Amy attended the county's administrator forum, it became clear that the rumor mill about the "Good Ole' Boys" network was not exaggerated. Sitting across the table from fifteen district superintendents, not one in the bunch was a woman. There was only one other woman in assembled group, who like Amy held a lower position on her district's administrative team. Just as Amy had done her entire career, she made the decision not to let the statistics change her course and she was more determined than ever to proceed and succeed.
During the next few months Amy began researching her situation, and after reading several articles about women in upper-management, she became keenly aware that a doctoral degree will help level the playing field for women like her who want to reach the higher levels of administration in the K-12 education arena. She enjoyed her job as a district curriculum developer, and adequately met the responsibilities of the job description; however, she was interested in broadening her administrative skills and reaching the top.
Like so many other school administrators, Amy was "baptized by fire," and developed management and leadership skills on the job. The culture of her district is rather isolationist and mentoring is not practiced; besides which, she intimidates other administrators with her wild ideas and constant questioning. Just a few years back when the Internet was first becoming a popular phenomenon, as a teacher Amy was an early adopter at her school. She used the World-Wide-Web with her students and often made assignments that involved the use of email and discussion groups for researching classroom curriculum. Seen as an up-and-comer, Amy was recruited to share her talents with others in the district. To supplement the leadership skills she learned from peers, she attended workshops through professional organizations, district sponsored administrative training, and courses at a local private university; all leading to a preliminary administrative credential. All these efforts helped to advance Amy within the administrative ranks of her district; however, it's clear that an advanced degree will make her more marketable.
As we have seen, career advancement is Amy's focus right now, although, it is a challenge for her to balance responsibilities and emotions that extend beyond the workplace. Married now for twenty-two years, Amy lives with her husband and a seventeen-year-old daughter; her other daughter recently married and lives nearby with a husband and Amy's first grandchild. Living in rural Northern California is an added challenge -- the nearest small city is sixty miles down a windy two-lane road. Harsh winters can make accessing resources difficult. Realizing that a doctoral program would take a tremendous commitment, Amy feels lucky to have the support of her husband and is happy that her family has matured; nevertheless, her job and family requires her attention -- not to mention a desire to spend time with her new grandson. Time and energy commitments are major factors to be considered when exploring doctoral programs that can help Amy achieve her dreams.
Reminded that a friend from college was now involved in the Doctoral Program in Education Management at University of La Verne (ULV), Amy learned that this program caters to the practicing administrator who wants to gain an advanced degree and continue working. "They meld management theory and my daily duties as a principal into assignments that are so practical; I love it!" No stranger to technology, Amy was encouraged to learn that ULV's doctoral program now offers a track that uses online technologies to make learning engaging and efficient.
Amy, though based on facts, is a fictitious character developed to illustrate a typical candidate for doctoral programs like the University of La Verne's. Lee Murphy, of Marketing News describes the number of institutions coming online as a tidal wave. Data indicates that the number of schools offering online courses has doubled in the last year and that student enrollment in these programs shows a ten-fold increase over that of the traditional on-campus program (Murphy 2000). There are advantages to online delivery of graduate level programs, but for those institutions without the resources or expertise to make it happen, technology has not even begun to deliver on its promise, and people like our character Amy must ask the questions, "What about me? What about the things I already know and can do? Where will I spend my time and energy?"
For the growing numbers colleges and universities joining the online education community, curriculum access through technology is just the beginning. Now there are tougher questions: "We're online, webbed, and communicating; now what?" "What does 'effective integration of learning technology' really mean?" And as candidates enter programs with advanced skills, how can programs like La Verne's achieve measurable results in a competency-based system? The question, "How are we using the technology?" demands a real answer.
Moving into the online environment and with a primary focus on the application of management theory to the practices and processes of administrating education institutions, the University of La Verne Doctoral Program in Education Management faces new design challenges. How do they address the unique needs of the adult learner in an online environment? How can the program deliver its education management theory courses in a competency-based model online and still retain the high-touch program that sets them apart from the competition? What assessments will guide the competency-based a program?
College-based distance learning is something that has been gaining speed since the technological explosion began. The ability to take classes online and to attend through the use of chat rooms, email, web sites and other avenues is something that has steadily growing for the last 20 years. The ability to teach online takes many avenues. Students can go to a web site and download material, homework assignments or tests. They can upload the work through the same web site and then receive their grades through the web site. In addition the student can be instructed to go to a chat room at specificed times to take part in class room styled instruction, and the chat room offers the chance to ask questions and to interact with other students. Students can also be taught through the use of email. The assignments can be sent through email and they can be instructed through email as well. In addition there can be interaction with other online students through a loop system in email.
There are many positive aspects to online learning as well as many positive reasons to take part in an online education. Distance, time constraints and a preference for more self-driven study are all valid and acceptable reasons for using online courses. In more recent history the use of online courses for graduate work has been examined. Generally online courses for undergraduate work have been an accepted method of instruction for many years. It has commonly been accepted however, that once one moves into the graduate school requirements there is a need for them to attend classes on campus. This can interfere with many people's desire to pursue their graduate degrees. Many otherwise bright and competent people have been stunted in their professional career growth because of the inability to advance their educational level. Women in particular are often stopped from climbing the corporate ladder. Saddled with working to support the family, and taking care of that family, many women are squeezed out of the upper management positions because they do not have advanced degrees. Providing a method to obtain credits in graduate work online would serve to allow females to complete their masters and advance their careers.
The demographics on college campuses have changed dramatically. In 1997, the most recent statistics available, 42% of all students in college were "nontraditional students," according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). In 1973, nontraditional students only made up 12%. Nontraditional students, who are also referred to as adult, re-entry or returning students, are defined as anyone who is 25 years of age or older, married, a parent, or has been out of school for at least three years. These students, increasing in number every semester, are changing the way courses are being offered at community colleges and universities nationwide."
The age of the college student is advancing each year according to studies. The current average age of students at one university surveyed is 25 or older. This leads to the fact that many people are returning to achieve higher education degrees after being out in the world for a number of years. This statistic further cements the idea that people are tied to families and jobs in addition to trying to attend school while raising families and work at the same time. All of this points to a defined need for graduate coursework being offered online. "Nontraditional students typically have to maintain full-time employment, a family and other responsibilities of adult life. Colleges must consider these needs in order to successfully maintain this ever- growing demographic group of students."
The need for graduate degree courses online is becoming…