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Thought Leaders in Online Education: Kurt Kirstein, Dean of School of Management, City University of Seattle (Part 2)

Posted on Friday, Jun 13th 2014

Kurt Kirstein: They’re looking to finish a degree or looking for career advancement. That’s the primary market that we serve. In that sense, we don’t serve freshmen. We don’t have freshmen that come in in droves every Fall. We serve people who are working and have decided that they have enough time and it’s a good time in their lives to try to advance their careers or maybe change careers. They come to us to seek those additional skills. What is different about the way we service our students, when compared to a traditional university, is that we focus heavily on a practitioner faculty model.

Our faculty have graduate degrees and a certain percentage who have doctorate degrees. We also seek primarily faculty members who are working in the field that they’re teaching in so that they can bring the latest trends and real expertise directly to the students that they’re serving. We also like to say that because our education is so practically focused, a student who goes to class on Tuesday night will be able to use what he/she learned at work on Wednesday. We are focused on making sure that we bring the working world as much as possible into the classroom and yet at the same time it’s critical for us to prepare students with a broader perspective of what a working world is like because when that working world changes or evolves, we want them to be prepared to move along with that evolution.

Sramana Mitra: Now please tie this together for me in the context of online education.

Kurt Kirstein: We were one of the first to start providing online education. We started providing online education because one of the mandates of City University is to revise students’ educational access especially for students that don’t have any other option. Online education was a good way to push that agenda forward. We started with our business programs. Then, of course, a logical extension of that was technology. So business and technology had been offered online for quite a while.

We started primarily in the US. The US has a much more progressive attitude towards online education than some of the other regions in the world. It’s only been in the last couple of years that we’ve really seen online education take off, even in places like Europe. We still struggle with places like Asia. Online education is not perceived as being as legitimate as face-to-face education. We started with our business programs and our technology programs. We offer all of our programs either face-to-face or online. That is the goal because we want students to be able to choose their modality.

Along the line, we started offering programs that were hybrid where a student may come to class one week and may do their online work the next week. The students appreciate that because they don’t have to come to class for 10 weeks in a row. They just come to class for five weeks and they can do all of their other stuff online. For even the face-to-face students, we give them a taste of what it is like to work in an online environment. We let them vote with their feet. To a certain extent, a lot of students will migrate to online, exclusively by their own choice. Every Fall, we see a new group of students that come in and we’ll have pretty packed face-to-face classes in our business programs. By Spring, 60% of our students will have chosen to do their programs exclusively online.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Thought Leaders in Online Education: Kurt Kirstein, Dean of School of Management, City University of Seattle
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