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  1. 1. D. E. McNabb: PA Strategic Management Course Delivering a Public Administration Strategic Management Course Online David E. McNabb Pacific Lutheran University ABSTRACT A review of MPA program descriptions published on the Internet reveals that few programs include a course that specifically addresses strategic management issues. Strategic management entails establishing a vision and mission for the organization, analyzing internal and external environmental factors, forming both long-term and short-tem objectives, and selecting, implementing, and evaluating a strategy to accomplish those objectives. These tasks are as valid for public sector administrators as they are for private sector managers. This paper addresses three course content delivery issues: it begins with a review of the scope of online instruction, offers a rationale for including a public sector strategic management course in the MPA curriculum, and offers suggestion for a syllabus for presenting the course content in an online mode. INTRODUCTION Post-secondary education has embraced digital education in ways and to an extent unconceivable just a few short years ago (Arbaugh 2005; Holsapple and Lee-Post 2006; Syler, Cegielski, Oswald, and Ranier 2006). Today, it is possible for a student to earn a master’s degree or Ph.D. in public administration without once setting foot on a campus. Naturally, great variation exists in the level of quality in these online programs. For this and other reasons, many traditional colleges and universities with public administration programs are taking a more cautious approach in jumping on the digital bandwagon. Whether to go digital is just one of the many problems facing colleges and universities.
  2. 2. 2 This study was conducted as part of a broader investigation into the challenges facing independent liberal arts colleges and universities, with particular attention paid to their professional schools. The professional schools in these institutions include such programs as undergraduate and graduate degrees in public management, business administration, communications, nursing, education, engineering, and similar professional occupations. As part of that study, the author conducted an analysis of the growing use of distance learning models to deliver professional instruction content. In keeping with this examination of digital education, the study included designing a model distance learning course syllabus for faculty review and potential guidance in designing their own online courses. The public and nonprofit sector strategic management course was selected for this component of the study. The course is not currently taught at the researcher’s home university, but is being considered with other public and nonprofit courses for a possible online degree program. If included in the new online program, it is anticipated that the course perspective will be that of the chief administrator within an agency, department, or organization. The emphasis will be on helping career administrators and public administration students gain an understanding of the processes by which basic organizational missions, purposes, and objectives are established in agencies. The course will also introduce methods used to analyze operational environments, establish long-term objectives, and design strategies to achieve those objectives.
  3. 3. 3 Participants and Stakeholders Delivery Systems Students and Traditional Public and Alumni Private Universities Delivering Content in Purely Faculty and Onsite Delivery Systems Staff Classroom instruction, Administrators, seminars, workshops, Trustees mentoring, internship monitoring, counseling, advising, libraries, Government laboratories, etc. Administrators Commercial Enterprises and Technology Mega-Universities Delivering Advisors The Content in Purely Online Higher Delivery Systems Businesses, Education Knowledge-management Nonprofit Commercial and national Organization Learning mega-universities Employers Community Open-source and commercially copyrighted content software Commercial Content Providers Combined Distance and Onsite Ventures Managed by Labor Unions Traditional Institutions but Employing e-Learning Technologies Education and System Blended Onsite and e-course Consultants programs, lectures/discussions, case analyses, simulations, e- collaboration, peer-to-peer, Legislators and Web and pod-casts, E-mail, Government virtual classes, e-mentoring, Regulators etc. Internet access, Web surfing and others Figure 1. Elements in the Professional School Learning Community (Source: From concepts in Morrison 2003)
