Interview with the President of LIGS University Bill Reed | Online Education Is Here to Stay
Welcome to our interview series with LIGS University's president, William Reed. From Bill's perspective, where is online education headed and will brick-and-mortar schools survive? What does learning mean to Bill? Watch on our YouTube channel now and get to know the head of the university a little bit closer.
In these interviews, you should learn first of all what Bill's view of the world of education is and what his vision is for LIGS University. So let me start with a question.
How long have you been in academia?
My academics go back to the most recent 23 years. I was a late entrance into the academic world. I completed my bachelor's degree when I was a little older than normal, but I completed that and then my Masters's in around 1999 in 2000 completed my PhD degree. And at the same time as I entered academics, quite by accident, my previous position was done away with and I went home. That day and said to my wife, I got my degree to get into education, so this looks like a good time to do it because I had nothing else to do. So around 1999, 2000 is the first time I got into teaching.
Right. What other industries have you worked in previously?
I have a varied background. Initially, I was a pilot. I flew corporate jet aircraft around the United States, Canada, and Mexico. I was an air traffic controller for a few years both in Chicago and in New York in the United States. And I went into my own business for a number of years and then I at the same time entered the corporate world. I entered corporate sales in the areas of technology and software.
Does it even match with your current profession?
Not even close. I think the benefit is that my varied background gives me many perspectives on things and I think that has helped in my role now. So I'm familiar with a number. Of industries and a number of ways how people do things training, sales, and service.
Right now, you're at the top of LIGS University. What would you say are your biggest challenges here?
I think the challenges are both international and local at the same time. The world of education has changed since I entered it. When we started, online education was new. Online education consisted of mailing assignments to your school, and the instructor would read them and mail them back. Those of us old enough remember eight-track tapes. They were sent out. I understand. We would send the video cassette tapes out and send them back. The Internet is very new to this business, and I have been fortunate enough to be around for this transition from the last. 23, 24 years from where we are today, it has changed dramatically.
And early on in the online education world, many of the more traditional brick-and-mortar type schools would frown on online saying, it's not going to work, it's never going to make it. It's not the way to teach. Now, today, in 2023, we look at it and say it's part of the normal. Every university has something that is technologically connected, either online or in some ways connected with technology. So it has been an enormous change in the education industry and in the methods of delivering the education.
Would you say people around the world would share this kind of view? Because I think this is really in America you're talking about.
Yeah. Yes. It's primarily based there, but it is dramatically, again, spread throughout the world. Currently, we're dealing with students. And faculty and employees from many corners of the globe. We have faculty meetings, and they come from Malaysia, Germany, the United States, Canada, and South America. So it has gone global very quickly as a result of the advancement of the industry itself. And world events have also added to the growth of the online environment.
How do you cooperate? Because you are working remotely. How is it?
It's interesting. Faculty members and so on. Fortunately, when I made the change to academics, I went right into the online world. I started it, and six months into my academic teaching, I was offered a full-time job in a brick-and-mortar institution. And I turned it down to go into the online world because I was taking a guess that it was the next big thing in education. And it was one of the times I did something and it worked out right. I think I took it. The right move there is to go into the online environment and to do it. And since then, it has simply exploded. And with the aid of technology, it's made it available throughout the world. In every corner of the world, this happened.
Where do you see the biggest, let's say, advantages of this model?
Well, the original, I'm saying ten or 15 years ago, we used to see advertisements in the United States and other countries going to school in your pajamas or going to school while you're a working adult. I think it has enormously opened up opportunities for working adults to advance their education and advance their careers. And I think they also have this opportunity of mobility. You don't have to drive to campus. You don't have to drive to a location to learn. You can learn in your living room. These ideas were really some of the founding reasons why, in my opinion, online education has grown the way it has. Now. There are different reasons, I think, at play that will support this industry going forward.
Do you think those brick-and-mortar universities, these like, old buildings, old institutions will go online, too?
I think all of them are online. Most of them are online at some level. They offer hybrid approaches where they do both, which is excellent. I don't think online will ever totally remove brick-and-mortar education. I think the campuses are fine. I think they're fantastic for many, many people. I think they offer an interaction that may be lesser available in the online world where we can sit and talk right now rather than doing this on some mechanical device or through a computer. People enjoy that still. We're still humans. So the removal of the brick-and-mortar institutions, I don't see happening any time in the near future. Perhaps someday. But not in our foreseeable future.
