How online courses are changing post-graduate schooling

During the late 1990s, and early 2000s, the education marketplace saw a huge uptick in online schools for trades, Bachelors, and Masters degrees. It was easy to see why these opportunities grew so popular. Mostly offered by for profit online universities, the programs were profit driven. That means they were streamlined, easy to use, and foOnline Educationcused on customer satisfaction.

They were also convenient. Busy executives, or aspiring business professionals could get their MBAs on their own schedule in their own time frame; evenings, and weekends after work, mainly. This convenience may not have offered much of a “college” experience, but it sure gave the customers what they were looking for – career advancement potential.

But beyond the MBA, postgraduate work was largely conducted on campuses with designated academic advisors working with the student every step of the way. This face-to-face, one-on-one interaction was largely considered vital to the success of doctoral students.

But, once again, the Internet evolved, and online education found a way. While it is true that many online programs are now offering most classes remotely, students or candidates are still required to complete lab work, certain research, internships, residencies, and clinical work on a campus, or at a third party location.

And that’s where the message gets muddled. Is it online, or isn’t it? Can something truly be distance learning when part of it isn’t?

Ronn Torossian, founder of 5W Public Relations, says the answer to this question is largely in the way the message is conveyed, and the marketing is packaged.

“Online programs are largely about convenience, and accessibility. If a student can complete 30 hours of a doctoral program remotely, this is a huge benefit for the program from a PR standpoint,” Torossian said.

Torossian agrees with the marketers of these programs that, due to the expectation of some “on the job” coursework, the program descriptions, and marketing is not necessarily misleading, or setting students up for disappointment.

“People realize they can’t get a medical degree without lab experience, or a strictly regimented and watched internship. Even education, and management students at the doctoral level should inherently understand the need for practical application of study materials.”

This dynamic, Torossian says, protects online schools from being accused of bait, and switch tactics. Yes, they are offering online doctorate programs, and those programs will fully prepare you for any OJT, or dissertation work necessary to actually complete the degree program.

A fine line? Perhaps, but online doctoral program marketers are betting it’s an obvious one.

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