1 Do Online Ph.D. Programs Adequately Prepare Management Faculty to Help Future Managers Meet Their Learning and Development Needs? Katherine Karl Department of Management College of Business University of Tennessee Chattanooga 615 McCallie Avenue, Dept 6156 Chattanooga, TN (423) (fax) Joy Peluchette Department of Management and Information Sciences College of Business University of Southern Indiana 8600 University Blvd. Evansville, IN (fax) Research-based Paper
2 Do Online Ph.D. Programs Adequately Prepare Management Faculty to Help Future Managers Meet Their Learning and Development Needs? Abstract While online doctoral programs are becoming increasingly popular for management education, questions have been raised as to whether such programs are adequately preparing students as future faculty members and whether graduates of these programs face a stigma when seeking such positions. The purpose of this study is to fill this gap in the literature by reviewing the possible benefits and shortcomings of online doctoral programs for both students and universities. U.S. faculty members (N = 99) currently conducting searches at their universities for tenure track faculty were surveyed. The 23- item survey examined faculty perceptions regarding the extent to which online doctoral programs are acceptable in terms of each of the following four criteria: (1) mentoring and networking, (2) rigor, (3) preparation, (4) integrity. In addition, we measured respondents reactions to candidates with online Ph.D.s. Results indicated that most (70%) would not hire a candidate with an online degree for a tenure track faculty position. Most were also in agreement that online Ph.D. programs did not provide adequate mentoring and networking opportunities, rigor, or preparation for teaching and research. Implications and directions for future research are discussed. Opportunities for management learning are increasingly being offered online (Alexander, Perrault, Zhao, & Waldman, 2009). While much of this originated in professional schools and online institutions, many traditional colleges and universities are now offering a growing number of Internet-based courses and programs of their own in an effort to compete. This has prompted a proliferation of research over the last decade as to the effectiveness of online delivery for learning in management and business. Studies have focused on a number of issues including: instructor experiences and recommendations; student perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors associated with online courses; and comparisons of online versus traditional classroombased courses (Arbaugh, Godfrey, Johnson, Pollack, Niendorf,&Wresch, 2009; Arbaugh & Benbunan-Finch, 2006; Brower, 2003; Gerlich, Mills, &Sollosy, 2009; Richardson, Maeda, & Swan, 2010) as well as the perceptions of those hiring such students as to the credibility of their degrees (SHRM Poll, Credibility of Online Degrees, 2009). It is important to note that much of this research has targeted undergraduate and master s degree programs where the bulk of growth in online delivery has occurred.
3 Over the past decade, however, an increasing number of online management doctoral programs have emerged around the U.S., such as Nova Southeastern University, Baker College, Capella University, and Walden University. Working professionals who are career changers or hoping for a career in academia are drawn to these programs for their convenience and flexibility. While students in these programs generally indicate that they have a positive learning experience and develop close relationships with faculty, they find difficulty getting hired in academic circles, citing what they believe is a stigma against their credentials (Montell, 2003). So, how real is this stigma? To date, there is no research which examines perceptions as to the rigor, acceptability, or credibility of such Ph.D. programs. The purpose of this paper is to fill this gap in the literature by reviewing the possible shortcomings and benefits of online doctoral programs for both students and universities. In addition, we will present the results of a survey examining U.S. faculty perceptions regarding the acceptability and credibility of online doctoral programs in management. Directions for future research will also be discussed. Benefits of Online Ph.D. programs The most obvious benefits of earning an online Ph.D. from a student s perspective are flexibility, convenience, and cost savings. Unlike students in traditional programs at brick and mortar institutions, online students can complete their degrees without having to give up their full time work and relocate to a new place. They can also do most of their course work from anywhere at any time. It may also be attractive to those who may not be working and wish to pursue the degree but are not located near a doctoral-granting institution with a Ph.D. program in their chosen field of study. From a university s perspective, online Ph.D. programs may help reduce the business faculty shortage which has been predicted to reach a U.S. shortfall of 2,500 by 2014 (Olian, LeClair, & Milano, 2004). According to a report by the Global Foundation for Management Education, this shortage is not limited to the U.S. but is worldwide ( The Global Management Education Landscape: Shaping the future of business schools, 2008). To address this shortage, the American Association of Collegiate Schools of Business-International (AACSB-International), the most prestigious accrediting agency for business schools, issued several recommendations including
