Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lifetime Learning

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Learning is a lifetime experience for all of us. Whether in a formal or informal manner we all strive to improve our knowledge of the world we live in. Today’s working adults face the hurdles of balancing a heavy workload and family responsibilities with the desire and need to continue their educational advancement. The advancement in technology has enabled many to meet these challenges by bringing the school and its classrooms into the homes. Internet graduate courses are quickly becoming the norm in the American culture and now in the subcultures of our city universities. In this article we examine how two such institutions have not only met this challenge but also proven to be very successful for all.

In correlation with the Functionalist Perspective, University of Phoenix and Webster University masters’ degree program seems to be most functional with today’s active adult student. In examining this article through the Functional Perspective, both universities offer various onsite locations and online access, thus catering to the need of the adult student, their career path and family life. As defined, “the functionalist perspective emphasizes the way that parts of a society are structured to maintain its stability.”(Schaefer pp. 1) According to the National Center for Education Statistics, pursuit of a master’s degree is growing at the fastest rate of increase for any kind of college degree.” (Article pp. par.1) In contrast, “Phoenix also raises eyebrows in some higher education circles, but the students keep coming.” (Article pp. 4, par.8) The Functionalist Perspective allows us from a sociological standpoint to examine the overall opinionated thought process of more than one point of view in society. Therefore, although the universities present a mass education, there are still speculators that are skeptical of its production.

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Online degrees fill a significant void that has developed over the years. Traditional brick and mortar educational institutions have not been able to keep up with the demand nor do they supply the flexibility required by todays student. “Public appetite for advanced career-enhancing, postgraduate education in these disciplines has grown faster than the capacity of campus-bound, traditional universities to satisfy it.” (Article pp , par )

The article was about graduate programs at alternative schools, yet the entire educational experience offered by both the University of Phoenix and Webster University needs to be explored. Both of these universities are based in functionalist theory. They were established mainly for working adults over the age of 5 (Article pp1, par 5). What are especially interesting are the latent function and the dysfunction that continue to keep both universities in the public’s eye.

One of the latent functions of a distance learning education would be how students are forced into communicating with each other. In a traditional classroom environment, with an instructor who is there to physically keep discussions going, the need to learn something about fellow classmates is not apparent. In an untraditional classroom, such as the one Webster University and University of Phoenix provide, students are responsible for keeping dialogue and discussions going. One of the latent functions now becomes self-starting students who are able to get to know one another much better then they would have in a traditional classroom.

A dysfunctional function with non-traditional education is that this type of educational endeavor gives the perception that on-line or distance learning is easier to cheat on assignments and easier overall to achieve a degree. Both of these universities are fully accredited schools of higher education and would not have received this distinction if a system of checks and balances were not in place. Even with the criticism given to both schools, students continue to enroll because these schools serve a needed purpose to society (Post, 00).


In conclusion this article addresses an alternative source of higher education for the working world. From the functionalist perspective, both Webster University and The University of Phoenix offer working adults the opportunity to further pursue their educational needs. If working adults are to succeed among the top ranked companies of today, it is imperative to advance their education. Online learning allows students to fulfill their responsibilities to both their employers and their families while continuing to maintain stability and balance in all angles of their lives. Both universities are producing graduates who are able to think independently and are able to master critical thinking skills that are necessary in today’s working environment. With continued interest in these types of programs more and more adult students are continuing their lifelong learning.

Though much criticism has been expressed towards both universities, they have established strong creditability by serving a majority of today’s working society. From the functionalist perspective both institutions are providing society options and opportunities for lifelong learning.

Schaefer, R. T. (00). Sociology A brief introduction [University of Phoenix Custom Text]. Boston McGraw-Hill.

Thompson, C. S. (00, February 11). No-frills graduate programs fill growing need for working adults. The St. Louis Post Dispatch. p. A1

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