It’s common knowledge by now that in March 2020, online programs and courses rapidly evolved from a growing subset of the higher education landscape to an absolute necessity. The Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University was not caught off guard by this sudden shift. Rather, we had spent years honing an intuitive, innovative system designed to meet the specific needs of the working professionals who enroll in our Online MBA, MS in Finance and Analytics, and MS in Marketing programs.
But how exactly have we managed to craft a truly dynamic online experience and avoid the pitfalls encountered by institutions who hastily adopted remote meeting software like Zoom? The short answer is, by understanding deeply that virtual learning spaces are made up of real people. But the full story is a bit more sophisticated than that.
Read on for five insights into the way online classes work at SCU and learn what makes us stand out from the crowd.
Here When You Need Us: Faculty Presence in SCU Online Classes
A common, long-standing fear about online education is that the student-faculty relationship will be impersonal at best, nonexistent at worst. Prospective students apprehensive about studying often imagine impersonal document dumps, poorly recorded video lectures, and a general inability to secure individual attention from inattentive faculty.
However, the opposite end of the digital delivery spectrum has recently been called out. Students and faculty alike, cast unprepared into Zoom lectures, have been overwhelmed by the energy required to stay focused and synthesize material, and group discussions conducted through the technology have often proved chaotic or deadening.1 While these concerns have largely been observed in primary and secondary education, the issue at their heart transcends educational level: Hour-plus videoconferences are simply awkward, exhausting, and insufficient avenues for successfully providing an education.
At SCU, we empower our standout business faculty to use the technological tools at their disposal—but more importantly, the ones with which individual students are comfortable—to make direct connections. This can include holding virtual office hours, tactically deploying videoconferencing technology for small group discussions, providing audio or video feedback for student assignments that can be accessed and digested when your schedule allows, and serving as a monitoring or mediating presence in ongoing forum discussions. The relationships you’ll build with our faculty of innovators and business veterans is at the heart of our promise to deliver the best of Silicon Valley to you: the people who make it possible.
Making the Virtual Real: Authentic Activities
Another challenge online programs must overcome is the seeming disconnect between their virtual setting and the real business world their students must learn to work and thrive in. Course activities and assignments at SCU emphasize authenticity and real-world applicability to ensure our graduates not only acquire a relevant skill set, but know how to deploy it effectively in the workplace.
Courses in all three of our online master’s degree programs teach skills specifically vital for success in innovative environments like those found in Silicon Valley. But our students don’t simply master these skills in isolation from one another; through case studies rooted in real life situations and data, they learn to use multiple skills in concert with one another toward the solution of the kind of complex business problems they face every day in their careers. You will graduate from an online program at SCU fluent in the knowledge, technology, and strategy that defines your field and confident in your ability to make strong leadership decisions.
Coursework With Clarity: Progress Tracking Dashboards
With the knowledge that the majority of our online graduate students are working professionals, we strive to make keeping up with coursework and charting progress across the program as intuitive and clear as possible. Each of our online programs is delivered through a convenient, easy-to-use learning management system (LMS) that collects all of your assignments, readings, lectures, and discussions in one convenient interface.
The Silicon Valley Professional dashboard at the core of our Online MBA program exemplifies our commitment to transparency and visibility. It features a variety of visualizations and gamified mechanisms such as badges awarded for reaching competency-based course milestones and a graphic representation of key domains of expertise for Silicon Valley leaders that changes in appearance as students further master each one. Through our attention to the quality of the interactive digital interface in which you’ll work every day in our online programs, we enable you to keep your goals squarely in sight and monitor your progress toward them.
Bringing it All Together: Building Online Communities
While the clearest difference between our previous patterns of work and education and our new normal is an increase in physical distance, this absolutely does not mean your online graduate education must be an isolating experience. The diverse experiences, backgrounds, and frames of reference our students and faculty bring to each of our courses are some of the most powerful assets you’ll take away from your graduate education at SCU, and our online experience has been designed to convey them directly to you.
The Online MBA, MS in Finance and Analytics, and MS in Marketing programs at Leavey all emphasize collaboration and community through ongoing discussion boards throughout each course, group assignments, and real-time chats. These features allow you and your classmates to lean on each others’ strengths and perspectives to advance your mastery of subject matter. And beyond positioning you to succeed in your online classes, they also help strengthen the bonds between you and help you build the stellar Silicon Valley professional network for which SCU is known.
Open to Everyone: An Emphasis on Accessibility
At SCU, we are committed to creating online educational programs that are fully accessible to all users. We believe digital delivery does not produce roadblocks to accessible learning, but rather creates a unique opportunity to embrace evolving technologies and ensure all of our students are positioned to succeed.
We adhere staunchly to best practices in digital design set by organizations like WebAIM2 and the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative3 for enabling accessibility across each of our program websites and online courses. These include standards for color contrast, font size, descriptive image alt-text for screen readers to read for vision impaired users, consistencies in HTML tagging to ensure all page content is read in the correct order by screen readers, and other details essential for creating an accessible learning environment. Our digital doors at SCU are and will always remain open to everyone.
Embrace a Clear Leader in Online Education at SCU
As online programs rapidly emerge across the higher education landscape in response to the evolving challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, SCU and the Leavey School of Business stand out from the crowd. Our Online MBA, MS in Finance and Analytics, and MS in Marketing programs are thoughtfully crafted and seamlessly delivered to provide an online learning experience that is definitely not just “any old Zoom course.”
Explore our online offerings today and see how you can enjoy our Silicon Valley advantage from anywhere in the world.
1. Retrieved on November 9, 2020, from fastcompany.com/90542917/zoom-is-failing-teachers-heres-how-they-would-redesign-it
2. Retrieved on November 9, 2020, from webaim.org/intro/
3. Retrieved on November 9, 2020, from w3.org/WAI/fundamentals/accessibility-intro/