Interview: Bruce E. Winston, PhD, Dean, Regent University School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship

Bruce E. Winston, PhD, Dean, Regent University School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship joins us today to discuss their distance learning program.

Tell us about the distance learning programs offered in the School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship, at Regent University.

The School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship (GLE) offers all of its programs by distance: (a) Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership (Ph.D.), (b) Doctor of Strategic Leadership (DSL), (c) Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership (MOL), (d) Master of Arts in Strategic Foresight (MSF), and (e) Master of Business Administration (MBA). The MBA is also offered as a blended program with one-half of the course interaction occurring on campus in traditional classrooms.

What is the typical duration of each of your programs?

This varies by program. The Ph.D. is a 60-credit program that can be done in three and a half years with most students completing in four and a half years. ** The DSL is a 60-credit program that can be finished in four years. For both doctoral programs, there is a maximum of seven years allowed to finish. The MOL and MSF are 33-credit programs that can be finished in as little as one year full time with most students completing the programs part time in three years. The MBA is a 42-credit program that can be finished in one and a half years full time or two and a half years part time. Master's students may stop taking courses for one or more semesters, which would extend the length of time to finish the degree. For the three master's programs, there is a maximum of five years allowed to finish. GLE operates year round with three trimesters per year.

What would you say makes the School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship programs different and better than other comparable online programs?

The answer to that ties closely to our history and early role in the development of high-quality, online educational programs. The School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship is the result of a 2006 merger that combined the university's schools of business and leadership studies. Our predecessor, the School of Leadership Studies, was formed in 1995 specifically to deliver a doctoral-level leadership degree by distance education, leveraging available technologies and an innovative approach to online curriculum administration. The result was the nation's first fully-accredited, online Ph.D. degree in organizational leadership. The program's curriculum capitalized on the benefits of asynchronous, computer-mediated communication, which introduced a high degree of flexibility for professional students who often traveled or required nontraditional class schedules. Rather than a lecture style, which is typical of many distance programs, where the professor is active and the students passive, we built curriculum in which the online dialogue topics require the student to actively engage the content to solve complex problems. In this model, students are active and instructors (no longer 'professing') become reactors to the dialogue and help guide the discussion to facilitate the maximum learning experience.

A benefit of the 'students-prepare' approach is that every student has to participate to the desired/measured/graded level. This allows instructors to get to know each and every student. When I taught in the classroom, I would know five or six of the fifty students, but most of the others I wouldn't even know their names except to match up exam grades to grade book entries. Both students and faculty have commented how much stronger the relationships are in our distance courses than anything previously experienced in the on-campus environment. We know the value of face-to-face interaction and we begin our doctoral programs with a 10-day residency experience in which students get to know each other as well as the instructors. This allows students to establish a working relationship with the instructors who will be critiquing the doctoral students' work. The doctoral programs include a 10-day residency at the beginning of each year of study with the balance of the student's coursework conducted completely online. Our master's programs do not require a residency, but offer an optional two-day residency that students can attend. Residencies for the School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship are held at our four-diamond facility - the Founders Inn & Spa http://foundersinn.com/ - and for our out-of-town students (both doctoral and master's), we provide the hotel rooms and meals at our expense.

The curriculum is built for full-time employed students and structured to allow a measure of flexibility within the semester that will accommodate the peak times of work and life that sometimes interfere with a traditional academic schedule.

GLE has faculty-performance standards that require instructors to respond to students' requests within one business day, drafts within three business days, and grading all assessments within one week. This insures students get the requisite feedback to help with future assessments.

How important would you say accreditation is when choosing an online college?

Extremely important. Regent University is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Our school is also a member of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and we are preparing to apply for accreditation with this association to further substantiate the quality of our MBA programs. Accreditation, both for the university and the specific discipline, shows a measure of integrity and quality. Both are important concepts for GLE.

There is some debate as to whether or not online degrees are as worthwhile as traditional degrees. What steps does the School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship take to ensure that online students are receiving the same education that they'd receive in a classroom?

Using our own on-campus and online MBA programs as an example, we've noted that in general, those enrolled in our online programs tend to outperform the on-campus students. Part of this comes from the higher level of relationship with faculty and peers generated through online dialogue requirements uniquely associated with online degree programs. The level of learning experienced by students in the online program is also enhanced by their familiarity and use of our extensive online library resources, current research available on the web, and interaction with other online students occupying key industry roles and located throughout the U.S. and the world. As to quality assurance measures, our programs go through scheduled curriculum reviews and we use extensive surveys to collect student feedback -- which earn consistently outstanding ratings. Course projects, papers, tests, and other measurement devices provide our online students direct input from faculty who I have seen to be as committed to the student's professional success as to his/her learning experience.

