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Interview: Kathaleen Reid-Martinez, Ph.D. & Robert L. Waltz, Ed.D., Azusa Pacific University

Kathaleen Reid-Martinez, Ph.D., Vice President for Non-Traditional Programs and Experiential Learning joins us to discuss distance education at Azusa Pacific University in Southern California. Also joining the discussion is Robert L. Waltz, Ed.D., Director of Enrollment, Recruiting and Retention for Adult and Professional Studies.

Tell us about the distance learning programs offered at Azusa Pacific University.

APU offers more than 140 courses online and currently has a major academic initiative to develop additional high quality, fully accredited online programs. At APU, we value quality higher education and seek to extend it to those who cannot attend our campuses for a multitude of reasons. Our vision, mission, and values assure that all our programs, including those online, provide a learning community that facilitates the development of skills and competencies needed in today's working world while providing intellectual and personal growth.

Community building is not just lip service at APU; rather it comes directly from one of our core institutional values, which is to develop and live in community. This means that our online programs are committed to interaction between faculty and students, and among fellow students. For example, our Online Master of Arts in Educational Technology program is designed to produce 21st century leaders equipped to bring technology into K-University teaching communities. Students are placed in learning communities of 15, and together they follow a sequenced, integrated course plan. While learning takes place anytime, anywhere, and is immediately applicable to one's work environment, students are never without their professor or fellow colleagues in the learning process.

This is only one example of the programs that carry the value of community here at APU. Let me introduce one of our newest programs, the Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership, which helps students who want to move further and faster in the business workplace today.

Robert L. Waltz, Ed.D., Director of Enrollment, Recruiting and Retention for Adult and Professional Studies, participates here to discuss their BSOL program.

The Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership (BSOL) Online Program is for working professionals who want to develop the skills needed to be an agent of change in the 21st century workplace. This program is specifically designed for the adult learner. Perhaps the most distinctive element of this program is "reality-based learning," or the process of integrating textbook theory with our student's work and life experience. It is practical in its design, and gives our students the tools to evaluate and enhance their lives personally and professionally. Some of the professions represented in our BSOL classrooms are corporate business, small business, law enforcement, retail, health care, municipal administration, fire service, and real estate.

What is the typical duration of each of your programs?

The Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership (BSOL) Online Program is 15 months in length and contains 39 semester units of core study.

What would you say makes Azusa Pacific University programs different and better than other comparable online programs?

The APU experience is designed to uniquely facilitate development through solid intellectual inquiry, informed decision-making, and the application of ethical principles. A focus on Christian values and ethics is infused into the curriculum and the development of our students by providing direction, purpose, and evaluation of personal and professional life actions.

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

It is extremely important, and there are several reasons for this. In short, regional accreditation signifies the promotion and maintenance of academic rigor and high standards of quality, leadership, research, and accountability. Regional accreditation assures students that their college credits are transferable to other regionally accredited schools.

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

APU has specifically and purposefully designed the BSOL Online Program so that students can experience the same level of quality curriculum and experienced instructional delivery that is enjoyed in the on-ground "face-to-face" BSOL Program. Whether due to professional/personal conflicts or geographic location, our students can accomplish their degree goals through the identical curriculum and cohort model that has been so successful in the traditional BSOL Program. The BSOL Online Program emphasizes the enhancement of communication, research, cognitive, leadership, and interpersonal skills, just as the on-ground "face-to-face" program does.

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

Certainly the convenience of studying and learning from home speaks for itself. Being able to maintain professional and personal commitments and obligations more readily is a definite benefit. The time and energy expended to get to school, find a parking space, get to class, as well as the return trip home, multiplied by the number of trips during the course of a program can be significant. Online study makes available colleges and universities that would otherwise be out of the question.

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?

At this time, the BSOL-Online Program does not provide for internships. However, many of our professors act as references and/or write letters of recommendation for their students.

Does Azusa Pacific University offer any job placement services to your students and graduates?

Many of the schools that make up Azusa Pacific University schedule job fairs during each academic year. Placement centers and the Office of Student Success are also available.

Is financial aid available to students in your programs?

Yes, in fact, in most of our students' cases, the total cost of our BSOL-Online Program (including fees, textbooks and tuition) can be paid through federal student loans.

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

First, don't be afraid. Online study can be very rewarding. However, do your homework when looking for the right school. There are many online programs out there, and the quality varies greatly. Looking for the right school through Internet searches is only part of the task. Contact each school you are seriously considering. Talk to the program directors. Choosing a school based solely on cost is not very wise; be sure to take into account the school's reputation for quality of academics and student services as well.

What do you enjoy most about your position at Azusa Pacific University?

I enjoy the rich diversity of people who I get to meet and know, from 20-somethings to 50-somethings and sometimes older. My students come from various backgrounds as well. Being able to partner with them as they strive to fulfill the dream of a college degree is extremely rewarding.

For more information on distance learning programs available at Azusa Pacific University, go here to visit them online.

Thank you Kathaleen & Robert, for sharing and participating in this piece for Online Degrees 2.0

That concludes our interview!


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