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Will Zoom and COVID-19 Accelerate Drucker’s 1997 Prediction?

Will Zoom and COVID-19 Accelerate Drucker’s 1997 Prediction?

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In 1997, Forbes Magazine published an article titled “Seeing things as they really are,” which was an interview about the future with legendary management professor Dr. Peter F. Drucker. When asked about the future of higher education, Drucker said, “Thirty years from now, the big university campuses will be relics. Universities won’t survive. It’s as large a change as when we first got the printed book. The college won’t survive as a residential institution. Today’s buildings are hopelessly unsuited and totally unneeded.” Given that his prediction was for 30 years in the future, Dr. Drucker has six more years for something similar to it to occur.

Given today’s situation with escalating COVID-19 cases throughout many of our states, I think Dr. Drucker’s prediction could occur earlier than 2027. If the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021 end up with a majority of traditional universities teaching mostly online, many students and their parents may decide that attending large, expensive residential colleges is a waste of money if quality online programs are readily available and more affordable.

Regardless of the feedback from last spring’s Zoom classes that were not well-designed online courses similar to those offered by colleges and universities like APUS, this fall’s online courses should be improved over last spring’s for the institutions that considered the probability of an online fall semester. At the same time, a quality online college experience includes more than just the activity inside the Learning Management System (LMS).

Institutions that want to be successful at offering online options for their students will need to build active and engaged online communities of students and faculty. Institutions successful at building online courses and scalable services will create more competition in a COVID-19 market where the number of college students is shrinking.

Ultimately, institutions with large online program offerings will offer them at a substantially lower price than traditional on-ground programs because of the economies of scale. When these institutions build the levels of engagement and service necessary to meet the needs and expectations of students and offer them at affordable levels, Professor Drucker’s prediction is likely to be met. It’s only a matter of time.

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Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In July 2016, he retired as APUS president and continued as CEO of APEI. In September 2017, he was reappointed APUS president after the resignation of Dr. Karan Powell. In September 2019, Angela Selden was named CEO of APEI, succeeding Dr. Boston who will remain APUS president until his planned retirement in June 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. During his tenure, APUS grew to over 100,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 90,000 alumni. In addition to his service as a board member of APUS and APEI, Dr. Boston is a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), a member of the Board of Overseers of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, a board member of the Presidents’ Forum, and a board member of Hondros College of Nursing and Fidelis, Inc. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. Dr. Boston lives in Owings Mills, MD with his wife Sharon and their two daughters.

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