement and leadership.

    That's what university hiring committees will pick up on. It's why the top programs are perceived as being top programs in the first place.

    If an ambitious DL doctoral program wants to be more competitive with the leading B&M programs in its field, if it wants its graduates to have similar placement success, then it needs to more closely resemble the leading B&M programs. It has to visibly possess similar qualities.

    It needs to increase its student selectivity. It needs to provide the students that it selects with similar opportunities, instruction and support. It needs to provide them with a similar full-immersion professional experience, which in a DL program might be accomplshed through requiring that part-time remote students hold specified employment. It needs to have an impressive faculty with some internationally recognized stars. It needs to be research productive. Not only that, the research that's produced needs to catch the attention of the profession, get people talking at conferences, and generate lots of citations. Grant money needs to start flowing in, along with awards and honors. Other high-end programs should show eagerness to collaborate.

    If DL programs intend to go out on the academic/scholarly field and be competitive players, then they will have to play the game.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2010
  12. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    To be respected, a school has to attract top students and top faculty. The typical for-profit DL school cannot compete with the top B&M schools in either of these regards.

    Consider students. A top-rated AACSB business school, for example, sets high standards for admissions, and in fact rejects most of its applicants. They pull in the top college business students, in the same way that NBA teams pull in the top college basketball players. The typical DL business school, on the other hand, is like a city rec basketball league: anybody can sign up, regardless of skill level. Nobody who wants to play gets rejected.

    Now, it’s great to play basketball at any level. But realistically, NBA players are more respected than rec league players. Similarly, business schools with high levels of selectivity are more respected than those with low or non-existent levels.

    Or consider faculty. A professor at an AACSB business school can expect a six-figure annual income, guaranteed lifetime employment, a full benefits package, and plenty of free time and support to do research on topics of interest. For comparison, a professor at a DL business school is hired on a temporary basis, for a fee that probably works out to near-minimum wage, zero benefits, and zero expectation or support for research. So which school is more likely to attract world-renowned professors?

    To go back to the basketball analogy, the DL professor is like a guy who tends bar during the day and who volunteers to coach in the city rec league in the evenings; in return he gets a special t-shirt, the title of “coach”, and a $50 gift certificate to Applebee’s from the players at the end of the season. The AACSB professor, on the other hand, is a full-time, highly compensated pro like Phil Jackson. Now, it's great to coach basketball at any level, but realistically Phil Jackson gets more respect.

    And the typical for-profit schools will never be competitive in these regards. They have no incentive to become more selective in admissions, because that would reduce their enrollments, revenues, and profits. They have no incentive to pay faculty well either, because that would increase their expenses, and therefore reduce their profits.

    The for-profit business model for schools may have advantages in some respects – but not when it comes to generating respect. The typical for-profit DL school is designed to maximize profits, not prestige.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2010
  13. IslandJ

    IslandJ New Member

    I agree with this. I am doing my MPA at UC Denver and they have the same model. A UCD MPA student can take any or all of the classes online, no distinction is made, it is the same content, same diploma and same faculty.

    Which brings me to ... faculty. It really bothers me that a lot of online schools (or B&M schools with a distinct "online" program) cheap out in hiring faculty. I want to be taught by people who know what they are talking about (and who have the peer reviews to prove it), who have been trained to a good standard and who expect and are able to enforce a high standard in my work. I think this is especially true at the graduate level. Also, online masters would gain credibility and acceptance if someone wanted to pursue a good B&M PhD if the profs in the online master's program who provide recommendations about the candidate are well known and respected in the field. So in a nutshell, if an online schools wants to gain respect and recognition in academia, it should try to hire the best and brightest, top of the field.
  14. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    And does the typical online school rank at the "top of the field" when it comes to faculty compensation and tenure ?
    Or does it rank at the bottom ?

    Is there a single tenured faculty position in the entire DL for-profit education industry ?
  15. Cyber

    Cyber New Member

    I don't think online-only schools will ever rank or even come close to being considered alongside rigorous programs from B & M schools. Presently, most of internet-only schools are for-profit operations. Chasing after profits blind-sights the operators of these institutions from investing in those things that make a program rigorous enough (writing papers alone, which is really the only requirements of many online doctoral programs, does not provide a well rounded education that is rigorous) such that such programs warrant recognition by or from those in traditional academia.

    If online-only schools starts tightening up their admission requirements, which will result in the admission of high quality students, and then inject program requirements that are typical of highly regarded academic programs at traditional B & M schools such as mandatory publishing, attending of several conferences and presentations at those conferences, as well as mandate their students to participate in industry organizations all with the aim of putting their schools, programs and students at the forefront of their respective field, then they probably will never even come close to being ranked alongside B & M programs/schools.

    On the individual level, students/graduates can boost the value of their "internet degrees" by aggressively publishing, presenting at conferences, and getting involved with industry associations if they want to be recognized by peers in the traditional B & M schools or in their profession. An example of program requirements that boost DL degrees, especially, those earned from internet-only schools is demonstrated by DSU's (Dakota State University) "portfolio requirement."

    DSU's Information Systems Doctor of Science degree portfolio requires a research, teaching, or service artifacts (students must (1) publish atleast one paper in journals they specify, (2) teach atleast one undergrad or graduate class in IS, or (3) serve as a reviewer for refereed journals or book chapters; volunteer in organizing academic workshops or conferences, respectively, and two are required).

    Until these academically recognized artifacts are incorporated into online school program requirements, many of today's online doctorates are nothing more than practitioner/adult education/career enhancement programs; far from meeting the academic rigor of "real doctoral degrees." Sadly.
  16. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    And if you are applying for full-time, tenure-track faculty positions -- the kind with real salaries, real benefits, and real job security -- then it doesn't help if your doctorate is from a for-profit DL school that has a reputation for offering its own faculty none of those things.
  17. SurfDoctor

    SurfDoctor Moderator Staff Member

    This is a very good point.
  18. SurfDoctor

    SurfDoctor Moderator Staff Member

    Thank you. This is good advice for anyone who wants to be accepted among peers in their discipline, and especially good for one who has earned his/her degree via distance.
  19. SurfDoctor

    SurfDoctor Moderator Staff Member

    I doubt that you question the premise that a degree from a respectable B&M school (Cal State, for example) could reasonably be expected to be favored by the HR office at an established B&M school (let's say UCI) over a degree from a respectable online school, (Capella, for example) Given experience and all other quality factors being equal among competing applicants. Right? I would think that's common knowledge. You are saying that a degree from Capella, for example, might compete favorably against a degree from some low quality school that happens to be B&M because it has a classroom. If that's the case, you are, of course, right. I didn't really want to get that specific.

    Man, you are making me work really hard for merely asking a general question that was just supposed to spark conversation. :smile:
  20. Maniac Craniac

    Maniac Craniac Moderator Staff Member

    One of my friends has an Associate's from AIU. That she got her degree online has never hindered her ability to get a job, in fact, she nails every single interview that she ever goes on and often has people BEGGING her to work for them. She related the story to me that one time, during an interview, she was asked about how her degree came from out of state. She proceeded to lay down the argument of how great DL is and in fact convinced them that it is even BETTER than B&M. After the interview, they offered her the job and even were willing to give her $10,000 more than what she asked for.

    Learn what you wish from her experience. I learn that I have an amazing friend :)

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