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Blackboard Collaborate Powers Grand Valley State's First Entirely Online Masters Degree

GVSU offers first online master’s degree program

To read the original article on Michigan Live, click here

by Aimee Sugden

Grand Valley State University plans to launch its first completely online program, with the possibility of more in the future.

The online masters program in educational technology offered through the College of Education will offer educational professionals the opportunity to obtain an advanced education without some of the difficulties they may have faced with traditional masters programs. In July, the GVSU board of trustees approved the program as the university’s first fully online masters program, and the university anticipates adding additional programs in the future.

The university began to explore the possibility of developing an online program after the Michigan Department of Education instituted a law requiring that, by 2010, all high school students be required to complete a course in an online format. The new program is designed to better prepare teachers to develop strategies for online instruction, said Elaine Collins, dean of the College of Education. The program will provide teachers with access to “cutting-edge information” and the opportunity to “build ongoing learning communities and networks.”

“They were finding that many teachers were not prepared to meet the technical requirements,” Collins said.

Many of the students interested in the program will choose an online program “because of time limitations,” she said, adding that she believes the program will especially benefit nontraditional students. Professionals who may not have the time to attend classroom lectures will be able to obtain an advanced degree without the constraints often experienced by nontraditional students in traditional masters programs.

“They (the courses) will differ from our existing courses, (because) they will not require any face-to-face contact or campus time, and all work will be done online in our web-based learning environment, called Blackboard,” said Andrew Topper, an associate professor.

“Program advising will be done online as well as using a video conferencing tool called Wimba Pronto,” Topper said.

The program is being considered for accreditation by the North Central Association of Colleges and School.

“They are scheduled to visit GVSU next month, review our proposal, and we are hopeful that they will approve our offering, probably by late fall,” Topper said. “This means we will not be able to enroll students in the online program until at least the winter 2011 term.”

The program initially will have space for up to 45 students, but, if there is enough interest, program size can be expanded.

“Since an online program does not require seats in regular classroom or lab, it is easier to enlarge a pool of students as necessary to meet demand,” he noted.

The university believes the program will attract students from all over the state. Initially the school will promote it regionally, then hopefully at a national level in the future, Collins said.

“In general, the target is to reach more remote areas of Michigan,” she added.
Collins believes online programs will become more mainstream as more schools continue to offer additional online learning opportunities.

“Online programs are becoming more and more popular — many Ivy League schools are now offering online classes,” she said.

Certain programs will lend themselves better to online learning, Collins said, but GVSU hopes the successful initiation of its first online program will lead to new ideas and opportunities for learning in other disciplines.