Project Management Education in Online Environments: A Study of Accredited Programs in the USA

Project Management Education in Online Environments: A Study of Accredited Programs in the USA

Stephen W. Volz (Colorado Technical University, College of Business and Management, Colorado Springs, CO, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJSITA.2016100104
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This exploratory case study included a mixed methods approach using both qualitative and quantitative methods to review project management education programs in online environments in the United States. Accredited education programs through the Project Management Institute's Global Accreditation Center formed the basis of the research. The focus of this study was on the project management content used by online colleges and universities to teach project management to students. The findings help to provide recommendations for project management education to improve its delivery to students.
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The increase in the availability of online education has enabled many students to obtain college credits through the Internet (Li & Irby, 2008; Osguthorpe & Graham, 2003). Schools such as the University of Phoenix, that offered online education through the Internet as early as 1991 (Kentnor, 2015), to the current number of colleges and universities are offering courses online. Although schools such as the University of Phoenix, Capella University, Walden University, and Kaplan University primarily offer online courses to students, traditional universities such as Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have begun to provide online instruction to students (Long, 2013).

Online education is becoming more accepted as many groups of students find they cannot attend traditional on-campus courses due to various factors, such as physical disabilities or the distance they must commute to an appropriate college. With many working adults going back to school to complete degrees, job demands may not allow these students to attend physical classrooms during regular college schedules. Working students in shift-work occupations, such as the police and fire services, the medical field, the military, and other round-the-clock type jobs, could not attend college courses that meet at specific times each week. Similarly, students who travel for work may find online courses more accessible while on the road. Ginder and Stearns (2014) estimated 25.8% of college students were enrolled in at least one distance education course, such as online offerings, in the fall of 2012. As more programs become available online, students who cannot attend traditional classroom environments will fill the virtual seats of college classrooms.

Project Management is a discipline related to the leading of temporary endeavors with defined objectives and set starting and ending times. Projects have been around since ancient times with the building of pyramids, bridges, coliseums, buildings, roads, aqueducts, and other structural marvels. Projects of the 20th century have included the Manhattan Project to build an atomic bomb and the project that sent astronauts to the moon (Lenfle & Loch, 2010; Seymour & Hussein, 2014). Projects can be found in nearly all types of organizations. This increased popularity in the project management discipline has led to more project management programs in the educational arena.

The discipline of project management as an academic area within college programs is fairly new. The number of colleges and universities teaching project management courses has increased as the popularity of the project management profession grows. Twenty-four universities in the United States have accredited project management degree programs through the Project Management Institute’s Global Accreditation Center (Project Management Institute, 2016b). Collectively, these schools offer combinations of bachelor’s, postgraduate (master’s), and doctoral level programs in project management. According to Peterson’s (2016), 281 online colleges offer degrees in project management.

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