4 post-doctoral bridge programs to retrain non-business Ph.D.s (e.g., psychology, sociology) to teach and research in business fields, executive or professional doctoral graduates from programs outside the traditional research category, and Ph.D. graduates from other fields who have accumulated years of business experience and could serve as doctoral qualified clinical professors. In addition, they suggest the use of new or different doctorate models, such as those practiced by some European schools that award doctoral degrees based solely on published research, or the use of technology in which seminars are delivered virtually within a program or allow for joint seminars to be developed through alliances with faculty on other campuses ( Management Education at Risk, 2002). Clearly, AACSB-International is setting the stage for greater use of technology in Ph.D. programs which would help shorten the length of time-to-graduation for students and increase the feasibility of such a degree for mature adults. Shortcomings of Online Ph.D. programs As with any online program, there is a lack of face-to-face interaction that is difficult to replicate in a virtual environment (Brower, 2003). Given the in-depth theoretical nature of doctoral instruction, it is argued that students do not have necessary one-on-one interaction with faculty and other students to fully benefit from the learning experience ( Online Ph.D. Programs and AACSB Accreditation, 2010). These interactions are important, not only in the courses and assignments, but outside of the classroom in developing skills as a teacher and researcher. When this is coupled with the fact that students do not get opportunities for teaching and research assistantships while in online programs, many believe that students are missing out on experience that is essential to their future success as a faculty member. In fact, Montell (2003) quotes several students in online Ph.D. programs who felt that this put them at a disadvantage in getting hired by not having the connections which students at traditional institutions have with faculty. In addition, students believe that there is a stigma associated with online Ph.D. programs and that the degree is not taken seriously by those in the academic world. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many traditional academics believe that online doctoral programs are inferior in terms of their rigor and in preparing students to be
5 effective teachers or researchers, and thus, would consider those with online Ph.D. degrees to be unqualified job candidates (Adams & DeFleur, 2005, Montell, 2003). If hired, these students would likely face continued skepticism as to their capabilities, making their path towards tenure even more arduous. For universities, there are also potential risks to hiring students from online Ph.D. programs. To date, there are no online doctoral programs which have been accredited by AACSB-International and most accredited schools would probably be concerned about whether graduates of these programs would be able to meet the accreditation standards for research or their institution s requirements for promotion and tenure. Given the pending shortage in the supply of terminally qualified faculty and the fact that smaller schools having difficulty paying the high starting salaries to attract those from traditional Ph.D. programs, it is likely that schools may be reconsidering how they view such degrees. Questions have also been raised as to why no AACSB-accredited schools offer an online Ph.D. program. While accreditation standards do not prohibit such a delivery method, AACSB-accredited schools that have an existing Ph.D. program may be concerned about the risk to their image and reputation if they opted for online offerings. In addition, given the popularity of online programs, the demand for such a program would likely swamp the resources of an institution, making it difficult to ensure quality in its delivery ( Online Ph.D. Programs and AACSB Accreditation, 2010). Method Sample This study utilized a sample of management faculty currently conducting a search to fill a tenure track faculty position. Universities conducting searches were identified by examining faculty positions posted on three websites including the Academy of Management Career Center, higheredjobs.com and The Chronicle of Higher Education. Faculty s were selected by randomly selecting three to five faculty members in management from each of the hiring university s website. The resulting list of 478 faculty members was sent an invitation to participate in an online survey examining faculty perceptions of online Ph.D. programs. Ninety nine surveys were completed for a response rate of 48%. Sixty-six respondents were male, 28 were female, and 5 respondents did not indicate their gender. The average number of years
