Online Education Fits Busy Lives

Working Hoosiers who are thinking of returning to college often tell college advisors stories of busy lives: full-time jobs, soccer and Little League schedules, quality family time, as well as, volunteer and religious commitments.
Online study might be the answer, according to Staci Davis, executive director of operations for online and distance education at Ball State University.
Although Ball State University is
best known as a residential university for traditional-age college students, its Online and Distance Education division offers students more than 60 online degrees and certificates, including bachelor’s degrees, professional certificates, and graduate degrees. Each year it serves about 5,000 students who are pursuing degrees fully online.
Davis sat down recently with Career Ready to talk about online opportunities available through the university.
How is online education a viable option for students?
DAVIS: Typically, adult students return to school to further their skill set and elevate their career goals. So we’ve developed degree
programs, licenses, and certificates so they can continue working, continue with family life, continue to contribute to their communities—and still earn a degree.
What special supports and services does Ball State offer its online, working adult students?
DAVIS: We realize that returning students can face major obstacles so we are very pro-active in this regard. We do that through student services such as Career Services, the Writing Center, study skills and strategy tools—really the same services offered on campus. We’ve also created an Online Student Commons where online students interact with their peers and administrators. And, they engage one-on-one regularly with their advisors.
We offer an online Student Success Course, which helps undergraduate students understand how to function in the online world, how to use technology, how to get their transcripts, and who to contact when they have questions. They can complete this course before they start classes or during their first semester.
For us, it all comes down to relationships. If a student is not doing well, is the faculty member reaching out to help him or help her succeed? Sometimes a student simply needs to chat with an advisor or a peer. For example, our Online Student Ambassadors are always ready to talk to classmates about issues that concern them.
Why do you think an experienced, full-time faculty member is critical to classroom success?
DAVIS: Faculty success is one key to student success. Faculty who teach online at Ball State complete an Online Teaching Certificate course—and their course has to meet “Quality Matters” standards. This training is required of faculty who are teaching a new online course. It’s a very student-centered approach.
What does it take to be a good online student?
DAVIS: You have to be disciplined and organized to be a successful online student because no one tells you to log in. If you don’t have those skill sets, online might not be the best way for you to learn. If you need face-to-face human interaction, you might want to be in an on-campus class.
With our online classes, there will be active engagement every week. It may be through web or teleconferencing, interviews with experts, live chats, discussion boards, lecture captures, journaling, or other means. It’s not a matter of working at your own pace.
So there’s lots of contact and interaction with faculty. It’s part of the culture we’ve created. Online students usually tell us that they feel like they know their instructors well.

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