Get an MBA in your pajamas

By Karen Black

Ernest Jewell, instructor in the California State University Dominguez Hills Televised MBA program, told of a student in the interactive program who called immediately after one of the weekly three-hour classes. He answered the question relating to the coursework she asked, then asked her why she hadn't called during the class. She answered "I couldn't. I was in my pajamas."

Another sleepy student , having set her TV to tape the Saturday morning MBA class, told Jewell that her toddler daughter made her get up to watch anyway. "She told me 'You have to get up, Mommy, Ernest is on TV!'"

Not every Mediated Distance Learning student is a sleepyhead. "Virtually every hour of the day, students are participating in our classes." Said Scott MacKay, Director of the MSQA Internet degree, the first fully-accredited online masters degree offered on the West Coast. MacKay also supervises two new

Online Programs: The Production & Inventory Control and Purchasing Certificate programs have joined the roster of certificate programs and degrees online from CSU Dominguez Hills. "Now students from companies worldwide can participate in a learning community any hour of the day to enhance their skills and prepare for certificate testing in their areas of expertise."

One of the most popular programs is the MBA, offered over TV, and broadcast from specially equipped classrooms on campus in Carson. This program has enabled hundreds of full-time employees to enhance their career and skills in management. Although some courses require students to come on campus for a

final examination, all the classes may be taken over TV. Students have an 800 number they can use to call in and speak to the instructor during the broadcast. The classes can be seen on a variety of television systems: All the TV courses can be seen on Pacific Bell Digital TV and at appropriately equipped sites in Northern California.

Andrew Smith, CPA, is an instructor of Finance in the MBA Program. "I'm excited because I can reach many more students than I could in a traditional classroom format. And I'm happy for the students because it's so convenient -- they can tape the class if they don't plan to be at home when it is broadcast, and email me at any time. That's one of the drawbacks, answering 200 emails a week, but it makes me realize how actively my students are involved in the material, and I enjoy the dialogues we create."

MBA students echo Smith's enthusiasm: "I think it's the way of the future," said Johan Van Nimwegen, aged 55, a returning student who recommends the program to others who have ever considered going back to school after a long hiatus. "You're not sitting in class with people half your age there's no generation

gap, yet there's a lot of camaraderie when you're assigned a chat room with other students." Van Nimwegen also appreciates the guest speakers, leaders in business and industry who are often guest speakers. Their hands-on experience illuminates the coursework with authenticity.

"There's a danger in this program," said Van Nimwagen don't confuse convenience of access with ease of material,if you're not self-disciplined, this is probably not the program for you. You have a responsibility to complete the assignments and keep up with the reading, or the class will pass you by!"

Tanja Pierce, Financial Manager of the Editorial Division of the Press Telegram, has approached the MBA program from a different perspective. She has taken 40% of the MBA classes sitting in the classroom on campus from which the program is televised. She's been appreciative of the various formats of the classes, which she believes cater to "working people with a family and job to juggle." She also has taken advantage of obtaining a tape of a class she has missed--a feature that many students of the program love, especially those who go out of town on business.

The MA in Behavioral Science: Negotiation and Conflict Management is the oldest program offered on TV from CSU Dominguez Hills. More than 200 schools, police departments, fire departments and businesses receive sites for the Digital TV signal by which this program is delivered. Residents of Los Angeles and Orange counties can subscribe to Pacific Bell Digital TV to "put a university in their living room." The Behavioral Science degree program has been extremely valuable to those in police work, counseling, human resource management, labor relations and administration.

Dr. David Churchman, who developed the program from his on-campus curricula, has taught this program for seven years on campus. His experience with distance learning, however, goes back twenty years as a professor in the Humanities External Degree, a correspondence degree in Humanities, a program successful worldwide for over two decades. And soon, says Churchman, the MA in Behavioral Science: Negotiation and Conflict Management will also go online. "There is new technology to convert our TV broadcast for delivery to home computers. If you have a home computer with Internet access, anywhere in the world, your computer screen becomes a TV with our program on it" says Churchman.

He envisions students tuning in within every time zone, learning how to apply negotiation and conflict resolution strategies to their professions and situations. "This program lends itself to such diverse areas

as international trade, the military, any organization involved in buying and selling; and even to such areas as estate inheritance issues." Certainly anyone interested in doing business in the United States would be interested in this degree, but Churchman plans on altering the program to appeal to Asian,

African, Eastern and Western European cultures.

As a "senior" distance faculty member, Churchman contemplated the plusses and minuses of distance learning and teaching: "You do lose the 'personal' contact of classroom teaching to a certain extent. But what you gain in presentation possibilities are immense. If I were to present movies, slides,

audio tapes and videotapes in my traditional classroom, I'd need a truck to get everything there and time to set it all up, and switch equipment and lights off and on during the class. But in our broadcasts, I'm able to make the material come alive seamlessly by doing more preparation and coordination with the

control room, so that when I'm speaking to the class, slides are being shown behind me, tapes are cued up and shown. The student absorbs the material much more readily without any starts or stops."

Do the students learn as well over TV as in the classroom? Churchman says studies have shown the two learning experiences to be equally good. Plus, he says, the capabilities of reaching wider and more remote audiences,rural teachers, doctors, prisoners, forest rangers and military unable to remain in a traditional university program long enough to complete a degree--are almost limitless.

Students of the program concur. Delois Carter-Leonard, a private consultant who retired after 30 years service with GTE has praised the program for its solid business applications. "When I first began the program, I was amazed how it related directly to experiences I had had supervising up to 500 people. I

was also surprised how much I learned about different behaviors in different professions, such as law enforcement. I would recommend it to anyone with some business experience, and the "tactical salary strategies" included in the program have worked extremely well for me. I believe this program has given me a competitive edge, professionally and personally."

Other programs offered on TV include the BA in Interdisciplinary Studies, the Certificate in Production and Inventory Control, Teacher Education courses, and courses for High School seniors. The BA degree program in Interdisciplinary studies opens the door for adult working students to earn a bachelors degree in a reasonable period of time while they maintain a full-time job. Televised Teacher Education courses allow teachers to complete their credentials by taking courses at or near their homes. The High School Program, for which students pay a nominal fee, enables young students to take college courses

before they even graduate from high school.

Ernest Jewell, the MBA instructor whose students rarely concern themselves with a class dress code, stated the further joys of earning a degree or certificate by means of distance learning: "No traffic, no fuel, no babysitter, and no parking."

Karen Black is with California State University, Dominguez Hills Center for Mediated Instruction and Distance Learning.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.