Is engagement the answer to the challenges of online education?
Amy Lavin and Munir Mandviwalla
In 2017, the trend to offer degreed online programs and courses continues to increase. The trend will likely continue because online programs offer convenience, flexibility, accessibility, lower cost and access to a broader range of topics regardless of location. Moreover, there is now an institutional imperative to jump into the online space, given lowered barriers to entry, ability to reach a broader market and the opportunity to generate income in the face of dwindling state and local support. Yet, there are many challenges. Will students have the focus, motivation, perseverance and self-discipline to succeed? How will institutions meet standards for recruitment quality, retention, student success and accreditation? In this paper, we outline a new approach to online education, an approach centered on high engagement as the driver for student and institutional success. This is in contrast to the traditional approach that is typically based on the automation of existing structures to increase scale and reach. Specifically, we seek to answer the question: Can high engagement enabled by digital innovation in an online degree program generate superior outcomes for both students and institutions? We explore the above question in the context of a specific case: In 2014, Temple University launched the 100% online Master of Science — Digital Innovation in Marketing (MS DIM) program to provide the skills required of today’s digital marketer — a mix of marketing, technology and communications. The development of the MS DIM serves as the backdrop for the ideas presented in this paper