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NEWSLETTER: Vol. 5, No. 4, January 25, 2000

Forging On-Line, International Partnerships:
UW-Stout's New Global Hospitality Management Concentration

Joseph W. Holland, JD
Christine J. Clements, PhD
James J. Buergermeister, PhD

Department of Hospitality and Tourism
University of Wisconsin-Stout

The Department of Hospitality and Tourism at the University of Wisconsin-Stout has recently implemented a new concentration in global hospitality management within the existing master's degree program in hospitality and tourism management. Creating the new concentration presented many challenges in curriculum design and delivery. The program is offered entirely on-line to students who, in many cases, would not be able to pursue their graduate studies otherwise. It has been designed in an active learning format for persons who are presently working in the hospitality or tourism industries. Moreover, it is a global experience based on a curriculum that has been developed by international educational partners. The courses are team taught by faculty from the partner institutions, allowing students and faculty to experience the cultural richness collaboration between international institutions provides.

Creating the new curriculum and designing a model for international collaboration has been both a challenge and a rich learning experience. The project began with funding from the UW System Central Investment Fund. The Department of Hospitality and Tourism received a grant for $343,000 to design and deliver an on-line master's degree. Members of the initial grant team had already begun the process of cultivating both business and educational partners to enhance the existing traditional degree program. The grant provided by the Central Investment Fund allowed for the development of a model for curriculum design and delivery that would use technology to enable collaboration and provide a high-quality learning environment. The department had already been involved in researching and developing on-line course delivery for over five years, providing a knowledge base that allowed department faculty and staff to fully support this effort.

This paper will provide an overview of the key aspects of this project. It will discuss partnership development, curriculum development, technology, evaluation, launching the concentration, and remaining challenges. The evolution of this project has been a learning experience for all involved; we hope others may build on what we have learned.

Partnership Development

The project began with full departmental and administrative endorsement. Because on-line classes had been taught for quite some time in the hospitality and tourism department, many faculty felt comfortable moving to the next step. There has been, however, some concern about losing sight of our primary mission: undergraduate, on-campus education. University administrators were very supportive and have accepted the fact that on-line learning is here to stay. They recognize that we must move quickly to position ourselves in the marketplace.

Marshaling adequate human resources is certainly an issue given a project of this scope. One of our strategies was to cultivate resources outside our campus and the UW System. Due to the global nature of the new program, international partners were essential. UW-Whitewater's College of Business was a logical choice for a System partner. We had been working together with Whitewater to host their Master of Business Administration on-line degree. We were thus using compatible delivery tools and had already accepted basic design principles as essential to quality on-line teaching and learning. We collaborated with Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom because they have an international reputation in hospitality and tourism education and were experienced in on-line delivery. The Nottingham Trent Business College has one of the best MBA programs in the United Kingdom and had begun to work together with the University of Wisconsin-Stout in teaching on-line. Paderborn University in Germany was chosen because of their technical expertise and for their interest in developing a successful model that could be transferred to other programs at other universities. Marriott Corporation International and IBM were included as business partners; we needed their input regarding industryís needs for curriculum development and to ensure that the technology chosen would work successfully in the business environment.

Identification of partners involved predominantly institutions with which we had some prior contact. However, developing a cohesive team with a common vision was a rather tedious process and remains something at which we must continue to work. We began with a face-to-face meeting to establish closer personal relationships and develop a sense of trust and purpose among the participants. Our department had created a general outline for the curriculum as a starting point. We used the first meeting as an opportunity to identify content areas, discuss competencies necessary for success, and gather input regarding the structure of coursework for the chosen audience of students. The meeting was held in Minneapolis. The agenda required several intense work sessions where issues of appropriate content, competency mapping, and delivery systems were discussed. One of the primary goals among the educational partners was to design a curriculum that would ensure the same level of quality that exists in traditional university settings. We also needed to design a curriculum that met present and future student needs regarding structure and content and agree on a delivery platform. We wanted to present the courses within a time frame that would be acceptable to working adults, most of whom would be employed full-time. Finally, we had to create a process for developing a curriculum that would satisfy the needs of all educational partners.

The partners left the first meeting with a shared vision of the project. Individual roles were established and an outline of content areas and competencies was developed. Most importantly, a group of former strangers left the meeting with a sense of community. To create a curriculum that is global in nature, results in collaboration among diverse entities, and meets the requirements of several educational institutions necessitates that a high level of trust be established at the very beginning. There are an enormous number of issues that could become barriers. Simple things like vocabulary and terminology require agreement among the partners. We decided early on that we would put individual concerns in the background and approach barriers as new opportunities to improve teaching. The work had begun.

Following the initial meeting, we held a series of telephone conferences and exchanged information via e-mail to remain in close contact while we developed coursework. Two months after the first meeting, a second was held at Oxford Brookes University to reach agreement on the curriculum structure. We had to decide which courses were essential as core requirements for the degree and how they should be sequenced so that students could build on their work experiences as they progressed through the theoretical requirements. Each partner was charged with reviewing existing courses at their institutions and presenting options for developing the courses for the global hospitality management concentration. It was important to ensure that the new concentration meet the needs of the existing degree program, but also meet the needs of an entirely different population of students. We recognized that most courses would have to be significantly modified to meet the needs of both on-line delivery and to ensure acceptance across institutional barriers.

