Interview: Carol G. Williams, PhD, Associate Provost, Abilene Christian University

Carol G. Williams, PhD, Dean of the Graduate School & Associate Provost for Distance Education and Service for Abilene Christian University joins us to discuss their distance education degree programs.

Tell us about the distance learning programs offered at Abilene Christian University.

Abilene Christian University currently offers two master's degree online, the Master of Education in Leadership of Learning (educational administration) and the Master of Arts in Conflict Resolution. We have several other master's degrees in education in the planning stages as well as a degree in Organizational and Human Resource Development. We are also working on some bachelor's degree completion areas.

What is the typical duration of each of your programs?

The course work in the degrees can be completed in about two years. Practicum course may be done concurrently, and some programs have a capstone course at the end.

What would you say makes Abilene Christian University programs different and better than other comparable online programs?

All of our master's degrees have and those in the planning stages will have a set of core courses in conflict resolution. Our goal is to encourage peacemaking in all areas of work and life. Each of our courses also brings the Christian perspective to bear on the content.

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

Obtaining a degree from an accredited university is of paramount importance. It assures employers of the credibility of the degree.

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

Abilene Christian University has a team of instructional designers and media personnel who worked with qualified faculty to help them develop courses that are pedagogically sound for the online environment and fully meet the program and course learning objectives. We limit our course enrollment to 20 students. We provide advising, library, and technical support for our online students. Because the course is fully developed in advance and each assignment is prescribed and structured ahead of time with plenty of required interaction, we feel our online courses are equivalent if not superior to our face-to-face instruction.

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

Of course one of the main benefits of earning a degree online is the convenience of not having to drive to a specific location at a predetermined time. It fits the busy lifestyle of today's adult learners. It opens up educational opportunities for those who simply could not take classes in a traditional program or come to Abilene for their education. Also, in our online programs, every student must engage the material and discuss it with other students. No one can sit in the back of the classroom and let others dominate the class discussion. Students must participate and thus learn at a deeper level.

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?

Yes, our advisors have many contacts, but we also have an Office of Career and Academic Development that sets up intern opportunities.

Does Abilene Christian University offer any job placement services to your students and graduates?

Students can avail themselves of placement services through our Office of Career and Academic Development.

Is financial aid available to students in your programs?

We do not have assistantships or scholarships for these students, but they are eligible for the traditional forms of financial assistance--grants and loans.

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

Online classes take self-discipline and good time management skills. Students should understand that online courses are not easier than face-to-face courses, but they can be wonderful, transforming learning experiences.

What do you enjoy most about your position at Abilene Christian University?

It it exciting for me to be part of the expansion of opportunities for people to experience a quality, faith-based education. I enjoy working with the professors and support personnel as we deal with the myriad of issues unique to online programs. Advances in technology make this an exciting time to work in distance education.

To request information on distance learning programs available at Abilene Christian University, go here to visit them online to visit them online.

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

That concludes our interview!

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