What would you say are some of the benefits of earning a degree online rather than in a traditional classroom?

Flexibility. While there are time constraints within the context of a semester, a student is not bound to specific hours on a Tuesday night.

Convenience. No traffic. No parking issues. And, if you do your best work at odd hours of the day/night, you can log on to our online courses and post a dialogue message anytime that 'great idea' strikes. For those who travel, you have access to all of your courses and online resources just as soon as you connect to the Internet.

Success. In a typical classroom, when the instructor asks a question, the student is expected to have an immediate response and is not provided the opportunity to think deeply about either the question or the response. Within the online learning environment, however, students can devote more thought to the question, which, in turn, precipitates a greater understanding of the issues and how one might effectively communicate the solution.

Access to high profile, guest lecturers. It is much easier to invite a content specialist from anywhere in the world to join an online discussion than it is to coordinate the logistics of an out-of-town lecturer who has a limited presentation schedule. Through the use of online dialogue exchanges and recorded interviews, the School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship can bring the best from around the world to our students.

If a student enrolled in one of your programs was interested in finding an internship in their field in their area, do you have any means of assisting them in acquiring an internship position?

Since our students are older and most often already working full time, we don't focus on internship or placement. Our doctoral students' average age is 42 and most are in their career of choice or will look into moving into academic positions as mid-career or late-career changers. Those in our master's programs have an average age of 36 and enroll in our programs with the intention of advancing within their current place of employment or possibly launching a new business.

Does the School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship offer any job placement services to your students and graduates?

No. In addition to the response in item 7 above, the advent of online job boards and Internet businesses such as monster.com, theladders.com, and career-builder.com, to mention just three, there is not much need for placement services for our students.

Is financial aid available to students in your programs?

Yes. There are a few limited funded scholarships for specific types of MBA students (entrepreneurial, Eastern-European) as well as U.S. Federal student loans. In addition, there are a limited number of exchange scholarships for students from academic institutions that participate in the university's tuition-exchange program.

Do you have any advice for students enrolling in online classes for the first time?

Some thoughts:

1. Good online programs will utilize technology to enhance your educational experience, but should not require that you possess sophisticated technological abilities -- just the basics of Internet navigation, email, etc.

2. The learning should be intense, but the advantage is that you will truly learn the material -- which is why you are pursuing your degree.

3. Remember that the distance program takes as much time, if not a bit more, than an on-campus program. As you pursue your degree, you should eliminate as many non-essential activities as you can until you've earned your degree.

4. For dialogue-based programs like those offered by the School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship, prepare early, begin early, and dialogue evenly across the open period.

5. Online programs lack the cues of 'class schedule,' so students that are self-disciplined tend to do better and get things done on time.

6. Ask questions. Although you may be on the other side of the country or traveling overseas, your instructor should be readily available via email and/or by phone to address your questions within specific timeframes as determined by the school -- usually within one to two business days.

7. Improve typing speed and accuracy.

What do you enjoy most about your position at School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship?

I am committed to Regent's mission and purpose and specifically to the mission and focus of GLE. My personal values are well-aligned with GLE's values.

The virtual design of our program allows me to participate as an instructor from anywhere in the world that I have a high-speed Internet connection. If I wake up at 4 a.m. and decide to be 'up' for a while, I can 'go to class' and participate. Whether I am in my office, my home, or at the beach, I can participate with students, staff, and instructors from around the world -- literally, we have students, staff, and faculty located both domestically and internationally. We operate seamlessly, which is one of the many reasons that we are the School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship.

To Request more information about the Global Leadership and Entreprenurship School at Regent University, Go here to visit them online.

Thank you Bruce, for sharing and participating in this piece for Online Degrees 2.0

That concludes our interview!


About Bruce E. Winston, Ph.D.

Dr. Winston has been a part of Regent University since 1991, both with the School of Business and the School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship. Currently, he is the dean for the School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship.In addition to his administrative and academic duties as dean, he teaches in the GLE doctoral programs and is active in the GLE seminars and conferences.

Dr. Winston's research interests include servant leadership, organizational development and transformation, leadership development, distance education and technology in higher education.


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