  4. 4. 4 THE CHANGING STRUCTURE OF HIGHER EDUCATION Figure 1 illustrates the three types of institutions currently providing professional school education. These are 1) the traditional campus-based private and public institutions more or less exclusively offering higher education in face-to-face classroom environments; 2) the purely online or off-site systems provided by commercial enterprises plus a small but growing number of very large private or nation-state sponsored institutions of undergraduate, graduate, and lifelong learning instruction; and 3) a small but growing number of traditional private and public colleges and universities which have elected to include some online, distance education component in what is increasingly being recognized as “blended” delivery systems. For this study, higher education is defined as consisting of two broad classes of components: participants/stakeholders and delivery systems (Figure 1). Participants include the students, alumni, teachers, administrators, support staff and a variety of other stakeholders that make higher education happen. For professional schools, these important stakeholders also include the business and nonprofit organizations that recruit professional school graduates. An increasingly important group of participants is the large number of private information and communications technology firms competing for higher education contracts. Finally, state legislatures and Federal political and administrative groups play a significant role in the delivery of professional school education. Students now range from men and women in their early teens to adults of retirement age and beyond. Higher education is no longer restricted to a small elite group; governments and business leaders recognize that economic development in the future will
  5. 5. 5 depend upon the availability of a large, highly educated body of citizens capable of leadership positions in the industries of the future. Lifelong education has, therefore, become a major thrust of the United Nations, the European Union, and the OECD. Delivery systems are no longer restricted to on-site facilities or highly structured correspondence courses communicated through the mails. These systems have been joined by digital instruction delivered in virtual classrooms that can be accessed anywhere in the world, using coursework augmented by the power of the Internet. Three classes of delivery systems contribute to the community of learning: traditional on-site delivery systems, online systems, and a mixed bag of other systems, most of which are engaged in e-training and other life-long learning programs. The purely off-site group includes a new class of higher education institutions known as “mega-universities.” These mega-universities may be the most successful institutions to follow the purely online delivery model. They included private commercial and nation-sponsored schools. To qualify as a mega-institution, the program must serve more than 100,000 students, each of whom use distance learning methods for their delivery of instructional content; some number their students in the millions. They have been formally defined thus: A mega university is a university with a large number of enrolled students in which distance learning techniques are used to deliver courses to them; this makes the courses particularly cost-effective (Dictionary of Labor Law 2006). Because of their cost-effectiveness, economies of scale, heavy use of information and communication technology (ICT) for delivery and feedback, plus the ability to reach students any where at any time, some educators see the mega-university systems
  6. 6. 6 becoming the dominant model for delivery of higher education in the near future (McIntosh 2003). Purely online delivery programs—including mega-universities—are not without their problems, however. These problems include missing face-to-face contact between students and faculty; loss of the traditional traditional-university experience with its often life-long sense of community; a trading down of teaching standards for the sake of technological development; a deplorable move toward “cultural homogenization;” and an administrative emphasis on quantity rather than quality in content delivery (McIntosh 2003). Both private commercial institutions with online delivery components and the mega-universities represent a threat to the professional schools in small, private liberal arts colleges and universities. These “competitors” have already successfully siphoned off large numbers of adult professional program enrollments from traditional programs, and seem poised to be even more competitive in the near future. It is precisely these adult part-time students that represent the largest proportion of students in the professional schools. It is also this group that is forecast to grow even more dramatically in the next several decades. Both state and private traditional schools face the need to meet the growing demand taking place now, while also faced with a need to plan for the threat of a huge loss of tomorrow’s students to the new online programs. OBJECTIVES FOR THE STUDY This study was designed with three objectives in mind. First, the changing environment of part-time professional education programs at traditional campus-based universities by itself warrants an in-depth analysis of the trends under which such professional education
