By Erin Hallissy
From Aristotle to iTunes
Barry Eckhouse's field is rhetoric, one of the seven classical liberal arts, but he's using cutting-edge technology that was never dreamed of last century, much less 2,000 years ago.
Whether he's giving feedback through embedded digital voice technology instead of writing on a paper, teaching students the art of argument and persuasion in virtual classrooms or adding to the growing collection of recorded faculty lectures on iTunes, Eckhouse keeps the College and its graduate business programs at the forefront of emerging technologies.
In 2004, Eckhouse created the Hybrid Executive MBA program in which students spend 50 percent of their time in a traditional classroom and 50 percent online through web conferencing, allowing them to be in class whether they're at home in India or on a business trip in Hong Kong. The program is garnering attention from other business schools.
"People aren't coming into it because they're gadget freaks," Eckhouse says. "They're coming into because they'll get a real MBA with real programs and real classmates, and they can do it from anywhere in the world."
Even when they're in a real classroom, hybrid MBA students use netbooks — inexpensive laptops to access the Internet — to engage in interactive projects with faculty and classmates.
"It provides an opportunity for a collaborative environment that is second to none in my view," Eckhouse says. "And teachers in our hybrid program have individual meetings with students that far exceed anything that happens in a traditional setting because they can do it any time of the day and from anywhere."
The hybrid program brings a new perspective on the Lasallian tradition of providing education to those who could not otherwise get one.
"We normally talk about those who can't get it because they can't afford it," he says. "But this, too, provides an education to folks who wouldn't otherwise be able to get an MBA."
Eckhouse brings his enthusiasm about technology to all of Saint Mary's. He chaired a faculty technology committee to help undergraduate and graduate professors use technology to enhance scholarship, education and research. He has promoted podcasts, built websites and fabricated computers to help high-tech initiatives, and has appeared at conferences to spread the word about the advances the College has made in the digital age.
Deans and associate directors of other graduate business schools have also visited SMC to learn about its technical innovations. Saint Mary's is hosting the first conference on New Media in Executive MBA Education in April 2010. Graduate business schools committed to attending include those at Stanford, UC Berkeley, Claremont Graduate University, Cornell, USC, UCLA and the University of Utah, and more are expected.
"I want people to say ‘the folks you really want to talk to are the ones at Saint Mary's, because they're the ones who have been at this for a while and they're the ones who are the most innovative,' " Eckhouse says.
Yet Eckhouse isn't into technology for its own sake.
"The first time I posted the syllabus online, I was so proud, then I heard a student say, ‘Why didn't he give us a print one? Now I have to print it out.'"