It was after lunch on the first day of orientation for the new Online Master of Science in Information Management (MSIM) program, and Professor Robert St. Louis was addressing the 33 students who make up the inaugural class. The topic: business case analysis. Before turning them loose to work together in teams he added one last tip. “Ask questions! The professors who will be grading you are in the room.”
The orientation was the starting line for the program, but it was also the first and only opportunity for the students and faculty to meet each other face-to-face until graduation. For the next 16 months, students will work online, accessing course materials and modules of instruction at home or at work. The program closely mirrors the MSIM offered in-person evenings at the W. P. Carey School, but it’s packaged in a series of five-week courses. It will lead the students from that starting line -– typically a technology focus -- to a new focus on technology as a solution to business issues.
The objective of the three-day orientation was to show students what a typical week will be like, and to give them a chance to get comfortable with the technology used in the classes, i.e. Blackboard, Blackboard Collaborate, Google Docs and discussion boards. In addition to two case analysis exercises, students heard tips on how to succeed in the program and listened as MSIM alumni talked about the impact the degree has had on their careers.
A glance around the Memorial Union’s Alumni Lounge during a break revealed that the group is a sampling of mid-career professionals – each anchored by a laptop, of course. KnowIT selected three students, and asked them about the route that led them to ASU that day.
Introducing the Online MSIM student
Holli Haplin lives in Phoenix, but she never considered the evening MSIM offered on campus.
“I travel 50 percent of the time,” she explained. “There’s no way I could do a ground-based program.”
This is no surprise to Robert St. Louis, faculty director of the Online MSIM. He says that there are distinct market segments for graduate programs. “The real story is about how many working professionals would like to get a master’s degree but cannot because of where they live and the travel requirements of their jobs,” he said. “I asked about half of the students whether they would have enrolled in a face-to-face program, and every one of them said no.”
Haplin explained that she has taken online courses in the past, and she likes the flexibility and efficiency: she can work when it’s feasible, and wastes no time commuting, parking and sitting in a classroom.
“Plus there’s a different kind of energy to it,” she added.
Haplin, who holds a bachelor of fine arts degree from San Francisco Art Institute and a bachelors in community health from the University of Arizona, is a certified project manager at a medical software company. She’s logged more than 10 years working with software and related technology implementations in doctors’ offices, labs, clinics and hospitals, and she’s accustomed to working with clients in online environments. The MSIM learning tools are familiar. “I feel very comfortable with this technology.”
She looked at for-profit programs, but chose W. P. Carey because of the reputation of the school, especially among possible future employers.
Antoinette Brown lives in Sierra Vista, Arizona, working with the U.S. Army at Fort Huachuca. An Army veteran, she said she’s always been committed to helping the troops. Antoinette spent 14 years in technology roles supporting the military and other Intelligence government agencies.
Brown is currently a project manager, but she would like to be considered for a promotion to program manager and aspires to have the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification -– the reason she selected the Online MSIM.
“I love online classes -– I did my entire undergraduate online (Strayer University),” she said. “I like working at my own pace, and I like doing my own work – even though there were group projects.” She likes to dig deep herself as she learns.
Married 22 years, Brown and her husband have six children, including one ASU graduate, one currently attending, and one more who will be attending in the fall – Antoinette makes four Sun Devils!
Paul Lewandowski was a Sun Devil before he even applied for the Online MSIM: he graduated with a computer information systems degree from the W. P. Carey School in 2003 and was hired by ExxonMobil right out of school. He is currently assigned to the rollout of SharePoint, a new collaboration tool. Previously he was the lead on the enterprise storage engineering team.
Why online? He lives in northern Virginia and travels through the U.S. and overseas for his job. Plus, “there’s always that possibility of relocating domestically or internationally,” he said. “I didn’t want to be locked down to a physical location.”
“In my opinion the IT world already works in virtual online environments – this won’t be too much different from working with business clients and colleagues,” Lewandowski said.
“I’m here to refresh my tool kit because I want to be considered for senior technology positions,” he said. He hopes to learn how to identify new tech trends that his company should adopt. He said that his undergraduate classes in the Department of Information Systems prepared him with core business principles and how IT enables the enterprise. From what he’s read about the Online MSIM, he’ll be learning even more about that in the next 16 months.
Time to logon!