  7. 7. 7 is delivered, both today and the years ahead. Students are no longer location-bound. They can now choose from a variety of traditional part-time programs at state-funded colleges and universities, private secular and sectarian schools, and purely off-site, commercial programs such as that offered by Walden and Phoenix universities. Globally, an increasing number of students are choosing to matriculate at one of the new international mega-universities, where enrollments run into the millions of students. Small university administrators and faculty must constantly monitor these and future developments in higher education if they are to maintain the viability of their professional schools. They must learn to identify and understand the forces driving the digital revolution in higher education. This is particularly important for the private universities that depend almost exclusively on tuition, receiving little in the way of public funding. Students turning to other, more accessible programs take their tuition dollars with them. In addition, program administrators must be ready to change to meet the demands of the rapidly shifting and fracturing environment for professional education. The programs that do not change are likely to see their professional programs wither to insignificance or disappear entirely because the institution can no longer afford to maintain the programs. Delivery of professional education may be ceded by default to the private sector or to a few large, state-sponsored universities. Therefore, the first purpose of the study included identifying best practices in the online education movement. The second objective for the study was to determine which of the public management courses now taught in a traditional on-site format may be most readily adapted to an online approach. This goal is particularly important for those traditional programs located at some distance from large population centers. This distance problem
  8. 8. 8 is often exacerbated by the university’s location off major public transportation networks, with access further limited by the highly congested major highway networks found in most urban areas. Travel by private automobile from major markets to the campus at the usual starting time for evening classes may take as long and one or two hours. Some MPA programs have elected to meet this challenge by establishing branch facilities. That option is not addressed in this study, but is one that small university masters-level public administration programs also need to examine. A third objective was a look into the ways existing campus technology could be adapted to an online delivery model. As part of the larger study, this goal also focused on the necessity for educators to continue to provide professional instruction that embraces the latest advances in technology. Internet-based instruction, made possible by growth in information and communications technology, has meant that all post-secondary instruction is likely to be more and more driven by technology. To meet this need, colleges and universities are being forced to make significant investments in technology, and to do so at an ever-increasing pace. However, there may come a time soon that small, independent universities are no longer able to upgrade their campus-wide technological base as regularly as they have in the past. This objective for the study was to establish a way of delivering course content using technology that is unlikely to become obsolete in the near future. Developing a course that took advantage of both onsite and Internet-enhanced instruction was selected as the best way to illustrate examples of current technology for both onsite and online components of a proposed graduate-level course.
  9. 9. 9 OBJECTIVE ONE: EXAMINING THE SCOPE OF E-LEARNING Graduate professional school programs such as the MPA taught at small liberal arts colleges and universities today face a number of important challenges. One of the most pressing of these challenges centers on the on-site versus online debate. Faculty members who developed their teaching skills in traditional classroom settings have long delivered the great bulk of higher education in North America. Very few of these professors have welcomed the challenge of learning new and different ways to teach. Many students, on the other hand, have apparently welcomed the opportunity to earn a professional school graduate degree without setting a foot on campus. Much of professional education in America and the world appears to be heading in the direction of higher education as commercial enterprise with content delivery driven by advances in technology. For many in positions to know what they are talking about, the change is already here; the new era of the virtual university has already arrived. One of the predictors of a trouble-laden future for higher education was Professor Peter Drucker, the late university professor, author, and management consultant. Professor Drucker warned about effects of the digital revolution taking place higher education as early as 1997; his comments should have been recognized as a rallying cry for the entire system of higher education. Drucker claimed that the traditional university was doomed to soon disappear. “Universities won’t survive”, he said. “The future is outside the traditional campus, outside the traditional classroom. Distance learning is coming on fast.” (Gubernick and Ebeling 1997, p. 84)
