DISTANCE LEARNING AND BUSINESS EDUCATION
The idea is not to replace traditional programmes but to support them
By Asad Hameed
Executive Education and Development
Mar 18 - 24, 2002
The Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) has recently launched its Executive MBA programme to blend-in Distance Learning tools with the case-based learning in which the University excels. The need for an Executive MBA was apparent for sometime in Pakistan, as it provides mid-career managers to acquire new skills required to move to the top-level management. The LUMS Executive MBA structure has been developed to allow the managers to acquire these skills without career disruption.
Distance Learning will play an integral role in imparting the business education in the LUMS Executive MBA. A number of tools will be used to supplement traditional learning. These include, online interactive tutorials, supervised discussions through IRC, computer conferencing and project.
Distance Learning has become the focus of a great deal of attention in higher education especially in business education circles in the past few years. The increased need for a skilled workforce coupled with rapid changes in the business environment globally has forced organisations to look for business courses of short and medium duration delivered over the internet.
The term Distance Learning is often interchanged with Distance Education. However, this is not correct since institutions/instructors control educational delivery while the students or participants are responsible for learning. In other words, Distance Learning is the result of Distance Education. Before we clarify the need for Distance Learning in the context of Business Education, it is imperative to first define it.
Distance Learning is instructional delivery that does not constrain the students or participants to be physically present in the same location as the instructor. Historically, Distance Learning meant correspondence study. Today, audio, video and computer technologies are more common delivery modes.
There are a number of important factors that influence organisations to invest in their workforce so that they can acquire new skills and tools. Employees now need these tools faster and at different locations all over the globe.
First there is a need for organisations to explore new ways and means to complement traditional learning methods with more technology-driven methods. The idea is not to replace traditional programmes but to support them. Therefore, the need to develop strong and value-added partnerships with Universities has become very important for organisations.
Second, executives cannot afford to spend time on traditional residential programmes because of their heavy work commitments. Time has become a major constraint for managers and it is increasingly difficult to arrange programmes based on traditional models of learning. Third, the need for Universities to become more productive and efficient compels them to leverage their intellectual resources more effectively. This is especially true for developing countries such as Pakistan where the resource base is already thin.
Fourth, the changes in requirements has made the market for business education increasingly competitive as more and more executives are opting to hire coaches and consultants. The executives want the Business Schools to carry out more of a consultative/coaching role rather than a teaching role.
The Distance Learning provides an excellent alternative to meet the above-mentioned needs. It is not Distance Learning as we know it today, but real-time, on-line coaching before, during and after the course.