University Fail: Students First is Not a University’s Concern


Empty Desks


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. 

Collegiality 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 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?


2 comments on “University Fail: Students First is Not a University’s Concern

  1. Hmm… the question you pose at the end is tough. I don’t know what I would do. I’d probably begin my sharing this blog post with a few members at the University of Wisconsin. You’ve already started advocating for this type of program (I really find it hard to believe they don’t have this already!) by writing this. Time to get others involved – can you find others who want this same venue for learning in your area? There have to be adults who cannot attend classes on a regular basis and yet want to further their education… Keep reaching out, Timothy, and see what support you can catch!

    • Thanks for your comments Joy! It was a difficult pill to swallow. It seems that every time I reach out to a University I feel like I’m treated like someone that has no clue about education or learning. I know that some universities work really well with adult learners. UW-Stout is excellent in their administration of extension programs. Maybe some Universities have just become too big for their britches! Boise State University has an excellent EdD program in Educational Technology that is 100% on-line and it makes sense that universities that run MOOCs and programs in digital leadership/media could offer on-line EdD’s and PhD’s.

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