Five Minutes With… Ward Ulmer, Associate Dean, Walden University
Online learning is a growing form of higher education in the UAE and globally, says Ulmer, associate dean at Walden University's College of Management and Technology.
What are the growth areas within the global education industry?
Online education is growing. Now, traditional academia is getting into the field. Everyone realises online education is a viable and credible form of education. We’re also seeing strong demand for study abroad and other international experiences. Students recognise they’ll be working in different countries and different environments in today’s business marketplace and online higher education can help prepare business professionals for a global 24/7 networked world.
What are the main challenges faced by today’s higher education institutions?
Staying current is always an issue. Higher education needs to keep up with the needs of students and business. With the advent of technology, especially over the last decade, so much more knowledge and data is available just a few clicks away. There can be data overload, making it harder for people to figure out what they want to do with their lives and the institution they want to attend.
How is the face of UAE education changing?
There’s growing interest in higher education as professionals want to make themselves as marketable as possible in an increasingly competitive job market. Interest in online education is especially strong in the UAE because a lot of workers come from other countries and bring their families. There is also greater demand for higher education by women in the UAE, and we have seen that in our online management programmes, more than 60 per cent of our students in the UAE are women.
Is online learning as effective as in-person teaching?
There’s a lot of research saying the online classroom can be more effective than in-person learning. In fact, a survey of our graduates’ employers found that a majority of them believe online degrees are equal to or more valuable than degrees earned in a face-to-face setting.
You get out of online learning what you put into it. The online classroom provides students with a global perspective and offers them the opportunity to network with faculty and peers from all over the world. Many of our students share that they are able to apply the information and experiences that take place in their online classrooms to their profession in another business and part of the world.
What is Walden University focusing on this year?
In the College of Management and Technology, we are interested in further connecting our business and technology programmes with Walden’s social change mission. We also want to make sure our programmes provide a global perspective, which is very important in business. We keep an eye on emerging needs and long-term trends in the business world to make sure we’re on the cutting edge of what’s happening.
Will Walden be expanding this year?
We’re always looking at ways to make sure our business and technology programmes are relevant and meeting the demands of the workforce and our students. Our Doctor of Information Technology (D.I.T.) is a new program. It’s one of the first in the online environment that’s more technical and hands-on. If you’re a CIO who’s in a strategy meeting one day and in the server room the next, this is the programme for you. We’ve also recently added new specialisations, such as the Human Resource Management specialisation in our Doctor of Business Administration (D.B.A.) programme, and we’re always revamping programmes to stay current.
What’s your leadership style?
I surround myself with people who are smarter than I am and let them do their jobs. I also try to find the humour in everything because there’s always something we need to address in the business world, and especially in technology. Finding the humour when dealing with certain situations is often the only way to keep our sanity.
What makes the perfect employee?
A positive approach. Subject matter expertise. Certainly the ability to adapt as the world of business and technology changes. You have to be a lifelong learner.
Define success in five words …
That’s impossible! You have to look at success in personal and professional terms. It’s also different for everyone. To me, being successful is being a difference-maker rather than a world-changer. It’s being true to yourself so when you look back at your life, you can feel you never compromised your beliefs or standards.
Three tips for becoming the boss …
Don’t forget where you came from. Surround yourself with people smarter than you are. Most of all, remember you’re often surrounded by people who are smarter than you are, so let them do their jobs.
When I’m not at work I like to …
Be with my family, be outdoors, and leave work behind. I turn off my iPhone and computer, sit back, and count my blessings.