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Dr. A. Wade Boykin

Dr. Narendra Rustagi
April 2005

One could easily argue that Narendra Rustagi is the Father of Distance Education at Howard University.   The chair of Information Systems and Analysis in the School of Business, Dr. Rustagi also co-chaired Howard’s Distance Education Task Force, setting policies that would safeguard the academic integrity of “distance-ed” programs—programs where faculty and students never or rarely meet face-to-face.  Moreover, he played a leading role in securing an eCollege.com grant to bring distance education to Howard long before Blackboard’s online course management system was available.  In addition, he directed the online MBA program in e-Commerce.

Dr. Rustagi’s own courses confirm the value of Distance Education.  For instance, one student in his online statistics course stated that “the convenience of the class being online allowed me to fit the course into my schedule and provide the proper amount of attention for the course. . . . I was so influenced by the innovation and convenience of the on-line course offered by the Howard MBA program that I became an on-line instructor for a division for the University of Phoenix.”  Another student recalled that Rustagi’s online statistics course was “the most challenging and the most rewarding course that I have taken thus far.”  Yet another, adopting the jargon of the business world, thanked Rustagi for his “exceptional teaching and instruction,” saying, “My ROI [return on investment] has reached new heights.”  Dr. Rustagi’s statistics course was an interactive course, where students posted solutions and commented on their classmates’ solutions.  In addition, although Rustagi did not require them to participate in chat sessions, most of them did.

Dr. A. Wade BoykinWhile Dr. Rustagi has promoted Distance Education at Howard, he has also promoted its development around the world, especially in Africa.  As he and co-author Rajni Goel point out in the proceedings for the International Conference on Open and Online Learning, Africa is generally too poor and rural “to participate in this great digital repository of human knowledge.”  However, Distance Education can empower universities, especially HBCUs, to bridge this Digital Divide.  At the same time, it can slow Africa’s “Brain Drain,” Rustagi and Goel explain.  Because of the demand for higher education, many African students study abroad, but “the students are not returning to the home nation to help the lagging economy or to add to the knowledge base of the country.”  Distance Education can fulfill the demand for higher education, without luring students outside their country.  In this way, “distance” education can bring knowledge back home.

 

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