Partnership for Education: Students’ perceptions of a graduate cohort program conducted within an organizational environment

Robert L North, Reynaldo L Martinez

Abstract


The term “cohort” in academic and non-academic settings refers to a group of students who begin a program of study at the same time and progress through a specified sequence of courses until completion. In recent years, academic institutions have begun to offer customised courses and degree programs in the cohort format at a client organisation’s facilities. Although these educational partnerships provide convenience and appear to offer advantages not available in traditional formats, there is little research-based guidance on how to improve the effectiveness of these programs from the learner’s perspective. This study describes and analyses the perceptions of U. S. adult students in an educational partnership between a State of Georgia university (GU) and a State of Georgia Health System (GHS) that awarded a Masters in Business Administration with a specialisation in Healthcare Management Degree program. This investigation led to a set of recommendations for improving the program design for future cohorts.
A descriptive, case study approach was used, including evaluations, surveys, focus groups, individual interviews, and standardised test scores. Routine, end-of-course evaluations and special cohort-only surveys were analysed to develop focus group interview questions and individual participant interviews. Major Field Test (MFT) scores were used to compare cohort students with other non-cohort GU majors and national score averages. The primary conclusions reached in this study were that the cohort students believed that the program design was good but that there were problems that needed to be addressed in future cohort programs. Major recommendations for improvement addressed the issues of curriculum focus, course scheduling, group dynamics, communications, organisational involvement, and recognition of graduates.

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