The second meeting began on a rough note; the vision seemed unclear. Individual institutional issues began to cloud the shared vision for the new program. Market position and potential competition with existing programs created quite a debate. Although a great deal of work had been accomplished, serious concerns were arising regarding the collaboration. UW-Stout, the degree-granting institution, had to assume leadership at this point regarding curriculum development. We completed the meeting with a much clearer understanding of the roles of the partners and agreed upon the essential courses. In order to alleviate some of the institutional concerns, we decided that the first four courses in the sequence would be team-taught. This would give institutions an opportunity to evaluate both content and delivery for the process of inter-institutional agreement. The meeting was concluded with a structure for the new concentration. Partner institutions were working together to create the curriculum and beginning the process of evaluating and accrediting courses.

The initial phase of the grant was concluded six months later with a third in-person meeting in Menomonie, Wisconsin. At this meeting, the partners finalized the curriculum structure and provided an opportunity to review samples of the first two courses. The educational partners agreed upon standards of design, established teams to facilitate the courses, and explored the use and design of the Personal Development Portfolio (PDF). The team also determined what content and skills should be provided during the on-campus student orientation session. End-of-phase review sessions will be a continuing element of this projectís development.

Curriculum Development

Since the curriculum development process was a shared process, it was quite tedious. Each of the partners reviewed curriculum to see if there were existing courses that could be redesigned for on-line learning. In addition to partnership focus groups, a survey was sent to partners and industry representatives to elicit input regarding the key components and design of the program.

The survey results were used to design the program and to identify its needed outcomes. Key competencies were mapped across the curriculum. The courses were then designed to build upon each other so that the competencies could be attained in a roughly sequential manner. Once the competencies were mapped, faculty teams began to develop individual courses.

On-line curriculum development is different than curriculum development for traditional courses. International seminars aided faculty in making this transition. Topics included understanding the working adult as a customer, creating interactive learning environments, roles of faculty and students, and the basics of on-line delivery. It is also important to understand that a good in-person instructor may not be a good on-line learning facilitator.

Once courses were designed, they were subjected to a university review process. While the presentation of our courses was similar to traditional courses, the review process revealed that many faculty were still wary of distance delivery; quality control was a great concern. Our basic premise was to deliver a world-class product. We knew that our development process was much more rigorous than our regular curriculum development process, but we had to prove it to our colleagues across campus.

Technology

The project team analyzed a variety of delivery platforms. A secure platform allowing for active exchange among learners was critical and LearningSpace, a Lotus Notes product, appeared to fit these criteria. It is also designed to be simple for faculty to use in administering and monitoring course activities and creating content.

Developing courses for asynchronous delivery requires a new approach to instructional design. Those who think they can just post their lectures to the web are in for quite a startling experience. ALN requires a focus on the collaborative learning experience. Students work together to solve problems and explore concepts. Instructors must be able to create an environment that allows students to create learning communities.

Evaluation

We opted to identify our first offering of courses as a pilot program. This gave us an opportunity to critically analyze what we were delivering and how it was meeting the needs of the learners. We have developed a series of evaluation techniques. Instructors are asked to submit their ready-to-go courses six to eight weeks prior to their offering. A team of faculty then evaluates it for appropriate content and for ease of learning. Industry representatives also evaluate most courses. The industry professionals review the course to see that the learners can achieve the competencies needed to advance in the industry. Typically, a graduate student will also test the course and work through each of the learning modules to see that the materials and learning process are user-friendly and that the material will aid the students in achieving the desired outcomes.

At the end of each course, students complete an evaluation. Students have reported that they want flexible access and good-quality instruction. In addition, students perceive a similar or higher level of quality in the on-line environment as compared to the traditional in-person instruction based on survey results.

One challenge is the students' perception of workload. Although this program is designed on a performance-based outcomes model, we are still struggling with the traditional "seat-time" model. Experience with teaching in a traditional classroom inhibits oneís creativity in designing on-line educational activities. Student evaluations from each completed course are providing the team with valuable input for improving course design. The cohort student group is also responsible for helping us to understand the needs of non-traditional learners, who often have other responsibilities like careers and families.

The Launch

Within one year, the University of Wisconsin-Stout marketed the program and accepted a cohort group of 15 students. One component of an on-line degree program deemed necessary was a "resident activity" that would bring all of the participants together to develop a sense of community. The resident activity occurred just before the degree program started and was composed of a series of events that prepared the students to use Lotus LearningSpace and built their teamwork skills. Thirteen of the fifteen students were present for the resident activity. In addition, fifteen faculty members from the partner institutions were also present. The resident activities were a great success. Students left the session with a high level of comfort regarding their educational choice and with a strong commitment to their learning community. Of the three students who have dropped the program, two did not attend the resident activity and one left for financial reasons before beginning any coursework.

Challenges Ahead

While only a short time passed from development of the vision to implementation of the program, several challenges remain. The partnership is now critically analyzing the structure of the program. Is the program meeting the needs of our learners and faculty? Can it be modified to reach additional markets? The curriculum continues to be reviewed. The inclusion of a global thread throughout the program is critical. The program director, Robert Davies, is exploring additional partnerships and new course development. Students have the opportunity to take nine elective credits. These elective credits are an opportunity to provide the global experience.

Marketing of the program has been predominantly to UW-Stout alumni, a group naturally familiar with the institution. However, it is critical for the program to expand into broader markets and to globalize the student groups as well. Key international markets and potential marketing partners are being identified and strategies developed. It is beyond the resources of an academic department to properly market a program of this global nature. Therefore, the educational partnership is exploring options and alternative approaches to reach new markets effectively.

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