Online Education — Implications for Higher Education in Emergency Management

Online education and Financial Aid

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This is a continuation of the discussion I started two days ago about the declining state of higher education in emergency management. One contributor, but not the only one, is the aggressive marketing of the for-profit, online educational institutions. This posting adds some details about that community.

Clearly the state of higher education in EM is a “hot button” for a lot of people —  I got more comments on the last posting than on any other topic to date.

Online Education (a $34B dollar operation) is definitely a phenomenon to be acknowledged, both as a market force and as a fast-growing component of our higher education system. And it surely has both positive and negative implications for those of us concerned with Higher Education in Emergency Management. This “infographic,” which was produced by the online education industry’s national association, provides some interesting numbers. This interest group is capable of some slick and powerful publicity/lobbying efforts.

Here is an example of a recent pitch: How Online Education Is Changing the Way We Learn.

Note their claim that by 2019 about 50% of all classes will be taught online.

Personally, I am quite worried about the trend.  After all, our doctors and lawyers are not being trained online — at least yet.  Do we really want emergency managers, who may have to make  critical decisions, to be trained remotely?  The essential question is:  do we consider emergency management a profession or a trade?

Also, many of those who like the online learning mode are clearly deficient in writing skills.  Just take a look at some of the comments that follow the article cited above and it’s quite  clear that the short comments are riddled with basic grammatical errors. I can only imagine what a full-length paper would look like.  Sadly, many students do not know what they do not know.

Finally, I want to give a plea for renewed emphasis on the essential skills of critical thinking and effective writing.  This is addressed to both classroom and distance instructors.

7 thoughts on “Online Education — Implications for Higher Education in Emergency Management

  1. I read the blog posted by Claire but I must say that I do not totally agree with her assessment of online education. There is no doubt that the world is changing and online education is the future. Colleges and universities can either change with the world or be changed by the world. America is shifting to a very mobile society and education should shift with it. Personally, I believe that online education should be an extension of the brick and mortar school instead of totally replacing it. We need an educated workforce and if online courses are the way to do it then we need to embrace the movement instead of trying to stop it. Moreover, who cares if the school is private or public? Private colleges and universities have been a way of life since our nation was founded. Why are we focusing on private v. public now? Who cares if my blog posting or response includes incorrect grammar? It is a blog response and not a research project. Should we demonstrate our ability to write and research correctly? Sure. Are we making PhDs, and DBAs, etc, etc with paper on the wall and no real experience in disasters except for what they experience in their mind? Heck yea we are. This is exactly one reason we see new and strange terminology hitting the blogs, the textbooks, the emails, and on disaster scenes. Maybe we should focus on providing real disaster education and experience instead of worrying about public, private, online or bricks and mortar. I also teach DHS courses as well as law enforcement, fire, and EMS.

    My AAS, BS, and MS are all from a state school and I have more certifications than I can count. My university developed the first accredited disaster education program in the nation as well as internationally, founded by Kay Goss, James Lee Witt, and William Jefferson Clinton, among others. However, my PhD program is from a private school. Did I pay more? Yep. Did I get less education? Nope. Have I worked hard to earn a doctorate? No doubt about it. Why the assumption that private schools don’t care about grammar and writing ability? It sounds if you may be misinformed. Does it happen? Heck yea, it does. Does it happen in public programs? Yea, it does. Private education does not translate in a diploma mill. Online education does not translate in to a bad education. The student should research the program and then decide for themselves. Should we have some oversight? Sure but oversight should not be just from the FEMA higher ed folks. In my opinion, some of those guys are living in another world and just do not get it. It is funny to look at the some of the crap those guys push out. Please, stop casting stones, work for some type of oversight, listen to American students, and let’s move on. The world is changing and those of us over 40 must accept it. Online education is the future but I totally agree with Claire that we need to be cautious.

    Thanks for listening to me. Please note that all comments are my own and do not represent ACH, ATU, or anyone else.

    Doug Brown, MS, CHEP, NREMT
    Emergency Management Coordinator
    Arkansas Children’s Hospital
    O: 501-364-2271 C: 501-680-3950
    A NWS StormReady Hospital

    Professor (Adjunct) of Emergency Management & Homeland Security
    Arkansas Tech University

    • Speaking for myself, when I see any comments or communications – email, conversation, or TV anchor – that do not honor the English language with correct grammar and syntax, I lower my opinion of the person speaking. Having spent a lifetime with my mother and teachers teaching me correct English and grammar, I hold that expectation for others.

