Studying Professional Degrees via the Internet: Challenges, Issues, and Relevance from the Student’s Perspective

Studying Professional Degrees via the Internet: Challenges, Issues, and Relevance from the Student’s Perspective

Kirk P. H. Sullivan (Umeå University, Sweden)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4486-1.ch001
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This case places the student in focus and through a reflective case study considers four distance professional degree programs. The author of this case followed these programs as life-long learning professional activities. The case considers the nudge, the study, and degree completion. The reflection is structured around the themes of initial contact, communication, support, deadlines, work, and keeping going. These themes reveal challenges, issues, and questions of relevance for the student and university. Key skills to assist the student towards completion are suggested along with what the potential student should consider prior to enrolling in a professional degree program that is delivered via the Internet. The growth in distance professional degrees, including professional doctorates, demonstrates the importance of the challenges, issues, and questions of relevance considered in this case from the student’s perspective.
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Setting The Stage

Lindgren, Sullivan, Zhao, Deutschmann, and Steinvall (2011) wrote:

Lifelong learning and the importance of generic skills have gained a clearer position in higher education in Europe thanks to the Bologna Declaration (1999) in general and the Bergen Communiqué (2005) in particular as it “explicitly mentions the chance to further implement lifelong learning in higher education through qualification frameworks” (Jakobi & Rusconi, 2009: 52), and policy development in the European Union (see Dehmel, 2006 for a good overview of this policy development). What is worth mentioning here are the subtle changes in the definition of lifelong learning between 2000 and 2001 from “all purposeful learning activity, undertaken on an ongoing basis with the aim of improving knowledge, skills, and competence” (CEC, 2000, p. 3) to “all learning activity undertaken throughout life, with the aim of improving knowledge, skills and competences within a personal, civic and/or employment-related perspective” (CEC, 2001, p. 9). Dehmel highlights the removal of purposeful as informal learning with no specific purpose is a core element of lifelong learning, and the change from on an ongoing basis to throughout life that stresses continuous learning from the cradle to the end of life. Dehmel also points out a shift in the understanding of life-long learning from the 1970s to today; a shift from humanistic ideals of Bildung to “primarily utilitarian, economic objectives” (p. 52), even if these have been nuanced recently to combine the social and cultural with the economic (p. 188).

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