  10. 10. 10 Christopher McIntosh, formerly of the UNESCO Institute for Education and currently teaching at the University of Bremen, Germany, also saw the early years of the new century as a critical time for universities everywhere, Traditional universities, nationally based, registered, regulated and accredited, with their campuses, their classroom teaching, their libraries and research facilities and their well-defined disciplines are under many pressures. They are struggling to find the resources to sustain their existing structures, and they are challenged by new models of education and research which are breaking down the old categories and divisions. (McIntosh 2003, 2) Predicting revolutionary change in the system of higher education is certainly nothing new. Professional education at independent colleges and universities has long faced a number of self-defining challenges, among which are: (1) collecting the resources to meet increasing demand for higher education in general and for professional education specifically; (2) finding the funds to invest in additional faculty, construct new classrooms, and install increasingly complex technology; (3) in the face of often deteriorating facilities and equipment, ensuring that their professional school students receive the content that is needed for success in the profession; and (4) adjusting to changes in traditional content delivery systems that is led by increasing use of the Internet. A large number of educators are saying e-learning may be an efficient and effective solution for meeting those challenges head. Many higher education institutions around the world are turning to digitally enhanced content delivery approaches for extending their reach to prospective students. They support these moves as a more cost effective way to deliver education. They see it as a way of expanding to meet growing demand while also limiting the high costs associated with “bricks and mortar” expansion. Some of these online programs serve thousands of students in graduate and undergraduate programs every year. Paradoxically,
  11. 11. 11 many of those students never set a foot on a college campus or sit in a university classroom. However, the decision to adopt e-learning in place of, or to supplant, traditional classroom instruction, must still be described as problematic. Because of limited access to campus-center technology and the absence of face-to-face interaction with instructors and fellow students, some e-learning programs have been described as sterile, lonely, and unfulfilling experiences. Despite such concerns, a number of excellent programs appear to work without being overwhelmingly limited by these drawbacks. The most successful of these online education programs blend the best of both the old and the new instructional methods—traditional, classroom centered instruction and online education. In doing so they may have forged the delivery system that is likely to become the model faculty and students will encounter in the future. This blended model requires a sharing of learning responsibilities among students, learners, and program developers, rather than the traditional, sometimes autocratic, process of a professor simply disseminating “wisdom” to a class of eager young students. However, the approach is not necessarily the model that will ultimately prevail. According to Robert Colley, associate dean of continuing education at Syracuse University, A campus component clearly helps students bond with each other and the institution…More and more, however, the lives of adult students demand convenience and mobility, so institutions are going with purely online delivery. This requires much more planning and creative course design, since one has to create a virtual community of learning and a bond between distance students and teachers. It also depends on the level and nature of the educational experience…Some advanced degrees with much discussion and collaboration benefit from short residencies. Corporations use this ‘blended’ approach increasingly for executive education, but again—more advanced [learning] techniques geared toward distance students is gradually making this obsolete. (Rosevear 2006, 3)
  12. 12. 12 The online learning movement has gone far beyond the higher education learning community. E-learning and e-training are now integral components of the effort by federal, state and local government agencies to make government more accessible to citizens. The mandate to improve accessibility to government is to being achieved by greater use of the Internet. Greater dependence upon e-learning is also providing cost- effective life-long learning opportunities to the thousands of new government employees needed to replace the retiring Baby Boom Generation. According to Broadbent (2002), e-learning (short for “electronic learning”) refers to education, training, coaching, and information that is delivered digitally. E-learning may be delivered through a network for via the Internet, but it may also be delivered by CD-ROM, satellite, and even supported by the telephone. In most organizations, personal computers are used to deliver e-learning digitally, but personal digital assistants (PDAs) and other wireless devices are increasingly being used. Therefore, e-Learning includes such methods as multimedia, computer-based training (CBT), and other forms of technology-assisted learning. The key is that e-learning is always digital. FOUR TYPES OF E-LEARNING Campbell (2005) used similar terms to define e-learning, adding that it has become a more or less universal term used to describe education and training that is delivered or supported via digital networks; the Internet primarily, but private intranets are also used. E-learning makes it possible for students to enjoy anywhere, anytime learning. E-learning can also refer to a system with e-commerce components. For example, in addition to
