Anthony R. Davidson, Ph.D., the new dean of the School of Professional and Continuing Studies(PCS), has taken the reins at the University’s college for adult and nontraditional students. He recently sat down with Fordham News to discuss online learning, developing corporate alliances, and the way forward for PCS.
Where is PCS now and what do you see for its near future?
PCS was always geared toward the adult learner and was most noted for its degree completion. I see the school at the point and time now where it can evolve into being much more than that. Obviously, we’ll remain very strongly committed to promoting the adult learner and making sure they can complete their degrees by giving them curricula that’s focused on today’s working professional. That means bringing a lot of that curricula online. I think the adult learner is very aptly suited to the online learning environment. They have the self-discipline and commitment.
What’s your experience with online learning?
I’ve been involved in online learning or a variant thereof since the mid- to late 1990s, when it was based on teleconferencing. It was very primitive and was designed for business conferencing rather than the kind of pedagogy that would go on in a classroom. Eventually I was hired at New York University to build out their online programs. I wasn’t initially in love with it, but I developed a keen appreciation after developing several online masters programs.
What distinguishes online learning?
Technology collapses time and space and that’s what it does for learning. It doesn’t make anything better, it just changes the mode of delivery. It’s not for everybody, but it’s particularly important when people are working 60 hours a week, have elderly parents or young kids to take care of, and time is a premium.
What is blended learning?
Blending learning is a hybrid. There is some face-to-face time, but a majority of interactions and learning is taking place in an asynchronous format online. With working professionals who want to take classes in person, it’s particularly important to make that face time count, and then supplement it with a great deal of asynchronous activity.
What can PCS be for the corporate world?
The corporate world is a natural offshoot of a population of adult learners. We will be providing the opportunity for corporations to have very highly customized programs and we’ll be offering to meet the particular needs of each individual corporation. Sometimes there’s credo or some proprietary information that a corporation wants its employees to understand, but it doesn’t want to send its colleagues to a regular university class. Corporations want their own customized series of seminars. That’s something we can provide, because we do understand what it takes to make them more productive.
How do you see PCS’s relationship evolving with other schools at the University?
I’d like to see PCS to be fully interwoven with the other schools through collaborative programming. A prospective student who wants to attend Fordham could see PCS as a way to be able to weave their way through the different schools to get exactly what they need.
On a personal note, as an observant Jew what does it mean for you to be at a Jesuit institution?
I’m very proud and very happy to be at a Jesuit university. In the short time that I’ve been here I have to say that the people at Fordham not only talk the talk but they walk the walk. It’s important to me as a religious person that I surround myself with other religious people. It doesn’t matter if they’re from the same religion or not. The most important thing is there’s a commitment to values that is not just lip service.