Anytime/anywhere learning

a graduate's perspective

 
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by Karl N.Schul

IN MY PROFESSIONAL ENVIRONMENT, I live in taxis, planes, rental cars, hotel rooms, and client conference rooms. As a practicing professional project manager, I find myself traveling from city to city or even to another country at a moment's notice.

Globalization and the breakthroughs in the provisioning of even greater communications capabilities—cellular, wired, two-way radio, the Internet—make the world and the activities that we do seem smaller and more commonplace. This may seem rather mundane to many of you in our profession.

However, add the demands of your job and profession with the additional and incremental workload of a master's degree program. In our professional positions most of us cannot afford the time to attend classes in a normal graduate classroom program setting. My pursuit of knowledge and my passion for the profession of project management drove me to look beyond the traditional modes of educational delivery.

As the Internet expands our horizons from a business-to-business and e-commerce viewpoint, it also has a major impact on educational approaches for institutions of higher learning.

Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C., offers a master's degree program in project management under the leadership of a well-known teaching team in the project management profession, John R. Adams, Ph.D., and Mary Anne Nixon, J.D., PMP. I was excited to find that I could pursue my goal of a graduate degree in my profession on my terms, when I had the time, and wherever I happened to be, while remaining under the mentorship and direction of two experts in the field of project management. The master's degree program in project management has been a wonderful experience for me from many perspectives.

The students—in groups called cohorts—interact, communicate, and work together without face-to-face contact as project teams to accomplish our assignments and learning processes. As with most graduate programs, the professors coach the team, but the team does the work using a variety of communication technologies. Those in the program are highly motivated, competent, and flexible.

Each cohort consists of individuals with busy professional and personal lives. Therefore, this program allows the cohort the flexibility to work with one another whenever and wherever the availability exists. The team works together in a very nontraditional manner: we work on our assignments through the Internet, with chat rooms, e-meetings, web conference calls, e-mail, forums, and telephone calls.

All of these communication paths have become part of our tool kit—our class-room—to accomplish our goal. With Internet access, location is no problem. You and your team, based upon everyone's availability and schedule, determine the time spent on assignments and class work. We operate today in the real world of tomorrow. What a great way of learning—learning by doing.

Flexibility, challenge, the pursuit of ongoing knowledge and skills enhancements—does this sound appealing to you? If so, maybe you should consider this great alternative to higher education learning.

THE ULTIMATE GOAL of any education process is the application of knowledge and skills acquired through the learning process. On 11 August 2000, I completed the master's program in project management at Western Carolina University, never having set foot on the campus for actual class-required work. And I can say without hesitation that the project management coursework I completed applies directly to what I do for a living. If you ask whether I would do it over again, the answer is, “You bet!” It was a terrific two-plus years of educational experiences. ■

Reader Service Number 201

Karl N. Schul is the regional project executive for Integrated Technology Services, IBM Global Services in the Americas. He currently leads a large engagement with a large multinational United States-based bank, while retaining regional project delivery responsibilities for projects within the southeastern United States. He also is involved with Rotary International, church, and other civic organizations

October 2000 PM Network

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