The Barefoot Mba – distance education – master’s of business administration – Brief Article
Forget lecture halls and fraternity houses. For 25-year-old David Ogman, college means kicking off his shoes and logging on to his computer. From his apartment in Gainesville, Florida, Ogman works toward his master’s of business administration (MBA) degree at Nova Southeastern University based in Fort Lauderdale.
“I tune out my noisy roommate and go online,” says Ogman, who connects to campus with a 56k modem.
He is one of about 1.6 million students who are enrolled in online courses, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Currently, about 54,000 online courses are offered by 1,700 colleges nationwide.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Ogman wanted to continue his education, but he did not want to take time off from his job as a stockbroker’s assistant with Salomon Smith Barney, the investment firm. Distance learning provided the answer. He now puts in a full day at work, then heads for the virtual campus on his bedroom computer, where he’s currently taking courses in economics and human resource management.
“We receive our assignments from the professor via e-mail,” Ogman says, “and every week we have an Internet discussion on the material with all 15 class members. Professors even have office hours online.”
Ogman’s professor holds lectures in a chat-room format. “In the middle of the lecture, we interrupt each other with questions,” says Ogman. Tests are e-mailed a week before they are due, and they are “open-book.”
Convenience has its price, however. Because online courses are more labor intensive for professors and require daily Web site updates, Nova charges about twice as much as for its traditional courses–approximately $500 per credit. Besides the increased cost, many educators say students lack vital face-to-face interaction.
“Excellence in education happens in relationships,” says Nancy Dye, president of Oberlin College in Ohio. “Students come to college today wanting to learn how to live together in a richly diverse America.”
“Face time” with classmates may be non-existent, but the online classroom fosters relationships of its own. “There’s a lot of interaction among the students–I think that people who may be too shy to speak out in class are more comfortable getting involved in an online discussion.”
Ogman has made some friends among his virtual classmates, and occasionally they meet at a diner to study or go out to a movie.
For now, Ogman’s priority is completing his studies at night. “Most of us have gotten the hanging around part of college out of our systems. Now it’s time for us to concentrate on getting our MBAs.”
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COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group