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Phoenix Forward

Tech guru sees bright future for online education

Kathleen Ives

Sitting on the runway on September 11, 2001, Kathleen Ives decided to pursue her doctorate in organizational leadership. “The terrorist attacks had just happened, and like everyone else in America, I took that moment to re-evaluate my life,” she says. “I wanted to reinvent myself, and the online learning platform at University of Phoenix allowed me to do just that.”

A former executive at CBS, Ives is now chief operating officer of the Sloan Consortium, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting online teaching platforms and online degree programs in higher education. The consortium presents conferences and workshops, conducts research, trains faculty and offers quality-improvement tools to online educators and institutions.

“I started out as a consultant to the consortium because I had written my doctoral dissertation on how to manage virtual work teams,” Ives says. As telecommuting and collaborating across time zones become increasingly common, working together virtually is becoming necessary in both business and education, according to Ives.

Online education continues to provide opportunities that wouldn't otherwise exist for students to obtain degrees.

Ives spent her career developing web-based information platforms. She helped launch early Internet services such as Teletext and Prodigy, one of the first commercial dial-up Internet service providers. Her natural affinity for new technologies led her to choose an online doctorate. She is also an online instructor for University of Phoenix.

More than 6.1 million students were enrolled in at least one online course in 2011, a 10 percent increase over the previous year, according to a recent Sloan Consortium report. “While institutions like University of Phoenix helped pioneer online learning, traditional universities are now becoming more interested in adopting online learning platforms simply because it’s what the student market is demanding,” Ives says.

Ives believes the next big market for online learning will be K–12. “Online K12 education holds a lot of appeal for homeschoolers and special-needs children especially, and we’re seeing a lot of public school districts adopting web-based classroom options right now,” Ives says.

The consortium aims to be a community for online educators, helping them collaborate and share knowledge about the virtual classroom. Many instructors in online degree programs are adjuncts without a traditional academic forum to share information and experiences, Ives notes.

“Online education continues to provide opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise exist for students to obtain degrees,” she says. “It’s a true 21st-century phenomenon that’s only going to become more accessible.”

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