Hear From Expert Prof. Robert Hogan

Borderless Online Degrees: An Answer to Pandemics, Population, and Poverty

By Brittany Haynes on May 20, 2020
HoganProf. Robert Hogan (Florence-Darlington Technical College, USA and the University of the South Pacific, Fiji)

Educational institutions are struggling with higher operating costs, reduced funding, and greater competition in their national service areas. At the same time, other nations are unable to train all the skilled workers needed to grow their economies. Borderless online degrees can be a solution because they are profitable to deliver and more affordable for students compared to on-campus programs. However, online courses must be as good as on-campus courses in order to be accepted. There are many challenges, but there are even more opportunities for students, educational institutions, governments, and industries. To better understand the challenges, opportunities, and solutions, Prof. Robert Hogan, from Florence-Darlington Technical College, USA and the University of the South Pacific, Fiji shares the latest research on this topic in his book Global Demand for Borderless Online Degrees.

What inspired you to pursue research activities in online education?

In the 1990s, I created my college’s Online College. I also received a grant to partner with American and European colleges to deliver international online courses. In those early days, I was naively confident that a mix of live video classes and asynchronous activities would also work well with international students. I was wrong. Differences in culture, learning styles, and academic goals created unexpected challenges. That was the moment I decided to devote my research to global learning. When it was time to take the next step, I accepted a teaching position at the University of Fiji because it has campuses in ten (10) island nations. It offered a rare opportunity to teach international students face to face and online. At first, I taught face-to-face by traveling to the various nations to teach because the online technology was not yet available. The face-to-face teaching alerted me to the impact of culture, language, and learning styles on student success in online courses. When I was able to develop and deliver multi-country online courses throughout the South Pacific, I used new approaches to create more active online classrooms designed to engage students and develope relationships. These were the first online courses for most of the countries and the students. My teaching colleagues were convinced I was wasting my time because online was not the Pacific Way. Fortunately, the students disagreed.

Why are your respective areas of research important to the field at large?

After a quarter century of online learning, the debate continues: “Is online learning is as effective as on-campus classes?” Today, nations are shaken by pandemics, population growth, and poverty that limit access to education. Borderless online degrees, not more campuses, are the solution. Campus education is becoming a luxury that many students can no longer afford. At the same time, nations do not have a choice. They must educate more of their population to maintain healthy economies. Countries unable to do this have already experienced mass emigrations in search of better jobs.

In your opinion, what are some of the benefits of your research to its community of users?

Nations unable to provide numbers of skilled workers will have the ability the enroll students in borderless online degrees. Students benefit by qualifying for careers. Local universities benefit because they earn income by providing academic support to the degree provider. Quality borderless online degrees are a win-win. Borderless online degrees have another benefit. Students and teachers can experience international education at home.

How are population growth, the needs of industry, and the COVID-19 pandemic affecting education and how online education is being utilized?

Nations overwhelmed by rapid population growth have been unable to grow strong economies because the countries cannot afford to train the workers. India for example, has a population of 1.3 billion people. It is not possible to provide the needed campuses. Africa has the same challenge. Borderless online degrees are a solution that can be implemented rapidly, but they can only be successful if the learning is equal in quality to on-campus learning.

This book was written for the international market. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has, in just a few months, demonstrated that institutions that do not offer online learning may go bankrupt. Universities do not yet know if students will return in the fall. Teachers and staff are worried about their jobs, IT is overwhelmed, and teachers need to be taught how to teach online. At the same time, face-to-face courses must be modified for online delivery. The pandemic has demonstrated that online learning will become a much larger part of education because students and teachers are wary of possible on-campus health risks.

What is the biggest challenge for professors as they navigate this transition to a fully online environment?

I am tone deaf, and therefore a terrible singer. Training will not solve my problem. Some teachers are tone-deaf to online learning. They will be terrible online instructors, even with training. Other teachers prefer face-to-face teaching. Neither group should be pressured to teach online. A better approach is to hire retired online teachers as adjuncts.

Another major challenge transitioning to fully online is class size. Small-enrollment upper level courses are easy, but large lecture courses take more planning to move online. Placing lectures online is a valuable approach. However, those large classes also need live sessions to develop analytical and social skills, and to maintain student interest. Many teachers will be unfamiliar with interactive online teaching techniques. However, the pandemic has already demonstrated how easily people have transitioned online.Online interactive pedagogy designed to improve analytical thinking and social skills is presented in the text. 

How have pre-existing online degrees evolved due to the current pandemic?

Pre-existing online degrees have been largely unaffected by the pandemic. Before the virus, I had live, online weekly mentoring sessions with my doctoral students. COVID-19 further convinced me and the students of the value of live, interactive online sessions. In fact, class members and teachers found that their concerns for each other strengthened relationships and reduced the sense of isolation during quarantine.

The pandemic has had the unexpected effect of stimulating awareness of the value of live online get togethers. As friends and families are connecting on Zoom and Skype, they find they love it. Teachers that never considered online learning are becoming comfortable with online meetings, and I now have video appointments with my doctor. We both find the online appointments a great alternative. This book explains how to use live video sessions in place of blended learning.

