Today I was researching the possibility of online PhD and EdD programs in digital media, specifically the study of gamification and game based learning. Now, one would think that in this day and age a Big Ten University like the University of Wisconsin would be all about providing or at least pioneering an online version for PhD candidates in digital media. The answer I received from the school was, “you have to be a student on campus. We do not intend our doctorate program to be a distance ed program.”
Wow! Talk about behind the times and inflexible. The reasons I was given for this “sit in the seat lecture only program” was that it encourages collegiality, it allows students to work together on projects, students need to physically attend lectures, it’s the experience of belonging to and working with a community.
Let me take issue with each of the above reasons one at a time.
Dictionary.com defines collegiality as, cooperative interaction among colleagues. As many of you know, this does not need to take place on a campus. Skype, Google Hangouts, shared documents, message boards like padlet, Voxer, discussion forums, Google+ groups, twitter and Wikis are all effective ways to foster collegiality. Fourteen years into the 21st Century, why does an institution of higher learning believe that collegiality can only take place on campus?
Students and teachers of any persuasion can use Learning Management Systems as well as any of the methods I mentioned in the preceding paragraph as collaboration tools. One does not have to meet face to face in order to collaborate. In fact, I would posit that most collaboration today does not take place in situations that are face to face.
Great. The old college standby, lectures. Do we really learn much from being lectured to? Research has pointed time and again that lecture is the least likely way for learning to occur. Where did much of this research take place? At universities. Even though research points out that lecture is the least likely avenue for meaningful learning to occur in, universities still use it as their main delivery style. Well, lectures can be recorded as podcasts, live streams, or video on a LMS. And one would think that those involved in doctorate programs in digital media would know this, embrace this, and use this knowledge to attract even more learners to their programs. Plus, do I really want to sit through even more lectures? NO WAY!
Again, I turn to Dictionary.com for a definition.
1. a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.
2. a locality inhabited by such a group.
3. a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists (usually preceded by the):
“the business community; the community of scholars.”
4. a group of associated nations sharing common interests or a common heritage:
“the community of Western Europe.”
Focusing on definition 3, I would say that a community of scholars can be established in disparate locations. I am a member of several on-line communities. Again, physical attendance in a particular location should not be a barrier to community. Again, any of the tools mentioned above under Collegiality can and should be used to foster a sense of community. All of the tools I have mentioned are common everyday tools that anyone in higher education has access to.
Now I know that there are other universities around the world that offer online doctorate programs in the fields of education and curriculum & instruction, but I want to attend a Wisconsin state university because I have GI Bill benefits that will cover the costs of my tuition. It is truly sad that in the 21st Century institutions of higher learning are not leading the charge to change education to fit the needs of their students.
What would you do in this situation?