  13. 13. 13 learning online student might be able to locate, register for, and pay for courses online. Four types of e-learning delivery systems have been identified (Broadbent 11). The first is an informal system, in which students accesses a Web site or a focused online network where they find course information and (usually) brief content. This does not include formal presentation of material, application exercises, or instructor feedback, however. The second is a self-paced system. This is the process whereby students access computer-based instructional materials at their own pace, normally on a CD-ROM or over a network or the Internet. Students select what they want to learn, decide when they will learn it, and set their own learning pace. The third and fourth are two forms of a leader-led system. In one version, all students in a class access real-time (synchronous) materials by video-conferencing or an audio or external messaging service. In the second version students access materials (asynchronous) individually, at their own time and from their own locations. The material is pre-prepared and accessed through threaded discussions or streamed audio or video. Blended models typically use one or the other of these leader-led systems. E-learning also includes learning performance support tools—an umbrella term for online materials that learners access to gain help in performing a task; this is normally in the form of commercially available software. These tools are all designed to lead students (and instructors) through the steps required to perform an instructional task. OBJECTIVE TWO: SELECTING THE COURSE FOR ADAPTION A series of informal conversations and question-and-answer sessions were held with of instructors, support staff, and administrators to determine which public management program modules might serve as a model of how courses taught in traditional onsite
  14. 14. 14 delivery approaches might be readily adapted to an online delivery mode. The department’s senior administrator left shortly after the study began, depriving the study of an administrative champion. The public sector strategic management course was selected for determining the relative difficulty of adapting a traditional MPA course to online delivery. A review of MPA program descriptions published on the Internet revealed that few programs include a course specifically addressing strategic management issues. One of the reasons for this may be because of the fundamental difference in funding operations in the two sectors. In business, programs are funded through commercial transactions; in government, program activities are at the mercy of the appropriations process. (Berry 1994). The strategic management course was selected for the adaptation attempt for several reasons. First, the limited acceptance of the course means that its content has not yet been thoroughly institutionalized. This limited acceptance is reflected in the small number of available textbooks and refereed professional journal articles on the application of strategic management to the public sector. Second, the author has taught the MPA strategic management course in off-campus programs of a large U.S university. Third, the university was then in the concluding stages of a global study of online and Internet- enhanced practices in public and private higher education institutions. Fourth, the author had recently prepared a syllabus for a ten-week online course in strategic management for a commercial e-learning institution. Making make government more efficient has been an important concern of the both the executive and legislative branches of government for decades (Mihn 2002). Under the George W. Bush Administration, improved agency management and performance is the
  15. 15. 15 objective of the President’s Management Agenda (PMA). Strategic management is an integral component of the PMA. However, the planning horizon found in much of government continues to be short-term. For example, all agencies are required to prepare and submit annual performance plans in which they include precise and measurable goals for resolving mission-critical problems. The Executive Branch Management Scorecard system annually publicizes all agencies’ progress toward achieving these goals, with resource allocation reflecting the agency’s improvement. Thus, for administrators it has become mission-critical to receive a good annual report card. Long-term investments in future programs face the danger of taking second place to annual scorecard results— again reducing the commitment to learn or adopt strategic planning methods. Because of these and other difficulties with getting strategic thinking adopted by all administrators, it was determined that a fundamental purpose of the strategic management course is to induce administrators’ thinking about how strategic concepts shape organization objections and operational strategy. This has been shown to be more difficult than one might presume. Government agencies often suffer from too many rules affecting hiring, purchasing, budgeting and what activities an agency may address. Moreover, public agencies are often buffeted by political influence directed at the management of their activities (Cohen 2001). Although writing over a decade ago, Bunning (1992, p. 54) identified a number of reasons why public agencies have been slow to adopt strategic management—which, in turn, has served as brake on MPA program adoption of the course: • During the environmental analysis phase, strategic planning often requires administrators to involve outside groups, which could “stir them up” by raising their expectations and giving them greater than warranted influence.