6 worked in academia was (SD = 9.89). The majority held the rank of either full or associate professor (N = 44 and N=38, respectively). Most (71%) held positions in public universities and most (84%) indicated their business school or college was AACSB-accredited. Most (75%) also indicated they held a Ph.D. or D.B.A. from an AACSB-accredited university. Others (14%) indicated they held a Ph.D. in a non-business field (e.g., education, psychology, sociology), while the remaining 11% held a Ph.D. or D.B.A. in business from a non U.S. university, an Ed.D., a DSc., an MBA, or a doctorate in business from an online program. Small, medium and large universities were represented in the sample (e.g., Less than 5,000 students, N=10; 5,001-10,000 students, N=18; 10,001-15,000 students, N=21; 15,001-20,000 students, N=14; Over 20,000 students, N=35). Survey Instrument The survey instrument consisted of four measures: (1) demographic items including gender, rank, type of degree held, size of the respondent s university, type of university (public vs. private), number of years worked in academia, number of doctoral programs in the respondent s school of business; (2) perceptions of online Ph.D. programs, and (3) reactions to candidates with online Ph.Ds. Perceptions of online Ph.D. programs. This measure was adapted from Guendoo (2008) and included four subscales including: mentoring and networking opportunities, rigor, preparation, and integrity. The mentoring and networking opportunities subscale consisted of four items. Sample items are Online doctoral students do not benefit from the constant review of assigned faculty mentors as in conventional doctoral programs (reverse scored) and Online courses provide an adequate amount of interaction between students and faculty. The rigor subscale consisted of 5 items including Online doctoral courses are not rigorous enough to ensure mastery of a subject area (reverse scored) and Online doctoral courses are typically of lesser quality than conventional courses (reverse scored). The preparation subscale consisted of 8 items including Graduates of online doctoral programs will be adequately prepared for teaching in a conventional setting and I am concerned that graduates of online doctoral programs will not be adequately prepared for conducting high quality research (reverse scored). The integrity subscale consisted of four items
7 including I am concerned about breaches in academic integrity with online doctoral programs (reverse scored) and I am concerned about the authenticity of students work in online doctoral programs (reverse scored). All responses were made using a 5-point scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Reactions to candidates with online Ph.Ds. This scale consisted of two items: I would not hire a candidate with an online degree for a faculty position and Assuming a candidate who received his or her doctorate from a virtual university that is, one having no classroom and where almost all instruction and interaction with others is offered by computer over the internet, with only minimal residency requirements (i.e., face-to-face contact with mentors and other students) applied for a tenure track assistant professor position at your university, please indicate the extent to which you agree or disagree that your search committee would consider this person as a viable candidate. Responses were made using a 5-point scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). For the second item, respondents were asked If you would NOT consider this candidate any further, please explain why. Results Means and standard deviations for all 24 items measuring perceptions of online Ph.D. programs are shown in Table 1. Means, standard deviations, reliability coefficients and correlations among variables are shown in Table 2. As can be seen in Tables 1 and 2, respondents generally agreed that online Ph.D. programs lacked rigor (M=1.91, SD =.88), mentoring or networking opportunities (M=1.98, SD=.92), and adequate preparation for teaching and research (M=1.96, SD=.81). Respondents were more neutral in their perceptions of the integrity of such programs (M=2.58, SD =.99). For example, the average ratings for the following items: I am concerned that one cannot be sure that the enrolled student is the one actually doing the work in an online course, I am concerned about the authenticity of students' work in online doctoral programs, and I am concerned about breaches in academic integrity with online doctoral programs were 2.51, 2.52, and 2.56, respectively. On average, our respondent s reaction to candidates with online Ph.Ds was very negative (M=1.79, SD=.92).
