Navigating online professional degrees—potential and caution


This adapted content originally appeared on March 21, 2018 in Education Dive, by Associate Editor Shalina Chatlani

When it comes to the future of learning, a debate rages within higher education circles over the question of whether certain types of curriculum can be scaled through digital technologies, as an alternative to the traditional residential classroom setting. A number of institutions already have invested in online bachelor’s and master’s degree programs — and now, there has emerged a number of professional degree programs online.

Providing the type of quality up to par with standards of accrediting organizations like the ABA means heavily investing in course designs and faculty training, explains Michael Horowitz, president of the TCS Education System, a nonprofit group of colleges where the backbone organization handles economies of scale for partner institutions, including investment in online professional degree programs.

The TCS system is helping partner school The Santa Barbara & Ventura Colleges of Law with a hybrid J.D. program, the first of its kind in California, according to Matthew Nehmer, the institution’s executive director. 

“It’s a big investment so if you are not able to invest the educational resources you shouldn’t do it. It’s not an economic panacea. We now have 12 years of figuring out how to create the residential component in an online experience and that requires investment in a great learning platform and technology personnel that are very sophisticated and know how to extensively train faculty,” said Horowitz.

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