Augusta State University will offer its first complete online degree program in the fall, giving students an alternative to the traditional classroom setting and broadening enrollment to students outside the boundaries of Augusta.
The Web-based Master of Education in Educational Leadership is a 12-course program that students can complete in one year in front of a home computer.
It is a degree geared toward educators who want to become administrators or teachers looking to build leadership skills, said Wayne Lord, the chairman of ASU’s Department of Educational Leadership, Counseling and Special Education.
“The reason for 100 percent online is to reach out and expand our enrollment beyond our geography,” Lord said.
Students must apply by July 20 for the Aug. 20 session and Sept. 14 for the Oct. 15 session.
Although Lord said the college has not received applications yet, he expects about 25 students per course, similar to the traditional class loads ASU has on the physical campus.
ASU’s move to offer the online degree is atypical in higher education trends, even as enrollment in online courses across the country increases. The vast majority of growth in online degree programs, more than 90 percent, is coming from schools that already have an established online curriculum rather than schools such as ASU just starting to offer online degrees, according to Jeff Seaman, co-director of Babson Survey Research Group.
More than 6.1 million students nationally were taking at least one online course in the fall 2010 term, an increase of 560,000 students from the previous year, according to Seaman’s 2011 study Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States.
Not all higher education institutions are as interested in offering online courses, however, nor are all faculty members enthusiastic about teaching on the web.
“When you ask why institutions are doing an online offering, the most common answers are the ones that can directly tie having an online offering to their mission statement,” Seaman said. “The overwhelming majority of growth is coming from schools that already have an online degree program.”
Lord said he hopes to see online learning grow at ASU, although the environment is geared toward a specific type of student. Online learners have to have self discipline to complete coursework on time without the daily in-person reminders of a traditional classroom.
Online learning provides an opportunity for flexibility and more interactive education, Lord said.
“We know the young academics growing up today are more comfortable with that self-paced learning environment,” he said. “It does put more responsibility on each of them as learners. ... There has to be a fit.”