The only constant may be change, but does that require a need to change with it? According to Darin Kapanjie, academic director for Temple University’s Fox School of Business’s online MBA program, it’s not so much about changing as it is about adapting.
The school’s online MBA program launched in 2009 and has continued its path of adapting to technology advancements and the needs of its students.
“A lot of people thought online courses were just electronic correspondence courses,” Kapanjie said. “They wanted to just build it once and leave it at that.”
But Kapanjie said he knows there must be student engagement in order for an online program to be successful and added that even well-known schools have missed on that reality.
“We have several students transferring from several reputable programs because there is no interaction with the faculty,” he said. “It’s critical. Research shows that students demand interaction with faculty and their peers. Web conferencing is where it’s at. We got a leg up because we started so early with using that technology.”
The Fox School of Business uses Cisco’s WebEx web conferencing interface and has also moved into newer technology to make interacting with course material easier. The program has begun using Vimeo for recording their courses making the course videos mobile-friendly.
According to Kapanjie, the interaction increase between students and faculty is what separates the Fox online MBA program from many other online programs.
“Students are diving deeper into material,” he said. “They’re sharing their experiences. They interact very frequently with faculty and they have several projects where they interact with each other. That is often not found in a lot of distance programs.”
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The technology advancements have given the school the ability to create a new way of offering courses to its online students. Kapanjie said it’s a rather big change to the way the school’s online MBA program has operated in the past. He calls it a “curriculum carousel,” which will begin in January.
“Students can jump in and out of the program and can finish the program in 20 months which is attractive to MBA students,” he said.
MBA students can still only take one course per four-week term, but can take any of the 15 courses at any particular time after they finish their week-long residency. Kapanjie said the “carousel” format gives students even more flexibility with the program. He said after the student finishes those courses, they will hop off the carousel for the capstone course.
Since the beginning of the Fox online MBA program, there have been 20 slots available for students, but, once the carousel format begins, the slots will increase to approximately 30 students per intake, which takes place every January, May, and August.
“The idea was to have greater flexibility,” he said. “Even if there is 100 students in a course, students will still be working in teams of four or five. But instead of staying with the same team throughout the program, now with each course the teams will change. They will be collaborating with students from different areas, industries and parts of the globe. It will expand their network.”
But Fox’s online business program isn’t adapting for the sake of change. Kapanjie said it’s not an easy task finding technology that properly fits with what a distance learning program wants to do. He admits he doesn’t understand why many institutions are slowly embracing new technology or ignoring it altogether, but added that is does take a lot of time to find user-friendly and reliable technology that is conducive to learning.
He said it’s because of this hurdle that the school has a team of people dedicated to finding such technology.
“We have to meet the needs of the students,” he said. “It’s just part of what we do. We have an addiction for finding the latest and greatest.”