Albert Orbinati, PhD, is the program director for Champlain's online undergraduate business programs, including the associate and bachelor's degree in business management, the bachelor's degree in economic crime investigation, and undergraduate business certificates. We spoke with him to get his perspective on the business field, to learn more about his professional background, and to get insight into Champlain's online business degrees.
How long have you been working at Champlain College Online? What brought you here?
I've been at Champlain since August 1, 2017. There are several factors that brought me here but I’ll focus specifically on one because I think it’s important for potential students to understand. Champlain has been successfully offering online education since 1993. 1993! Though there were Intranet education platforms in the 60’s and 70’s, and the Electronic University Network (EUN) in the mid 80’s, it wasn’t until EUN partnered with America Online in 1992 that “online education” was available to the masses. Champlain, being the innovative college that it has always been, got onboard immediately because it knew that access to education would mean it could better meet its adult-focused educational mission. Not too many colleges across the country can claim this early of an adoption.
Why does this matter? I’ve experienced, first hand, that the longer a school has been (successfully) delivering online higher education, the more likely they are to have the expertise, resources, and processes necessary for a truly impactful experience for students. Many schools claim they understand online learners and will draw people in with brand names, catchy slogans, and huge marketing budgets. But, only through the trenches of time, trial, and error does a school come to understand what it takes to offer an effective education, online. Champlain has been doing it since 1993, which is incredible. That was the start of it all.
Come to find out, I was right. Champlain really does understand adult and online learners, and has an amazing infrastructure to enable it all. I consider myself lucky to be here.
Tell me a little bit about your professional background in business management.
I had a consulting business for three years, and continue to perform private, independent consulting for education startups and small colleges with a goal of building and diversifying revenue streams. Over the past 10 years, I have held positions of operations director, dean, and vice president in higher education. I joined the United States Air Force in 2003, supported operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and still wear the uniform to this day as a member of the Green Mountain Boys (Vermont Air National Guard).
What are some of the things you like most about working as the Champlain College Online undergraduate business program director?
I like how much the faculty and staff at Champlain care about students. This really is a student-centered organization and like I said before, they’ve had a long time to figure out how to do it well. It shows! Keeping students at the forefront of everything that happens, reducing student debt, helping folks complete faster so they can move on with their lives...everyone here believes in these values. It’s pretty inspirational.
What do you think makes the Champlain online business degree programs effective?
It’s all about the quality of the education that we provide to students. Quality assurance is at the forefront of everything we do - we hire professionals to do everything from teaching to building and updating courses. Students can be confident in knowing they are receiving our best product with qualified instructors who care about education and want to give back.
What are your favorite online business classes to teach?
Business students can learn so much about business from exposure to entrepreneurship. Whether they’re thinking of starting a business or not, personal experiences, networking, and knowing where to find the information one needs to be an entrepreneur are incredibly valuable skills. I teach the online bachelor's in business management capstone course - this is the final course in the program and gives students a significant amount of flexibility and choice to craft their own projects. I get everything from employer-sponsored fieldwork projects and business plans for new small businesses, to theses and professional development projects.
What do you think makes a good online instructor? What do you look for when selecting instructors for the program?
In my opinion, a great instructor is someone who cares about the positive impact of education and cares about giving back to others. A great online instructor has these traits, as well as an instinct for effective communication. Great online instructors are also present in the classroom, and challenge students to dig deeper and do their best work. When looking for instructors, I look for a combination of factors: professional experience, presentation, academic history, and a willingness to teach.
What are some of the trends you see shaping business management education over the next few years?
If history can be viewed as an indication of the future, business education trends - and the skills employers are looking for - tend to follow the societal needs and economics of the time period. One hundred years ago there was a great need for management competencies and production optimization as mass production was coming into the fold. The 30’s and 40’s demanded hard skills growth as business professionals reentered new fields. Post-war business education was focused on corporate growth with a growing emphasis on quantitative analysis. Over the past 30 years or so (especially the past 10), business education has been lead by the exponential rise in information technology and globalization. This has lead to a current-day emphasis on soft skills, diversification across the curriculum, and interdisciplinary approaches.
Looking forward, soft skills such as creativity, critical thinking, communication, and leadership will continue to be important. You’ll see more opportunities for online students to conduct internships and fieldwork. Innovation and entrepreneurship will help to drive the business curriculum as more and more start-ups and easily-accessible funding platforms drive the mass of new business ventures. You cannot discount the continued impact of technology. Gamification will become more popular, as will advanced collaborative software. Finally, business schools will most likely continue to leverage their current business partnerships to diversify revenue and offer lower cost access to education.
Who do you see as being a good fit for our undergraduate business programs?
If you’re curious, driven, and willing to put in the work necessary to succeed, you will be a good fit for the business management program.
What’s something you’d like students to know about you that they might not know otherwise?
I used to be a competitive beatboxer and I love to cook.