Given the need to provide increased opportunities for busy managers to learn, but their reduced availability to attend formal on-campus classes, management students and corporate employers have turned to Distance Education (DE) provision as an alternative to face-to-face (FtF) programmes.
Providing flexible delivery, however, does not guarantee that the learning requirements of management students will be met, and needs to be considered in terms of the limits and enhancements to learning that different flexible methodologies support. DE comes in many forms and pedagogics, uses a variety of media, and tends to be designed with the individual learner in mind, whereas the demand for work-relevant management skills requires Management Education (ME) programmes to include collaborative as well as individual modes of learning.
Managers require integrative knowledge, emotional intelligence, and complex social and perceptual skills and attitudes that increasingly reflect ethical and values-oriented behaviour. At issue in the shift from FtF to DE is the need to provide opportunities for the ongoing social and interpersonal skills development that would normally occur within the classroom. For DE to add value to management learners it needs to offer flexibility that supports quality work-relevant education.
In this paper the author explores whether print-based DE combined with Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) technologies provides a solution. CMC is a networked electronic medium; used in conjunction with print-based DE it can provide opportunities for group interactivity and collaborative learning. Since the skills required for effective CMC participation are also synergistic with the socio-cultural and technical skills required of today's ‘networked manager’, the author suggests that there are further advantages to including CMC as part of the ME curriculum. From a review of the literature, the author concludes that there is much benefit in combining the two methodologies provided that:
• appropriate pedagogy is designed into the combined media
• the flexibility and educational needs of management learners are met
• educators and learners learn how to learn by the new media.