1) Distance Education MBA Project Management Program: A Case Study and 2) Advice for New Engineering Faculty: Insights Gained from Faculty Development Programs
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1) With its roots in systems engineering, project management is a relatively new discipline taught in the fields of Engineering, Business, Information Technology/ Management Information Systems, Computing Sciences, and Operations Management. Whereas in 1993 there were 7 universities offering master’s-level degree programs in project management, these days there are over 59 worldwide, yet only 5 offer such programs in the distance education mode. Distance education is no longer seen as a second-rate way of teaching; it is just different. Distance education addresses geographical, time, indirect cost, flexibility, and service needs for learners. Whereas naysayers challenge distance education on issues of student isolation, course time commitments, and program quality, strides in the field demonstrate that distance education programs do deliver high quality education. Academic teams address the isolation factor through engaging and interactive online discussions that develop a sense of community. They address the time factor by pacing students through courses, balancing the individual and team mark components, and ensuring that marks are allocated for participation. Program quality is assessed through formative and summative processes. In this paper, we examine some of the main challenges and benefits in distance education. We focus on the four roles that faculty and course development staff collaboratively undertakes to deliver courses online: the pedagogical, management, technical, and social roles. In doing so, we focus on our four project management courses and some of the practices we use in our own university to address distance education issues. We conclude with some recommendations for effective program delivery practices. 2) It is not easy being a new engineering faculty member (either as a newly minted PhD or as a new faculty member to the university) and harder still to find one’s bearings when faced with a demanding course load, the stress of demonstrating solid output from a new research agenda, and multiple service commitments. It is even more challenging to get established when the department (or university) lacks a formal faculty development program for newcomers, yet new faculty are expected to “hit the ground running.” As daunting as this may feel, and much as new faculty want to “hit the ground running and just run away,” there are some tricks of the trade that I culled from the literature and my own experiences that I share in this paper. These guidelines may help new engineering faculty in terms of job satisfaction and in addressing key sources of stress. In this paper, I draw from the higher education faculty development literature and outline the merits of a faculty development program and how crucial these topics are for new engineering faculty members. I examine faculty development topics in the broader context of teaching, research, service, and personal growth and development. Key sources of stress for new faculty members relate to finding time for research, effective teaching practices, the lack of collegial relationships, inadequate feedback/recognition, unrealistic expectations, insufficient resources, the lack of mentors, and little work-life balance. In the paper, I address the following topics: a) An orientation helps new engineering faculty become familiar with policies, support services, regulations, colleagues in the department, and faculty development resources (e.g., teaching models, resources, and workshops). b) New faculty requires different mentors for different needs such as teaching practices and possibly a senior research mentor. c) An academic dossier encompassing a teaching, research, and service is very important for tenure and promotion purposes. d) The dean has an essential role in ensuring that new faculty members are socialized into the department and have a reduced teaching and service load (at first) so that they can develop solid and successful research agendas. The dean also assists new faculty members develop reasonable annual work plans. In the efforts to gain their bearings in new positions, new engineering faculty members feel daunted in achieving a work-life balance and inevitably, the scale tips in favor of work. As I address each topic, I examine the importance of the topic and suggest some guidelines for consideration. I also recommend some useful academic resources for new faculty. In sharing some of my tricks of the trade, I hope that new faculty will not have to personally learn all their lessons the hard way, because at times, it is easier and less painful to learn from the experiences of others.