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The evolution of the internet and collaboration tools have made it possible to enhance the range of online education, and make it universally accessible and eminently affordable. Around 2000, the faculty at Boston University’s Metropolitan College proposed an online master’s degree in project management, using the emerging learning management systems. The program grew quickly from 40 to 200 students, and was one of the first in the United States to be accredited by the Project Management Institute’s Global Accreditation Committee. This academic model has now been extended to other disciplines and programs.
It was expected from the outset that the BU online and classroom academic experiences would be completely equivalent. This presented several challenges, the first of which was developing online equivalents for the face-to-face pedagogical course components. Second, writing online courses, recording videos and developing innovative discussion topics is time-consuming, and we quickly realised that only fulltime faculty had the commitment and motivation to devote the required effort to produce quality courses. Finally, the technological resources associated with course development and course operation required significant investment, beyond the faculty time, currently estimated at around $60,000 per course.
We surveyed our students and alumni every two years and now have enough data to describe accurately the evolution in attitudes to online education.
As one of the earlier and premier adopters of a rigorous academic online education model, BU has a vested interest to contribute to the growing debate about the academic quality and rigour of online education, the application of high pedagogical standards, and the innovative use of online teaching frameworks and tools. This paper will address and document these issues and assist in raising awareness of emerging “best practice” in the online education domain.
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