Which nations and types of institutions will have the largest international online markets?  

Higher education in countries with good internet access dominated the initial online market. In the United States, for-profit universities were the market leaders. Soon after, community colleges became strong contenders because of their low tuition. Public universities were next to offer online courses, partly because students were taking community college online courses to save money and to take courses that did not fit in their schedules. By 2010, non-profits began to drop, and public universities and community colleges became the new online leaders. Private universities were never market contenders because of their high tuition, selectivity, and preference to offer face-to-face teaching. The market leaders will again change in the borderless online market. Low tuition will be a major attraction for many students. Therefore, for-profits will be less attractive. Private universities will have a very small market share for the same reason. Public universities will continue to have significant market share because of their academic reputations, but they will be less attractive to many students because of the high tuition. The winners will be community and technical colleges because they have three selling advantages. First, the very low tuition is more affordable. Second, these colleges offer 6-month certificates and 12-month diplomas that qualify students for entry level jobs. In these shorter programs, which cost much less than a bachelor’s degree, the certificates and diplomas take less time, and students are more able to stay interested. Third, the community and technical colleges offer remedial courses that strengthen students’ math and English skills.

How can international institutions collaborate to strengthen online degrees during this turbulent time?

The borderless online degree market will only work through collaboration. Governments will need to approve the degrees and assist students with tuition. Local universities must see benefits for themselves or they will campaign against outside degrees. In fact, borderless online degrees will provide additional markets. Community college graduates will likely enroll in the local universities. Local, qualified faculty can be trained to be online teachers. That approach not only increases teachers’ wages but also gives them new online teaching skills that will  assist local universities to develop their online capacity more quickly. Another collaborative effort that will benefit both the provider and the receiving nation will be using local faculty to teach face-to-face labs and other activities. These approaches benefit students, faculty, institutions, and the government.

What are the future directions of your research areas? How do you think the current transition to online-only education will affect the future of the field of education?

When online learning first started, it was asynchronous. That was because the technology did not yet exist to do live classes on the internet. The future direction of online research, in my opinion, will be to demonstrate that online learning with both live online classes and asynchronous sessions are as effective as face-to-face classes. Two reasons why borderless online degrees are the future is because they offer scalability and are less expensive to deliver than on-campus courses. The coronavirus has already introduced the public to the benefits of live online instruction.

What has your experience been like publishing with IGI Global? 

I have published with IGI Global for more than a decade. The editors have been helpful, and IGI Global managers are accessible and concerned. The publisher does not charge publication fees or require using an editor if your writing is strong.  


This publication is currently available in electronic (EISBN: 9781522589136) and print (ISBN: 9781522589129) format through IGI Global’s Online Bookstore. To support customers in easily and affordably obtaining titles in electronic format during the COVID-19 pandemic, IGI Global is now offering an automatic 50% discount* on the electronic format of this publication as well as ALL e-books and e-journals ordered directly through IGI Global’s Online BookstoreAdditionally, enjoy a 20% discount on all other products and formats. This publication is also available across preferred providers such as GOBI Library Solutions, EBSCOHost, Oasis, and Ebook Central (Note: The automatic 50% discount is only available through IGI Global’s Online Bookstore), as well as IGI Global’s InfoSci-Books (5,900+ e-books) database.

Be sure to purchase or recommend this publication or the InfoSci-Books database to your library to have access to this critical content.

IGI Global would like to thank Prof. Robert Hogan for sharing his research on borderless online degrees and education, especially during this turbulent time. For more information about this research, view the publication here.

About Prof. Robert Hogan: Robert Hogan created the online college at Florence-Darlington Technical College where he also received a FIPSE grant to develop an online collaboration among four US and European colleges. He later implemented these international techniques at the University of the South Pacific where he developed borderless distance learning programs for 12 Pacific developing nations. He also received a World Health Organization grant to develop a transnational chemistry course. At the University of Fiji, he initiated an international doctoral program in Education. Most recently, Dr. Hogan pilot tested a fusion-learning pedagogy designed to reduce student isolation in online graduate programs. He is the author of the publication Global Demand for Borderless Online Degrees. Dr. Hogan received his B.A. and M.S. from New York University and his doctorate from the University of Central Florida.

For your reference, find below a sample of related titles surrounding online education, which are also featured in IGI Global’s InfoSci-Books database and are available for purchase in print and electronic format. Be sure to recommend these titles to your librarian, to ensure your institution can acquire the most emerging research.


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of IGI Global.

About IGI Global: Founded in 1988, IGI Global, an international academic publisher, is committed to producing the highest quality research (as an active full member of the Committee on Publication Ethics “COPE”) and ensuring the timely dissemination of innovative research findings through an expeditious and technologically advanced publishing processes. Through their commitment to supporting the research community ahead of profitability, and taking a chance on virtually untapped topic coverage, IGI Global has been able to collaborate with over 100,000+ researchers from some of the most prominent research institutions around the world to publish the most emerging, peer-reviewed research across 350+ topics in 11 subject areas including business, computer science, education, engineering, social sciences, and more. To learn more about IGI Global, click here.

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