8 An examination of the frequency of responses to the two items measuring reactions to online Ph.D. candidates more clearly shows our respondents disregard for online Ph.D. programs. Seventy two percent agreed with the statement I would not hire a candidate with an online degree for a faculty position. Ninety one percent strongly disagreed that they would consider a candidate who received his or her doctorate from a virtual university as a viable candidate for a tenure track assistant professor position (See Figures 1 and 2). Respondents from larger universities (r = -.27, p <.000) and those from AACSBaccredited universities (r = -.40, p<.000) were more likely to have negative reactions to candidates with online Ph.Ds. The more negative our respondents perceptions of online Ph.D. programs with regard to mentoring and networking opportunities, rigor, adequate preparation for teaching and research and integrity, the more likely they were to have negative reactions toward candidates with online Ph.Ds. (r =.49, p<.000; r =.57, p<.000; r =.64, p<.000; r =.43, p<.000; respectively). Qualitative Analysis Seventy-four respondents (75%) provided explanations as to why they would not consider an online Ph.D. candidate as a viable candidate. These comments were examined and grouped according to common themes. These themes and sample comments are shown in Table 3. There were 25 (34%) comments which focused on quality of instruction issues, 19 (26%) on the validity of an online degree, 14 (19%) on lack of face-to-face contact, 13 (18%) on AACSB accreditation, 9 (12%) on lack of rigorous discourse and 8 (11%) on lack of mentoring. Some respondents made several comments covering more than one theme, thus the total percent exceeds 100. Discussion Similar to research in other fields (Adams and DeFleur, 2005; Klingler, 2007 and Flowers & Baltzer, 2006), the results of this study suggest that online Ph.D. programs and traditional brick and mortar Ph.D. programs are not equal in the eyes of most management faculty. Quite the opposite was found. Online Ph.D. programs were seen by most as lacking rigor, adequate mentoring and networking opportunities and adequate preparation for research and teaching. Additionally, an overwhelming majority
9 of the respondents in this study would not consider a candidate with an online Ph.D. as a viable candidate for a tenure track assistant professor position. Why such negative reactions to online Ph.D. candidates? Most respondents expressed concern over the quality of online doctoral education. In fact, many believed it was not possible to provide adequate training in research in an online format. As a typical example, one respondent wrote, I do not think such an education would train students adequately in the many complex aspects of research and we demand solid research performance. I MIGHT be convinced otherwise if the student had a strong record of research, but to be blunt I don't think that would happen. Many respondents were also very concerned about the validity of online degree programs referring to them as diploma mills, being very suspect and primarily profit motivated. One respondent went so far as to say virtual terrifies me and another that such programs make a mockery of terminal education and I do not mean a computer terminal. Lack of face-to-face contact and mentoring were also big concerns that were voiced by our respondents. Another prominent theme was lack of AACSB accreditation. Many respondents stated that they would only consider candidates from schools who held degrees from AACSB-accredited schools and that no online universities to date were AACSB-accredited. Finally, several respondents noted that online programs did not provide adequate opportunity for rigorous discourse. For example, one wrote, students will not be placed in tough intellectual (classroom) situations in which pressure is high and critical thought processes are demonstrated and/or refined. Limitations Because U.S. faculty currently conducting a search to fill a tenured faculty position at their university were invited to participate in this study, our respondents selfselected and therefore may not be representative of all faculty in the field of management. Additionally, the results of this study reflect the perceptions of faculty from traditional brick and mortar universities as no faculty from universities with online Ph.D. programs were included in the targeted sample. Finally, the sample size was relatively small. Future research with a larger sample would allow comparisons between small and large universities and those with a teaching versus research focus.
