Is FGCU Moving Away From Distance Learning?

It’s been 3 years since I started my MBA program at FGCU. I’ve changed a bit since then; and it seems that my school as changed as well. In fact, I have that odd feeling that you get sort of when you are in a relationship and things turn out not to be exactly as you have envisioned them.

To be fair, my sour feelings are not fully the fault of my school. I had planned to be all done in 2011. However I ended up dropping a few classes when it became apparent that I just wasn’t catching onto the material. In each case with re-taking the course and putting the time in, I would do fine. But it has still delayed the receipt of my degree by a year.

It’s no secret that I’m earning my MBA via distance learning. I’ve always been a strong supporter of online degree programs; having finished up my undergraduate degree online and also having had worked for an online program at a college for a few years. So I enrolled at FGCU with high hopes and a positive outlook. As time has gone on though, I’ve grown towards ambivalence and now I just want my degree. Partly due to the fact that while the online course offerings are sufficient enough to earn your degree, you don’t have the full range of MBA concentration options available to you. Also this is little support in regards of organizations or a sense of community for the online MBA students at FGCU.

I have one more course to take (and pass) to finish my degree. Luckily for me, it’s available online in the Fall. However I am shocked that there are only a paltry 6 online MBA courses being offered in the Fall; all of them being foundation and core courses (yes, I put off one of my core courses until now). This means that for new MBA students, you are not able to take your electives online. It is disheartening to see the online course offerings decrease instead of increase from 2009 until now. And in a salient way, have distance learning at FGCU lose support.

Of course, the administration will not just come right out and say this. I tried to go online and find some statements as to this effect. I wasn’t successful. But I did find this (published on the website of the University of California – San Diego – emphasis mine):

The Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) , the new tenth campus of the state higher education system, was advertised as the “university of the future,” “built as a testing-ground for Internet-based instruction,” where faculty are hired on short-term contracts without a tenure system. In recent months the FGCU faculty and their union the United Faculty of Florida have begun openly to question the pedagogical value of online education, protest against the increased workload entailed in distance learning – a major complaint everywhere, resist the university’s attempt to appropriate their intellectual property, and lobby for a standard tenure system rather than have to reapply for their jobs every two years.

In an administration survey, more than half of the faculty – who were hired on the understanding that the new campus would specialize in distance education – opposed increasing the proportion of distance-learning classes from 16 to 25 percent of classes. “Some professors say they remain unconvinced of the method’s effectiveness,” the Wall Street Journal reported in July. The questionable economic viability of existing distance education classes has also been an issue.

“Some observers say significant savings can be achieved only if the size of distance-learning classes increases,” the newspaper reported, but enlarging the classes only undermines the pedagogical promise even more. Intellectual property issues are at the center of faculty concerns. Faculty became especially alarmed when the Dean of Instructional Technology Kathleen Davie was quoted in a Chronicle of Higher Education article saying that, with regard to faculty course materials “the first rights belong to the university.” A new draft policy on intellectual property, formulated without faculty involvement by Davie and her associates, is explicit on this point: “IP developed by FGCU employees (faculty, staff, and students) under university sponsorship or with university support shall belong to the university. University sponsorship or support means the work is conceived or reduced to practice: as a result of the employee’s duties; through the use of University resources, such as facilities or equipment; or with university funds, or funds under the control of or administered by the university.” In a response to a faculty member’s query about this, Dean Davie summed up the university position: “For the most part, the university holds the copyrights for instructional materials created as part of one’s compensated workload.”

The creator of one course has already complained about the university’s efforts to seek outside sponsorship without his permission. Chuck Lindsay, the president of the FGCU Faculty Senate, noted in a letter to the Chronicle of Higher Education that the faculty had not been involved in the formulation of the policy and emphasized that “we do not subscribe to the notion that online course materials are, as such, a product of work for hire. . . .We hold that any policy that attempts to lay down across-the- board levels of ownership and revenue sharing for new online course materials reflects a perspective that ascribes an inferior status to original instructional creations and a work for hire mentality; both are contrary to the mission and guiding principles of FGCU.

Whoa; I’m sorry but as a student, this is very disheartening to read. I’m not saying that the faculty’s complaints are not valid. But to think that online learning is being dredged down over bureaucratic squabbles is just an assault on service to the students and their education. Who’s to say if this has anything to do with the decreased availability of online courses or not? But these sentiments surely do not seem to support the idea of distance learning at FGCU. I look forward to jumping ship soon before the whole thing comes crashing down! 🙁