      These days the number of degrees seem to have replaced the quality. I know several high school grads who are very smart people and have educated themselves, quite successfully.
      That is a rare occurrence these days, however.

      The mode of education is less important than the quality of the teachers. But, if high school and college have failed the student, as seems to be the case in many instances, then grad school is
      not the right time to be teaching/correcting writing and thinking skills. Sadly, that is the plight we see for many of the Higher Ed programs in EM. I cannot generalize to other fields of endeavor

  2. Good Evening Claire:

    I have so much respect for you Claire, in my book your certainly one of the true “Pioneers in Emergency Management”. You are well educated, write and communicate well, and have your finger on the pulse of Emergency Management.
    This post is interesting; I both agree and disagree with your analysis on this one Claire.
    I can understand your concern with the 50% statistic for future online versus, classroom based instruction (brick and mortar). However, here is where I disagree. You mention a correlation between poor quality writing skills and online learning. I challenge that and say, that I believe poor writing is an end result of accountability in higher education (I’m ok, you’re ok, were all ok). Where once professors held students to a higher standard, I believe that in many cases the standard has been relaxed whether one is an “online” student or a classroom based instruction “brick and mortar student”.
    I am certainly a proponent of critical thinking skills in emergency management; I believe more critical analysis and writing would be a good thing. However, I don’t believe that “online” collegiate education is inferior to classroom based instruction. I certainly do concede that there are benefits of classroom based instruction which do not present in an online format. I struggled with statistics in online format, yet found math based courses much easier in classroom based instruction format than online.
    The social interaction (interactive) of a classroom based instruction is certainly a benefit, and a more timely response from a professor is an asset. However, I don’t believe classroom based instruction offers better writing opportunities than does online education. And online education helps to facilitate self-directed independent adult learners, time management skills. And either method classroom based instruction as well as online can facilitate practical experience (an internship).
    I currently attend graduate school at Thomas Edison State College and I am a CEM Commissioner. I don’t believe that classroom based instruction in a brick and mortar facility would have made me any better of an emergency management student. I also mentor Associate Degree level Emergency Management Students for Frederick Community College. I believe that education in any format is dependent upon a student’s commitment and willingness to learn and participate, and the faculty mentor’s commitment to accountability and excellence. The faculty mentor needs to be involved, and stimulate the learning process with the critical thinking you mention.
    As for the writing skills of online students being diminished compared to brick and mortar students, I know a graduate of an ivy league college who cannot write complete sentences and got A’s throughout his collegiate experience. To this day, his wife writes his papers and work for him.
    I’m usually with you all the way Claire, but this time I hold a different opinion than you mention.
    Brian

    • Thanks for writing, and you make some good points. I agree that an emphasis on good writing is something that all profs, in all modes of teaching, should foster. And there are some advantages to online learning. I value other opinions and experiences, and do not expect everyone to agree with me.

      Yet, I remain concerned about the deterioration in teaching and learning experiences in EM, the field I know best.

  3. I know of no profit making higher ed program that receives National Science Foundation grants or other federal Research and Development funding, because those institutions do NOT conduct research other than the writings of their staff and students. That lack of capability or desire makes these institutions suspect as full participants in Higher Ed.

  4. I have a BA from a state university and attended classes in the traditional fashion- sitting in class- more than 20 years ago. When I was looking for a masters program with a DEM focus in early 2006, I was not impressed with the DEM programs from “for-profit” programs but instead chose Park University in Kansas City, MO who had been in existence since 1875, the School of Public Affairs since 1936, and the DEM concentration had been online since 2002. My program featured instructors who were EM practitioners were past Presidents of IAEM and a CEM Commissioner. As an EM practitioner, I appreciated the “academic” context to my daily EM work. What I would like to see that DEM higher ed programs become more aligned with the AEM and CEM programs. I think that higher ed and IAEM need stronger ties to form the career path. I got my CEM in large part to the masters degree I received in 2008 coupled with my EM experience.

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