  16. 16. 16 • Because government funding is for only one year, there is no point to adopting a longer-term view. • Administrations often change long before the typical five-year planning horizon, thereby rendering long-term plans worthless. • Formal long-term plans commit an agency to a course of action that may become difficult to change and/or embarrassing to continue. • Existence of an agency-wide plan can result in resource allocation and prioritization dilemmas, which are better handled during part of an yearly budget process. • Making it known what administrators plan to do on a long-term basis opens the agency up to criticism from pressure groups and disaffected clients. To overcome these still-existing barriers to universal adoption of strategic management concepts, the course must begin by helping students gain a thorough awareness of the potential payoffs of strategic management concepts and applications. This must begin with a renewed recognition of the differences between public and private sector management. Public sector strategic planning—another term used in the literature to mean strategic management—has been defined as a management process combining four components: 1) a statement of the agency’s mission; 2) an assessment of the agency’s external stakeholders and their perceptions of the agency’s mission; 3) specification of the agency’s goals and objectives, typically in a 3 to 5-year plan; and 4) development of strategies to achieve those objectives. This process is designed to make the agency more responsive to clients, empower staff, and engender group commitment to a common set of agency goals and objectives (Berry 1994). It is important to remember that strategic management and strategic planning are NOT the same. Strategic management is the set of decisions and activities that administrators and managers use to guide the long-term performance of their agencies
  17. 17. 17 (Hunger and Wheelen 2000). It includes the activities of environmental scanning, objective and strategy formulation, strategy implementation, and evaluation and control. Strategic planning, on the other hand, is the process of developing the comprehensive long-term plan that spells out the activities, objectives, and actions established during the analytical and decision phases of the strategic management process. As two Cardiff University professors put it, “Strategic planning is intended to be explicit, rigorous, and systematic; it involves the application of analytical methods to policy methods” (Boyne and Gould-Williams 2003, 116). Strategic management entails establishing a vision and mission for the organization, analyzing internal and external environmental factors, forming both long-term and short- tem objectives, and selecting, implementing, and evaluating a strategy to accomplish those objectives. Clearly, these tasks are as valid for public sector administrators as they are for private sector managers. A strategic management course in an MPA program, therefore, should focus on guiding senior administrators in the acquisition of these skills. A representation of how the strategic management process helps shape and focus public organizational operations is shown in Figure 2.
  18. 18. 18 Fundamental Steps in Strategic Strategy Strategy Implementation, Initiatives Development Control and Performance Review Statement of Organizational Historical Values, Mission Mission and Strategic Services Goals Delivery Strategic Mandated New Analysis of Services External and Delivery Internal (Short-Term) Environments Performance Implementation of Measurement, Strategic Outcome Initiatives in all Analysis, Mandated New Evaluating Functional Areas Program Services Options, of the Agency, Control and Delivery Selecting Following Revision to (Long-Term) Strategies and Previously Internalize Defining Established Organizational Priorities Priorities Learning and Knowledge Evolving Client- Archiving Demanded Develop Services Functional Plans, Budgets, Allocate Resources, and Services Build Staff Developed Within the Agency For Implementation Implement Consideration Programs, Monitor and Measure Performance Figure 2. Components of a Public Sector Strategy Development Process (Berry 1994; Worrall, Collinge, & Bill 1998)
  19. 19. 19 OBJECTIVE THREE: ADAPTING A SYLLABUS TO ONLINE LEARNING Two sample syllabi were prepared for the study: the first was for a ten-week quarter system program. That syllabus closely followed an online syllabus used by Lambert University for the business strategy course in its distance MBA program. The syllabus was extensively modified to fit newer texts and assignments desired by the researcher. The second syllabus was designed for a 16-week semester program. While that syllabus owed its existence from lessons learning modifying the 10-week course, the content and exercises were developed by the researcher from past experiences and extensive reading of the literature on online delivery systems. The following units served as preface to the final draft of the 16-week syllabus: Objective of the Course: The objective of this course is to introduce students to the field of strategic management as it is applied in public and nonprofit organizations. The perspective will be that of the chief administrator within an agency, department, or organization. The emphasis of the course will be on helping administrators and public administration students gain an understanding of the processes by which basic organizational missions, purposes, and objectives are established. The course will also introduce methods used to analyze operational environments, establish long- term objectives, and design strategies to achieve those objectives. Mechanics of the Course: Students will meet together eight Saturdays over the 16-week semester; all remaining learning activities will take place online. The onsite meetings will be held at the university’s learning and technology center. These onsite sessions will give students the opportunity to meet face-to-face with each other and the course professor-facilitator. Students’ oral presentations and article and case analyses take place during the onsite sessions. All presentations will be in business English. Individual and team course assignments are to be completed off-site and submitted online. Structure of the Course: This course is divided into two equally important elements. The first is a study of the text to gain an understanding of the strategic management process and the strategic management model. To facilitate this process, students are asked to answer discussion questions selected from each chapter and submit their answers on-line for
