There has been an recurrent question about the viability of telework ever since we first started our research. The focus of the concern was the need—or lack thereof of—for face-to-face interaction in order to have success at X, where X is whatever work outcome is at issue. That is, is your average teleworker at a disadvantage because she substitutes Facebook (or Skype or Twitter) time for in-office face time? On 15 November 2010 the Financial Times published two articles, both focusing on business education, relevant to this problem. The first article, on page 16 of the US edition, discussed the plans of the Kenan-Flagler School at the University of North Carolina to offer an MBA via distance learning. As to the demand for such a program:
“It really brings together a lot of trends we have seen around the world,” says the dean, in particular students’ willingness to use the technology. “The population of students, people in their 20s and 30s, are so comfortable with technology and technology-mediated learning.”
Further into the article we have:
“Five years down the line I think essentially everything we do will be online,” [Chris Brady, dean of the business school at BPP] says. He believes students will be able to choose whether to study online or in a classroom, depending on convenience and cost. “Even if you are a student studying face-to-face, you would still have access to everything online.” He believes this will be the path taken by most mid-range schools. “If they don’t, they can’t grow.”
All this is particularly interesting to me since Stanford University and the University of Southern California began giving MS in Engineering degrees in the early 1970s, 35+ years before this innovation among the business schools. But then, engineers don’t really need to be able to talk to other people face-to-face, right? In general, these engineers showed up on campus only twice: once to register for the courses, the next time to accept their MS degrees. Now, of course, they can register online.