10 It is possible that perceptions regarding candidates with online Ph.D.s in management might be more favorable in smaller more teaching-oriented universities. Implications and Directions for Future Research The results of this study have very important implications for the future of doctoral level management education and learning. As noted earlier, an online Ph.D. in management appears to be regarded by most academics from traditional brick and mortar universities as lacking credibility or quality. Additionally, candidates with online Ph.D.s are unlikely to receive job offers from such universities. These findings raise some critical questions for future research. For example, are students in online management doctoral programs aware of the stigma associated with their degrees? Do administrators of online Ph.D. programs communicate to their students the difficulty they will face in securing a tenure track faculty position in a traditional university? Even more importantly, are the negative perceptions of such programs justified? Do those with online Ph.D.s truly have the training and skills necessary to be successful in a tenure track position at a traditional university? Are they capable of teaching and achieving research publication records comparable to those from traditional Ph.D. programs? Over time, as graduates with online Ph.D.s discover the unwillingness of many universities to consider them as viable candidates for their tenure track management positions, one would assume that online universities would face greater difficulty in attracting students to their management doctoral programs. Although this would likely prompt changes in these programs to address the quality concerns, it also raises questions of whether this is possible. Can one obtain adequate preparation for teaching and research in an online format? How might online Ph.D. programs need to be altered to provide adequate preparation? Can rigorous discourse on theoretical concepts be replicated in an online environment? Is a certain amount of face-to-face time with faculty needed, and if so, how much? To address the predicted shortage of business faculty, AACSB International has suggested the use of new or different doctorate models, some which could include greater use of technology ( Management Education at Risk, 2002 ). Yet, the results of this study indicate that doctoral degrees offered in an online format are not considered to be valid. If some of the concerns about these programs are addressed, will the
11 stigma associated with such degrees diminish or will graduates of these programs still be perceived as unqualified and less committed candidates? If so, what actions might be taken to change faculty perceptions of online doctoral programs or are online degree holders limited to more clinical types of faculty positions? What might universities or accrediting bodies (e.g., AACSB) do to help legitimize the place of these online degree holders in academia? To conclude, the future of management education and learning offers both opportunities and challenges. While online management Ph.D. programs offer an opportunity for credentialing that can help address a potential faculty shortage, the perceived credibility of these programs presents a challenge. This study was an effort to move beyond anecdotal evidence and examine faculty perceptions regarding these degree programs. It is hoped that the findings of this study and the questions which were raised for future research will prompt further investigation of this issue. References Adams, J., &DeFleur, M. (2005). The acceptability of a doctoral degree earned online as a credential for obtaining a faculty position. The American Journal of Distance Education, 19(2), Alexander, M. W., Perrault, H., Zhao, J. J. & Waldman, L. (2009). Comparing AACSB faculty and student online learning experiences: Changes between 2000 and Journal of Educators Online, 6 (1). Retrieved July 28, 2010 at: Arbaugh, J. B., Godfrey, M. R., Johnson, M., Leisen Pollack, B., Niendorf, B. & Wresch, W Research in online and blended learning in the business disciplines: key findings and possible future directions. The Internet and Higher Education, 12 (2): Arbaugh, J. B., & Benunan-Finch, R An investigation of epistemological and social dimensions of teaching in online learning environments. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 5 (4), Brower, H On emulating classroom discussion in a distance-delivered OBHR course: Creating an on-line learning community. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 2(1), Flowers, J.C., & Baltzer, H. (2006). Hiring technical education faculty: Vacancies, criteria, and attitudes toward online doctoral degrees. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 43 (3),
