D. E. McNabb: PA Strategic Management Course
Delivering a Public Administration Strategic
Management Course Online
David E. McNabb
Pacific Lutheran University
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.
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.
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.
Participants and Stakeholders Delivery Systems
Students and Traditional Public and
Alumni Private Universities
Delivering Content in Purely
Faculty and Onsite Delivery Systems
Administrators, seminars, workshops,
Trustees mentoring, internship
Government laboratories, etc.
Commercial Enterprises and
Technology Mega-Universities Delivering
Advisors The Content in Purely Online
Higher Delivery Systems
Businesses, Education Knowledge-management
Nonprofit Commercial and national
Employers Community Open-source and
Combined Distance and
Onsite Ventures Managed by
Labor Unions Traditional Institutions but
System Blended Onsite and e-course
Consultants programs, lectures/discussions,
case analyses, simulations, e-
Legislators and Web and pod-casts, E-mail,
Government virtual classes, e-mentoring,
Web surfing and others
Figure 1. Elements in the Professional School Learning Community
(Source: From concepts in Morrison 2003)
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
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
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
becoming the dominant model for delivery of higher education in the near future
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
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
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
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
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)
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,
many of those students never set a foot on a college campus or sit in a university
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)
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
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
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
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.
• Because government funding is for only one year, there is no point to adopting a
• 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
• 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
(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.
Fundamental Steps in
Strategic Strategy Strategy Implementation,
Initiatives Development Control and Performance Review
Historical Values, Mission
Mission and Strategic
Implementation of Measurement,
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
Services Build Staff
the Agency For
Figure 2. Components of a Public Sector Strategy Development Process
(Berry 1994; Worrall, Collinge, & Bill 1998)
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
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
review and grading. This material will be returned to students with the professor’s
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
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.
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
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
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-
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
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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