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January 6, 2014 | 4 Comments
BUIES CREEK — Fifteen years after offering its first online courses, Campbell University will launch its first set of online degrees in 2014. In addition to a master of education degree, Campbell will offer associate and bachelor degrees, with flexible course schedules designed to meet the needs of adult students.
The first line of degrees will be available this month, according to John Roberson, Campbell’s dean of extended programs, with the likelihood of more degrees — such as a master of science in clinical research and a master of business administration — launched in the following academic year.
“The goal is to better serve our students,” Roberson said. “Prior to receiving authorization to offer online degrees, students could earn no more than 49 percent of their degree requirements online. Once active duty military students hit the 49 percent mark, they could no longer continue their studies with us. Furthermore, many other adults students will benefit from the flexibility of earning a Campbell University undergraduate or graduate degree online.”
Campbell University was an early adopter of online education, offering its first classes in 1999. According to Katherine Spradley, director of Campbell University Online, the typical online Campbell student today is about 37 years old with previous university or community college experience. The majority of these students are male, and popular areas of study include criminal justice, homeland security and business.
“And many of them are active duty or veterans working toward meeting the requirements to gain rank in the military,” Spradley said. “Our online students tend to have higher GPAs on average — when you’re paying for your own education and relying less on mom and dad to foot the bill, you typically have a more mature and vested student.”
As with previous online courses, Campbell’s online degree programs will be flexible when it comes to a student’s schedule, according to Spradley. Students will have the ability to communicate directly with their professors and interact with their classmates. Professors will be required to offer different “content types” in their lesson plans for students who prefer a kinesthetic approach or who learn better through visual or audio content.
Spradley said the goal is to provide an experience for students that goes beyond simply reading content and taking a test on it.
“A lot of communication goes on in an online course,” she said. “We have several faculty members who are surprised when they realize it’s quite a bit more work to teach an online course here than teaching in a classroom. Unlike the classroom setting, online students are accessing content throughout the day. It’s never completely turned off.”
Campbell will continue to keep the student-faculty ratio low with a limit of about 25 students per online course, Spradley said, to encourage students and faculty to communicate directly throughout any given week. Classes will also be asynchronous, for the most part, so students will be able to log in and learn on their own time. That does not mean, however, the students won’t be heavily monitored.
“There’s a myth with online courses where students think, ‘Oh, great … I can log in during the last week of the semester and do everything,” Spradley said. “These courses are flexible, but not to that extreme.”
Extended programs began at Campbell in 1976 with the addition of a campus at the U.S. military base in Fort Bragg. To meet the needs of Campbell’s growing military student population, the school began offering online courses in 1999 with a pilot program originating from the campus at Camp Lejeune.
According to Roberson, most of Campbell’s online faculty members have been with the university an average of five to 10 years and have served other campuses across the university, including Campbell’s campus in Research Triangle Park. In other words, online education isn’t new to Campbell — it’s just morphing into something much bigger.
“Offering an online course is one thing, but offering online degrees is a completely different issue,” Roberson said. “For all practical purposes, we are birthing a school. We have an admissions system and admissions procedures to construct, financial aid and veteran affairs processes to build, and student and academic support programs to create and launch. It’s a new and exciting opportunity for Campbell.”