Online courses and degree programs continue to grow as an option for going to college. Students often initially choose to take an online course because it is a convenient, cost-effective way to earn a degree and sharpen skills. Some of these students may be returning to school many years after completing their previous degree, while others may just have heard the myths about online learning and hesitated to take an online course in the past. Questions around the quality of the curriculum, access to instructors, or the support available are quickly debunked when students enter the online courses in a Utica College program.
Video Transcript: How our courses are designed to support online learning and community.
Dr. Norrie: Welcome back to UCTV, and I am delighted to have with me as a guest today Dr. Polly Smith, who is, at Utica College, ultimately responsible for all of our online graduate programs across the college, actually, not just in Business and Justice Studies. So welcome to the show, Polly.
Dr. Smith: Thank you.
Dr. Norrie: You're welcome. So I want to talk a little bit about what makes Utica College distinct, and I think one of the things we've really tried to do is to enhance that graduate course experience to make sure it's of the utmost quality. What are the kinds of things you think matter in a graduate course, and how do we make sure that happens?
Dr. Smith: So when we take a look at online education and what's important in the online space, we have to realize that the audience in the online space is a little bit different than what you find on-ground. So in the online space, what you're going to find is graduate students who are career changers, who are looking to be something better, to make a bold move in their career, or possibly just not get outpaced by that traditional student who just got their bachelor's degree.
Dr. Norrie: Right. So for that career changing audience, what do you do to make sure that those programs are ultimately relevant to that kind of an audience?
Dr. Smith: So when we're designing courses in the online space, we take a look at them carefully and split them up into three different buckets. So we have online course design, which has to do with working with instructional designers, with making sure we have the right tools. And the second bucket, of course, is making sure that we have the most relevant, timely experts to teach our courses. One of the things that we do is we have ground faculty, who are superb here in Utica, and we often pair them with faculty that might not be in Utica in a blended version of some of our courses, where you can either sit in a classroom in Utica or you can sit in your living room and, you know, use technology to be a part of that classroom, where you get not only one faculty member participating and supporting you in your educational journey, but two.
Dr. Norrie: Right, that's really neat. Well, as the Dean of Business, I'm particularly excited about our new blended MBA. What makes that program so unique and different, and why should students out there be excited about that?
Dr. Smith: So that program begins with a core that is just phenomenal. So potential MBA students are looking to go back to school, they're thinking, "Oh no, I have to take statistics again? That is like the bane of my existence. I don't want to do that."
Dr. Norrie: Right.
Dr. Smith: This program has an integrated core, where you get a little bit of accounting, and little bit of data and a little bit of management and a little bit of leadership in each of the core courses, and it's not in huge chunks. These eight-week sessions are 1.5 credits per course, so you get the information in a...
Dr. Norrie: In digestible chunks.
Dr. Smith: In digestible chunks over 16 weeks, actually.
Dr. Norrie: Wow. And what about blended technology? You've had to make a fairly significant investment in technology to support this vision for blended education.
Dr. Smith: We've made, at Utica College, a huge investment in terms of technology, training, practice, piloting, to make sure that when these courses go live, they are the best that they can be. And the student experience has been the focus of the faculty, of the technology, and all the choices that we've made as we've developed this program.
Dr. Norrie: Neat. It seems to me there's a real emphasis on making sure that that online student feels connected to the experience we're generating here on campus.
Dr. Smith: Not only connected to the experience, but also connected to the college.
Dr. Norrie: Right
Dr. Smith: So it's important to us that our students, whether they're here on-ground or whether they're in the online space, that they have that personal connection because one of the things we pride ourselves on at Utica College is that student/faculty connection. So whether it's Adobe Connect, whether it's Skype, whether it's a blended classroom, no matter what the technology that we use, we do encourage, across all of our programs, the idea that the student comes first, but that personal connection is important to the educational process and to the student experience.
Dr. Norrie: Well, Professor Smith, thank you so much for joining me here this afternoon. I think that was a really informative episode. Thanks so much for joining me today.
Dr. Smith: Thanks.
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