UF To Offer Masters Degree In Business Administration On Internet
GAINESVILLE —Personal computers replace podiums and cyberspace substitutes for the classroom for students in the University of Florida’s newest academic program, a master’s degree in business administration to be offered on the Internet.
Beginning in May 1998 as part of a pilot program, students who live and work miles from Gainesville can earn a graduate business degree without having to disrupt careers or family life to travel to campus, said Craig Tapley, director of UF’s master of business administration (MBA) programs.
Currently, no other nationally ranked institutions accredited by the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) offer a nonresidential cyberspace program in which students learn on their own schedule through asynchronous technology, he said.
“There are some people, like doctors and lawyers, whose practices make them unable to get away from their jobs and come here for our executive (MBA) program,” Tapley said. “There are others who, because of where they live, don’t have any MBA program immediately available to them. And another group, such as engineers, would probably be delighted to go through a learning process like this because of its use of technology.”
Students will be able to “attend” class on their own schedule as part of the two-year program. They also will have opportunities to communicate with their professors and fellow students on the Internet using both video and audio.
The curriculum is designed to maximize the MBA educational experience while allowing the student to work almost exclusively from the home or office, Tapley said. Students are required to meet in Gainesville just once every term to take finals and participate in case studies, unlike other nonresident MBA programs, which may require more than twice the number of campus visits.
“The (University of) Florida business school is in the first wave of this initiative of putting MBA degree programs online,” said Charles Hickman, director of projects and services for AACSB. “Clearly, this provides access to types of students that may not have had the opportunity to participate in an MBA program before, particularly from a prominent school. And certainly schools throughout management education will be watching this experiment closely. If it succeeds, it’s one that will be duplicated or built upon by others.”
The decision to offer a master’s degree online is a natural one that reflects the realities of preparing students for business careers in today’s information age, Tapley said.
“The business world is a changing place in our society as well as globally, and if we do not prepare students to understand how business is done, we fail in our educational mission to the people in the state of Florida,” he said.
A special feature of UF’s version is that in the middle of the master’s program, students and faculty will travel as a group to a foreign country for an intensive class designed to acquaint them with business practices in another culture, Tapley said.
A joint program by UF and the Universite Toulouse in Toulouse, France, where the Airbus jetliner is produced, for example, will directly expose students to the issue of business globalization by introducing them to an international manufacturing giant, he said.
“The opportunity for close association with other students also creates a camaraderie that we think our students will enjoy, rather than simply completing a two-year program over the computer and never getting to meet their classmates,” Tapley said.
Another advantage of earning a master’s degree in business administration over the Internet is that prospective business students learn using the same technology they will use running their own businesses, he said.
Although the introduction of mainframe computers to university campuses more than a quarter-century ago transformed research, little change has occurred in teaching, Tapley said.
“That is beginning to change, to the extent that we can’t begin to imagine what teaching will be like 100 years from now,” he said. “This is not the same society that I grew up in, and if we don’t recognize that fact we’re going to be in trouble.”
- Cathy Keen