Online Programs Continue to Grow

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March 13, 2013

Medaille’s Online Programs Grow With Demand for Flexibility
By Tara Erwin

Thanks to the Internet, nearly anything these days can be found with just a click of the mouse, whether it’s groceries, true love or an education. While a degree is a bit more complicated than that, the Medaille College School of Adult and Graduate Education’s (SAGE) online learning program is making it possible for the busy, typically adult student to obtain an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree or even a master’s degree from the convenience of anywhere they have an Internet connection.

Medaille rolled out its online degree programs in September 2010 and saw the first class of fully online students earn their degrees this past December. John Fronckowiak, dean of Medaille’s online learning program, had the chance to teach them in their very first class and says the online program was created to better serve working, adult students who are looking to further their education and career, but can’t commit to a traditional college experience for any number of reasons, but often due to work and family obligations.

“The landscape of higher education has been moving toward online learning for some time. Medaille has always had a strong commitment to adult learners who require flexibility in their learning experience,” he said.  The beauty of Medaille’s online learning program, which consists of 10 to 15 courses offered one at a time for seven weeks, is that a student doesn’t need to log onto his or her virtual classroom at a specific time of the day or even every day to successfully complete the class. “Online learning provides students with the opportunity to work on their education at a time and place that's convenient for them - which often means very late at night, or early in the morning,” said Fronckowiak.

Amy Larrabee ’14, who is currently enrolled in the online Bachelor of Professional Studies in Health Information Administration, works full time at Verizon Communications and has two young children. She found the flexibility of Medaille’s online program was conducive to her busy schedule. She does however warn that online learning shouldn’t be confused with being “easier” than traditional classroom course work.

“Online learning is challenging because students are responsible for setting their own schedules versus having a scheduled time established by the school,” she said.

It’s a sentiment Fronckowiak echoed. “In some ways (online learning) is harder for the student,” he said.  “It requires an individual drive and commitment to learning. A successful online student has a high degree of motivation and discipline to work on his or her own.”

Teresa Reinhardt, program director for Medaille’s Health Information Administration program, recommends that her students have realistic scheduling expectations. “Once you read through the syllabus for each week ahead of time, you can plan accordingly,” she said, adding that students can take advantage of the available communication channels to keep in contact with instructors and students to effectively fulfill the courses’ team component requirements while balancing work, families and other commitments.

While some area colleges offer online courses, the configuration of Medaille’s online learning program is rare, both in its scope of online degrees offered and depth to which classes explore subject matter.

“Most of the local colleges tend to focus on graduate degrees,” said Fronckowiak. “We have a great mix of undergraduate degrees that makes Medaille unique. I think our strength here is the design and structure of our online courses.”

Many of the online courses at Medaille are identical to the ones on campus, right down to the same instructors. Another added benefit is that all of the courses are set up in the same way, with materials stored in the same locations, and each week following the same rhythm of activities and due dates, allowing online learners to easily plan their lives around their education.

Reinhardt, who has been with Medaille since 2011, teaches her courses exclusively online.  Although she also has teaching experience in a traditional classroom setting, she said she honestly prefers online instruction.  “I think that students open up more and express their thoughts and ideas a little more freely in an online environment, both to their instructors as well as their classmates,” she said.

Another advantage to the online learning program is that even though it’s certainly possible to obtain a degree from Medaille without ever setting foot on campus, it doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” choice. Students can combine campus-based with online studies within certain courses of study. And of course, online students are always welcome on campus to meet in person with faculty and staff as needed.

As far as the prominence of an online degree, do employers know that a job candidate completed his or her course of study through online classes? Does it affect their hiring decisions?

“Students graduate from our online programs with a degree that says Medaille College,” said Fronckowiak, noting that online learning has become more acceptable to employers. “From the beginning, we looked to transfer the same structure and rigor that we had in our on-the-ground courses to an online environment. I think we have been quite successful in that regard.”

Medaille is seeking professional accreditation for a number of online programs. “These accreditations create additional value to these programs for students and employers”, said Fronckowiak.

Larrabee says her experiences as an online student thus far have been “challenging” and “interesting,” and she loves being able to make her school schedule fit around her work and family. “I would absolutely recommend taking online classes or obtaining a degree through an online program,” she said. “I have already recommended the online program to co-workers and friends who cannot commit to a set traditional classroom schedule.”

To learn more about Medaille’s online degrees, visit http://medaille.edu/sage/online-degrees.

Medaille Online Program Degrees:
Advanced Certificate in Mental Health Counseling
Associate of Science in General Studies
Bachelor of Science in General Studies
Bachelor of Business Administration
Bachelor of Business Administration in Information Systems
Bachelor of Professional Studies in Health Information Administration
Bachelor of Science in Homeland Security
Master of Business Administration
Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership
Master of Arts in Psychology
Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling

 

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