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Content and Curriculum

When a friend wants to put up a web page, I ask questions that relate to the business plan. What is its purpose and intended audience? What will attract people to this site compared to millions of others? How can you hold attention to get your message across? How do you build a cadre of regular visitors? Who will guide marketing? Who will provide content? Who will lay-out and author the web page? Who will keep content up to date? And how much are you willing to spend?

Many novices think of a web page as a low-rent store with a web address. If the store attracts few visitors, it is a gravestone site, a monument to a dream not realized.

Despite the extraordinary demand for online learning, the same phenomenon may one day apply.

There is explosive growth of courses and programs which means the learner has access to a multitude of options. If a degree or certificate is a commodity – a ticket to apply for a particular job, union, or profession – the easiest, lowest cost, most-accessible program may suffice. If the ultimate goal is a higher degree, upward mobility, or a management position, criteria will include accreditation, reputation and performance of the program, and its ability to place graduates in well paying jobs. Such programs cost more and have strict entrance requirements. They offer better opportunities but with no guarantee of success. Persons seeking first-time employment should request detailed statistics on placement of graduates with no prior work experience.

Reputable institutions of higher learning have links to business, industry, government, health care, and other potential employers. They may even share expertise so that professional courses are taught by leading practitioners and academic personnel have experience in the workplace. Learners may benefit from apprenticeships and workplace experience as part of their professional training. Such experiences may be valuable in securing employment on graduation. Online programs can likewise benefit from employer relationships and internships for students.

Reputable institutions do regular surveys of graduates and their employers to determine the relevance of education and training and ways in which learners can be better prepared. Extensive data is sought from all stakeholders to build learning organizations and communities of practice. In addition to monitoring programs and curriculum, these groups should inform leadership of social, political, economic and technological changes and innovations that impact curriculum, methodology, recruitment, enrollment, retention, graduation, and placement of graduates.

The traditional process of curriculum assessment, design, production and dissemination requires a cycle of several years. It is not future oriented and is not responsive to disciplines that are rapidly changing. Drucker’s Theory of the Business looks for congruence between needs of the workplace (environment), programs of the education or training institution (mission), and performance (relevance, quality and effectiveness of curriculum and instruction.) To the extent that any component of this model is mismatched, there is a decrement in performance.

Responsiveness to change is especially important. A Paradigm Shift can invalidate entire areas of knowledge and skill. Educational leaders must be aware of research and innovations that impact their discipline and programs to prepare the next generation of practitioners.

Even a simple web page requires incessant planning. Likewise, education and training must be responsive to changing needs at the speed of the Internet.

Drucker, Peter F. Theory of the Business, Harvard Business Review, September 1994.

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