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Interview: Stephen L. Lesniak, Ed.D, Dean, University of La Verne

Stephen L. Lesniak, Ed.D., Dean of Regional Campus Administration at University of La Verne based in Southern California, joins us to discuss distance education.
Tell us about the distance learning programs offered at University of La Verne.

The University of Laverne offers several programs Online: the MBA at the graduate level and at the undergraduate level, degrees in Criminology, Organizational Management, and Public Administration.

What is the typical duration of each of your programs?

This depends to a large degree on the individual student. ULV offers 4 terms per year and students have the option of enrolling in 1 or 2 courses each term. For students interested in the MBA degree, if they have fulfilled the course prerequisites for that degree, they could complete the MBA in as few as 5 terms.

However, at the undergraduate level, the number of courses that the students completed at other colleges before they start at ULV will to a large degree determine how long it will take them to complete their degree here.

One final factor is, how hard does the student want to push? Our program allows students to vary the number of courses they enroll in each term and it also allows them to sit out a term if they have personal or professional obligations that they must attend to.

What would you say makes University of La Verne programs different and better than other comparable online programs?

ULV tries to develop a learning community in our online courses. We limit the enrollment in each course to no more than 25 students and most courses have fewer than 20 students. We do this to encourage meaningful communication and interaction between the student and instructor and between student and student.

How important would you say accreditation is when choosing an online college?

I would say it's critically important. Regional accreditation is a rigorous process and institutions that have achieved this accreditation have received approval from their peer institutions.

There is some debate as to whether or not online degrees are as worthwhile as traditional degrees. What steps does University of La Verne take to ensure that online students are receiving the same education that they'd receive in a classroom?

I previously mentioned that we try to develop a learning community in our online programs by encouraging a high degree of student-to-instructor and student-to-student interaction. In addition, most of our online courses are taught by full-time faculty members.

We too were initially unsure about the effectiveness of online instruction. When we began our online program over 10 years ago, we encouraged our full-time faculty to develop and to teach the courses.

We wanted the full-time faculty to tell us that it could be done with the same outcomes that occur in traditional classrooms. What they found was that there were some aspects of the course that could be done better in a traditional classroom but conversely, there are some things that are done better online.

So while the actual course may be run differently in the two formats, they were able to accomplish the course objectives in either format. It was reassuring to see that most of the faculty that piloted the online courses have continued to teach online courses because they enjoy the experience.

What would you say are some of the benefits of earning a degree online rather than in a traditional classroom?

The number one benefit has to be convenience. It seems that everyone is over committed these days and the ability "go to class" at a time that meets the student's schedule is one of the great advantages of online learning.

If a student enrolled in one of your programs was interested in finding an internship in their field in their area, do you have any means of assisting them in acquiring an internship position?

Our programs do not require internships.

Does University of La Verne offer any job placement services to your students and graduates?

All ULV students, whether they are enrolled in courses on campus, at one of our regional campuses, or through our online programs, have access to our career services. The career development department is available to practice interview skills, resume building, conducting job searches, and much more. These services are available to ULV alumni for life.

Is financial aid available to students in your programs?

Yes, students have access to all federal and state financial aid programs.

Do you have any advice for students enrolling in online classes for the first time?

First, you need to feel comfortable with technology. Emailing, sending attachments, and doing web searches are critical skills in the online learning environment. These can be easily learned but ultimately, the successful student is one who is self-motivated.

While online courses provide the student with a great degree of flexibility as to when he or she interacts with the course, it also allows provides the student with many opportunities to procrastinate. It's important that they have the self-discipline to take control of their education.

What do you enjoy most about your position at University of La Verne?

Three things: 1) The variety of the job; there are new challenges every day and one is never bored; 2) The people that work at this University - they are dedicated, smart, and caring individuals; and 3) Doing my small part in helping others acquire their college degree and to see their smiling, confident faces at commencement.

For more information about University of La Verne's online degree programs, go here to visit them online.

Thank you Stephen, for sharing and participating in this piece for Online Degrees 2.0

That concludes our interview!

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