Let's talk about mistakes in your career. Are there any?
How many tapes do you have on your machines here? Because we could go through quite a few of them. I have been fortunate that I've made mistakes, of course, and many but I've always had help around me to get through it. I've always had a supportive family, a family of business associates. Some mistakes were big, some were minor. But I think I was taught in my early education both in the educational world of business and so on and family, that you have to learn from your mistakes. So while you're making the mistake, it can be very painful. But a few months later you learn from it and you say, well, now what not to do? Now what do I have to learn that I should do? So doing it that way it's helped lessen the results of some.
Some of the mistakes I've made in terms of timing, in terms of maybe I should have completed my early education earlier, I might have had a better perspective on things. So part of my teaching philosophy is to don't put off learning. I firmly believe that when you are involved in a career, whether that career be a business career or you're a mom working at home or not working, taking care of the family, there's always room to learn in whatever you do. And lifelong learning has become a buzzword in our business, but it's more a movement in that in order to keep up in today's fast-paced worlds that we all live in. Learning is key to surviving in that world, in my opinion. And I think the institutions that offer solutions to that will be those that survive in the education sector.
In terms of LIGS University. Would you have done anything differently there?
I've been associated with LIGS for approximately six or seven years. I met the owner of LIGS University through a mutual friend. I was looking for a part-time teaching job. Here we are, and here I am. I spoke to him, and we were talking about what he says, well, why don't you kind of help me run the school rather than teach for the school? And I said, well, that's okay. That's good. In my previous experience, I had administrative positions at different institutions. I was a dean at one school and things like that. So that was fit. And I enjoy doing the management side of education as well, so we did that. So I served on the board of directors for a number of years.
For the last few years, I was the chair of the board of directors, and we were trying to assist the school to move and progress right. 18 months before COVID set in. And of course. Course, education as well as many industries were affected by the COVID situation, and thank goodness we are emerging from that. And we've made it through that. And when some haven't, they haven't been as fortunate. So we're very mindful of those situations and making sure that any growth plans we have at leagues will have space so that if we run into another either natural disaster, economic situation, or recession, we are planning ourselves to survive such situations. So we're not being super aggressive, but we're being conservatively aggressive and taking short steps instead of big ones.
What would you say? Has it somehow changed how students approach, like, higher education over the years?
I think it's constantly changing, and I think it depends on which group of people you're talking to, and what part of the world they come from. Some people seek. A certain thing out of education. Some are doing it for their own satisfaction. Others are doing it for career advancement. Others are doing it to stay active. Years and years ago, people used to say, oh, let's you know, do a lot of reading. Read about fictional stories or read about history. Now it takes a course in something. Do a course in something you don't even know about. Just to be active, to keep busy, and to keep learning. If this learning cycle is becoming so important, if you stop learning, you're going to fall off. The future, in my opinion, is for everyone. I mean, the online education, because you still have to pay for it. You have to pay for it. It's expensive. In terms of providing the technology to do this properly and meaningfully.
The equipment is expensive, and the knowledge to do it is expensive. Instead of hiring, say, income. English professors or history professors and business management professors were hiring consultants and communication experts and technology-driven solutions to this. So it has changed the business and it has changed how people receive it. I openly acknowledge that maybe online education is not for everyone. I also acknowledge that I think I can talk to those people and help them understand it better. But still, some people are just not acclimated to an environment where you don't go to a classroom and sit and talk with other people. We do that online in a different way. We have discussion areas. We have that. But some people like this meeting with you and me today. We're sitting, talking to each other. We could have done this over Zoom, a meeting, or anything like that. But there is a value to face-to-face contact and that certainly is respected. And in some programs that is still there. We have. Provided by the school in Some. We don't have one right now, but there's a conversation on the horizon about having an opportunity where we do get together with our master's students and we spend maybe a weekend or a few days. We had a very successful program at a former place where I worked, where we would take our learners and travel to a foreign country to learn about how they run business. In this particular case, we had gone down to Santiago, Chile, from the United States, and that was a very successful trip and a very meaningful learning experience because we would go there and study, for example, Walmart, a very large international retailer. Well, why did Walmart go to Argentina? When they went to Argentina, they decided not to call it Walmart. They bought a company that is not in Argentina. I'm sorry. In Chile, they bought a company that was already in business and then branded it underneath the Walmart name.
