I receive many press releases and often skim them to learn about new initiatives. I tend to ignore the ones about staffing changes within companies; I also rarely read the quotes that I always suspect are written by marketing but attributed to executives within the company.
This morning I received notice that the “University of Phoenix Expands Advanced Degree Programs; Adds Ph.D. in Nursing and Educational Specialist Degrees”. I was curious enough to read more. One of the things I learned was that “During the quarter ending May 31, 2009, 420,700 students were enrolled at University of Phoenix, the largest private university in North America.” I hadn’t seen their enrollment numbers recently and was amazed.
I know the University of Phoenix has a mixed reputation. I interviewed Brian Mueller a while ago and received more emails in reponse than I have to any article I’ve published, including a recent one from a disgruntled student who went into quite a bit of detail about his experiences there.
About the new PhD in nursing: I was curious what what the value of a PhD is to a nurse and how much impact the institution granting the degree has. I asked a friend who is an RN, who said:
Nursing, like any other discipline, has its own body of research etc. (separate from medicine), and the PhD is one of the terminal degrees. There is also a new doctorate that is being debated within the nursing/medical realm, called a DNP (doctor of nursing practice) which is more clinical in focus. All full time, tenured, nursing faculty at a major university will have a PhD or sometimes an EdD and will have conducted significant research and published in their area of nursing theory and expertise. I believe the value of an institutional reputation is in the type of research and collaboration a PhD candidate would have been able to participate in their doctoral program. I don’t know enough about the University of Phoenix program, but I would guess that that component of the program would be weak or non-existent.
Which raises the question: Is good, extensive, practical research possible in an online institution? Having gone to a “traditional” graduate school, it’s a little hard for me to imagine how it can be as effective. But I know many people get online PhDs – and even write about their experiences.
Please let us know if you think there is a difference between research in online and “traditional” institutions.