  20. 20. 20 review and grading. This material will be returned to students with the professor’s comments. The second part of the course is a review and analysis of the application of the strategic management model to an agency, department, or organizational unit of the student’s choice. This can be any public agency or nonprofit organization selected by the student team. This review is to result in a 20-to 40-page report on the use or lack of use of strategic management and/or strategic planning by the organization. The completed analysis will be submitted to the instructor during week 14 of the class. The text used in this course introduces strategic management principles as applied to business and industry. Therefore, a number of outside readings are used to augment the text. To further assist in establishing an understanding of the core concepts of strategic management, students are to analyze the several cases provided in the instructional package. The cases were selected for their ability to touch on the topics covered in each chapter. These cases provide students with examples of how strategic management is used in real-life situations. Applying these principles to government is often still a matter of extrapolation from the private to the public sector. Students are to read those cases and then determine on their own how those concepts might be applied to a public sector organization. A draft model of a 10-week syllabus for the online delivery of the public sector strategic management course is attached as Appendix A; a 16-week syllabus draft is included in Appendix B. CONCLUSION This report is, at best, only a brief examination of the many changes technology is having on educational processes, programs, approaches, pedagogies, and delivery systems. Additional research is needed before we can determine which delivery method is most appropriate for small, private and public universities and their professional schools. Speaking to this issue, in closing his introduction to a United Nations-sponsored global study of the changes now underway in higher education, Christopher McIntosh identified a scheme of research that researchers in higher education might be wise to follow: There is…a further important prerequisite for effective programmes, namely research. In the planning of distance higher education one needs reliable and up-to- date information and analysis in a variety of areas, chiefly the following five: (1) learners and their needs; (2) teachers and their needs; (3) the needs of employers and
  21. 21. 21 the market; (4) didactic methods; (5) technological developments (such as methods of online delivery of learning material). (MacIntosh 2003, 8) This study included an examination of the knowledge base on e- learning delivery systems, pedagogies, and technologies currently in use at public and private nonprofit university departments or programs. Moreover, a variety of the leading private-sector programs were also explored. The study has particular relevance to the professional schools, since those programs appear to be the most affected by the challenges now facing higher education. In addition, it is the professional schools that are leading the race to add e-learning components to their programs. It is anticipated that lessons learned the findings of this research would help administrators and faculty develop new insight into designing instructional delivery systems that build on the strengths of traditional classroom learning. The content delivery system that is eventually adopted at traditional liberal arts universities will be shaped by the best practices extant in existing and new instructional delivery programs. Not being an early entry into online delivery has some advantages; it is easier to avoid the mistakes of the pioneers. The problems that continue to limit the effectiveness of some online-enhanced graduate education programs may be avoided. However, it also means that the university that follows may be unable to catch up with the leaders, losing competitive advantage and forced to live with a reputation as a second- class institution. A primary goal in the search for ways to meet and surmount the challenges of the changing higher education environment must be establishment of a content delivery system that best serves the needs of students, faculty, and the institution. That goal may possibly be achieved met by adopting a system that blends the best of both the digital and
  22. 22. 22 the personal pedagogical approaches, thus producing a dynamic, open-ended system that enhances the ability of professional school students to learn and apply what they learn. Research has shown that to be successful, adoption of a new knowledge delivery model must be a reflection of what best meets the needs of all stakeholders. The system eventually adopted must not be influenced predominantly by the technology available at the time and place of delivery. Rather, it must be student centered. Thus, the chief goal of this study is help the university develop the new instructional-delivery design that is right for the students, the professional schools and the university in general, and existing and future faculty. Identifying the best practices of sector leaders will go a long way toward making sure this happens.
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