So those types of things are very interesting. To talk to the leaders of those companies that made these types of decisions. Why did you buy a brand rather than build your brand? And for an international organization like Walmart, it's interesting to see why they would do that. Of course, they have the money to do it, but bringing it even down to the local place is part of the other side of that. The other extreme to that is I work with students when I'm teaching in different parts of the world. We had a particular gentleman whose mother made excellent bread, and he moved from Africa to the Philippines, and he wanted to open up a bread shop. So in our class, we took that idea and started talking about it with these 25 or 30 students. So we really had consultants in our class from China, Egypt, the United States, and Canada. And we're all helping this fellow figure out how to set up his bread shop in the Philippines. So those are the scope of which education is reached, as we can do it online. Now, we couldn't. Do that particular piece in a classroom. If we were sitting in a town with a campus and a building, that would have to be brought in technically. So there are arguments on both sides. But I certainly acknowledge some people are maybe not the best for online learning. I think the majority are, particularly if you want to find yourself a position in the corporate world these days, you better have some technology background around. It may not have to be your focus, but even any career or any position I think of right now has something connected with technology. And the skills you learn, aside from the education point of just the mechanical use of the machinery and so on in your academic journey, can help you.
So basically you're saying it's not about a degree you're getting out of it.
It's about information. It's about learning. It's about you. When you go to any college, either on campus college or an online college, you learn the material, or we hope you learn the material, and we tell you. Are you on that? Yes. Do you know about this theory? No, you don't. Here's how to learn it.
The other side of learning is that you learn about yourself as much as you learn about the content and the material you're covering. You say, Jeez, I didn't know I could ever learn that. I'm sitting here today in my current role, and if you had asked me even ten years ago if I was going to have this position, I would laugh. But I have it. I'm enjoying it a lot. I really am. I'm an older person. Obviously, I didn't have to do this, but I'm one that has a problem turning down a challenge. So when the owner came to me and asked me to do this, I said, Well, I kind of have to. Well, I just do. It was a good challenge, and I feel extraordinarily comfortable in it because of my background we talked a bit, a little bit about varying backgrounds, and not too many people who could try to connect an aviation career with being in the leadership of a university. And there's not a lot, but there's some. It's still discipline. It's still learning. I have to learn every day when I'm in my job and talking to our folks. We have to use what I learned in a new way, so it's all the same.
I once met a doctor who wanted to be an engineer, a mechanical engineer, and he became an internist. I forget the exact name, but he liked using the equipment in the procedure room. That was his connection to his love of using machinery. But he did it in a medical sense. So it all applied. You can connect your experience. There are very few experiences that don't hold value to it. And it's just a matter of how you put the puzzle together. Right? Do you keep up with other universities? Maybe. Do you see what they are doing, try to implement it. I particularly pay attention to what's going on in our industry, always have. I enjoy that part of it, seeing what other people are doing. We see things, we think about them, and this is universal. Every president I would think of would probably do similar things. They have to be aware of what's going on and some ideas we look at, we think about, some we amend, we change and some we say I don't think I want to do that. It all depends on who we want to work with within our market and in our area and who we can't possibly sit here and focus on satisfying the world. We can successfully sit here and find a group of people that match the type of work that we can do well and help them. So we're not looking to enroll hundreds of thousands of people, but we will look to people that we feel we can provide a solution to and assist. And we would like to be the best in that category as we grow the university. And on that topic, we'll.
What trends do you see? I see the trends of people moving forward in a way that meets their requirements. Very specifically, if you're in the medical field, we've all seen in the medical field how we've gone from a doctor. Now you have 50 people that I'm a doctor of this finger, I'm a doctor of this hand, and they become very specialized. The same is happening in the workforce. We see. So we have to address that specialization. We can't be a specialist in everything. No one can. Even the super large, very traditional universities have their niches, and I'm a firm believer in that. So we are focusing on where we think we can do the best based on the talent we have in our organization and the talent we can acquire in the near future to complement our goals and our mission.