12 Gerlich, R. N., Mills, L., &Sollosy, M An evaluation of predictors of achievement on selected outcomes in a self-paced online course. Research in Higher Education Journal, 4, Guendoo, L. M Community Colleges Friendlier to Online Ph.D. s.online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Volume XI, Number III. Retrieved October 31, 2010 at: Klingler, S. L. (2007). Online Ph.D. Programs: A look at a iesse Listserv Discussion Thread. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 48 (1), Montell, G Battling the stigma of nontraditional credentials.the Chronicle of Higher Education. Retreived November 12, 2010 at: Olian, J. D., LeClair, D. R., & Milano, B. J Supply, demand, and the making of tomorrow s business scholars. Presidency, 7 (2), Online PhD Programs and AACSB Accreditation, Retrieved November 7, 2010 at: Richardson, J., Maeda, Y., & Swan, K Adding a Web-based perspective to the self assessment of knowledge: Compelling reasons to utilize affective measures of learning. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 9(2), Hiring Practices and Attitudes: Traditional vs. Online Degree Credentials SHRM Poll. Retrieved November 12, 2010 at: Attitudes.aspx The Global Management Education Landscape: Shaping the Future of Business Retrieved July 28, 2010 at: Management Education at Risk Retrieved July 28, 2010 at:
13 Table 1. Means and Standard Deviations for All Items Measuring Perceptions of Online Ph.D. Programs. Item Mean SD 1. I am concerned about the admission standards of online doctoral programs. (Reverse Scored) 2. Conventional doctoral programs have cohort events that occur outside of classes which are important for motivation, but these are lacking in online doctoral education. (Reverse Scored) 3. Ph.D. graduates of conventional programs have better breadth and depth of knowledge of their discipline's material than those with online Ph.D.s. (Reverse Scored) 4. All other things equal, a candidate with a conventional Ph.D. is better prepared for teaching than one with an online Ph.D. (Reverse Scored) 5. I am concerned about the quality of faculty in online doctoral programs. (Reverse Scored) 6. An online doctoral graduate is as prepared for publishing research in quality peer-reviewed journals as a conventional doctoral graduate. 7. Conventional doctoral graduates typically possess more research experience than online doctoral graduates. (Reverse Scored) 8. Ph.D. graduates of conventional programs have greater mastery of research design and analysis than online doctoral graduates. (Reverse Scored) 9. I am concerned that graduates of online doctoral programs will not be adequately prepared for conducting high quality research. (Reverse Scored) 10. Online doctoral courses are not rigorous enough to ensure mastery of a subject area. (Reverse Scored) 11. Online doctoral students do not benefit from the constant review of assigned faculty mentors as in conventional doctoral programs. (Reverse Scored) 12. Graduates of online doctoral programs will be adequately
14 prepared for teaching in a conventional setting. 13. Online doctoral courses are typically of lesser quality than conventional courses. (Reverse Scored) Table 1. Continued. 14. Working with the dissertation committee in online doctoral programs is as effective in producing the desired outcomes as in conventional programs. 15. The research and writing processes in online doctoral programs are as intense as in conventional programs. 16. Online courses provide an adequate amount of interaction between students and faculty. 17. Online doctoral graduates have a strong mastery of statistics. (Reverse Scored) 18. I am concerned that one cannot be sure that the enrolled student is the one actually doing the work in an online course. (Reverse Scored) 19. I am concerned about the authenticity of students' work in online doctoral programs. (Reverse Scored) 20. I am concerned about breaches in academic integrity with online doctoral programs. (Reverse Scored) 21. Those pursuing online Ph.D.s are looking for the easy way out and most would not succeed in a conventional Ph.D. program. (Reverse Scored)
15 Table 2.Means, Standard Deviations, Reliability Coefficients and Intercorrelations among Variables. Mean SD Size of University a AACSB Accredited University b *** Mentoring and Networking *** (.74) 4. Rigor ***.71*** (.85) 5. Preparation for Teaching and ***.71***.77*** (.87) Research 6. Integrity ***.42***.55***.56*** (.87) 7. Reaction to Candidates with Online Ph.D.s *** -.40***.49***.57***.64***.43*** (.69) a Size of University was coded 1 = Less than 5,000 students, 2 = 5,001-10,000 students, 3 = 10,001-15,000, students, 4 = 15,001-20,000 students, 5 = Over 20,000 students b AACSB Accredited was coded 1 = yes, and 0 = no