College of Business > News & Events > A Q&A with Driehaus College of Business Director of Online Learning

A Q&A with Driehaus College of Business Director of Online Learning

Alumnus James Moore steers college’s remote learning strategy amid pandemic

James Moore, director of online learning at the Driehaus College of Business
James Moore (MS '01), director of online learning at the Driehaus College of Business

When the coronaviru​s outbreak began impacting people and organizations worldwide this year, universities and colleges were forced to quickly transition in-person classes to remote learning.

To respond to this unprecedented crisis, James Moore, director of online learning at the Driehaus College of Business at DePaul University, has been instrumental in preparing business faculty and staff to continue serving students while everyone observes social distancing to maintain the community’s well-being.

“I see my primary role as removing the impediments that prevent faculty and students from going online,” Moore says. “For that reason, the college of business has been at the forefront of areas like secure online testing, streamed video, accessibility and online collaboration.”

A London native and soon-to-be Double Demon, Moore came to the U.S. in 1999 to earn a master’s degree in telecommunications systems. He has since began pursuing a Doctorate in Business Administration at the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business, focusing on virtual learning in his dissertation. In 2018, Moore’s leadership and expertise were recognized when he received the national Schullo Best Distance Teaching Practice Award at the 34th annual Distance Teaching & Learning Conference.

In the Q&A below, Moore talks about his passion for education and technology as well as how students can succeed in an online learning environment.

How do you think DePaul and the Driehaus College of Business are uniquely positioned to meet this current challenge?

DePaul has a particularly pragmatic view of how to get things done, and a mission to provide an exemplary education to an underserved community. The concept of Vincentian personalism underscores the college’s focus on providing individualized experiences at scale. With this foundation we move fast and as one to meet all challenges. We know that with the coronavirus outbreak, our students have been severely disrupted; they no longer have access to computer labs, or secure and reliable internet access. Some students no longer have access to their own computer. Our students may be in different time zones or scrambling to find a job to help pay rent. We know this, and we have worked day and night to make sure that our online courses are asynchronous and flexible – this reduces pressure on our students.

We will maintain the high academic standards of the past, but we will be there for our students, making sure they graduate on schedule, making sure they can complete their studies no matter their circumstances. Their current reality may be scary and unsure, but they can rely on DePaul and the college of business.

Tell me about why you decided to pursue a DBA at the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business.

In all honesty I meant to work on my doctorate a long, long, time ago. Human-computer interaction was what I thought I would be studying but finding the time to work on this escaped me. However, having the DBA on my doorstep dramatically changed things. The program has a focus on practitioner skills, rather than pure academic skills. That was of interest to me. The program also had monthly residencies that I could accommodate my work and home responsibilities around.

What are some of the pros and cons of online learning? How can students prepare to excel and foster meaningful connections with faculty?

Convenience is both the pro and con of online learning. Most students elect for online learning because their lives are busy and complicated – online provides a way to juggle competing responsibilities that would otherwise prevent a student from being a student. However, that convenience has a downside. It can be very hard to switch on the computer at the end of the day and study, instead of succumbing to the plethora of exciting distractions streamed to your living room. Successful online learners are those with the self-direction to find a way to put in an hour every day and carve out stolen moments of learning.

Online students frequently have more meaningful connections with faculty than their offline peers. This is perhaps less noticeable at DePaul, where average class sizes are small, but at other institutions students can feel themselves fading into the background during large lectures. With online, your connection to your peers and professors are constant, not the three hours a week you are in class, and with only a few minutes to say something. Online vastly broadens the ability to articulate your thoughts and feelings.

How did you become passionate about new media and web technologies, particularly in higher education?

Technology has always fascinated me. The second word I spoke as a child was “dot” – this was the name I gave to the family television. The TV was a large cathode ray tube that slowly faded to a dot of light when you switched off the set. As a child, switching “Dot” on and off was intoxicating, more interesting than the shows that graced the airwaves.

Technology is both feared and fetishized in the U.S. We fear that technology will destroy jobs and undermine societal norms. Simultaneously, we see technology as the panacea for all our ills, the quick fix to complex and complicated problems.

Higher education has had technology forced upon it for years, with not a lot to show. The technological advances of the 20th century have not resulted in more affordable education for the average North American student, or resulted in demonstrable improvements in critical thinking skills. The web changes this – we see a huge democratization in online learning, and a reduction in scarcity. Where universities and colleges used to be the repository of scarce resources – books and professors – they are now gateways to an expanded universe of possibilities. The thing that greatly excites me is ambient technology that fades into the background, unnoticed technology that allows one to get on with the task at hand.

What’s in store for technology-assisted learning at the college?

For the past year, a dedicated team at DePaul has focused on the “classroom of the future” – a space in which educators and students can effortlessly collaborate both physically and virtually. Because we are DePaul, we want this classroom technology to be both intuitive to the technology averse, yet eminently capable to power users. We think we have something to be very excited about.

Internally, our code name for this has been a “trimodal classroom.” The trimodal classroom simultaneously allows for three modes of instruction: face-to-face (the physical), online live (online synchronous) and recorded (online asynchronous). We are all very much looking forward to the campus opening to regular business and being able to bring this to a wider audience.