Interview: Chris Wenger, Director of Online Education of Fisher College Online

Chris Wenger, Director of Online Education of Fisher College Online joins us to discuss their distance learning degree programs.
Tell us about the distance learning programs offered at Fisher College.

At Fisher College Online, you can earn an accredited certificate, Associate, or Bachelor degree in a variety of subjects, including Management, Early Childhood Education, Health Information Technology, Medical Coding, Business Administration, and Paralegal Studies.

What is the typical duration of each of your programs?

With six terms a year, a Certificate can be completed in as little as 10 months, an Associate's degree in 20 months, and a Bachelor's degree just over 3 years (40 months)

What would you say makes Fisher College programs different and better than other comparable online programs?

Certainly, the accelerated format allows students to have more scheduling choices and to finish a particular program at their own pace. Additionally, our smaller class sizes (average of 12 students per course) and personal attention from our dedicated staff are two of our greatest advantages.

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

According to the Department of Education, "The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality." For this reason, alone I believe that given a choice between two online colleges, a potential student should feel more comfortable choosing the college with accreditation. A more practical reason to choose an accredited online college is that it will allow a student the opportunity to pursue secondary or advanced degrees at other colleges throughout their lifetime. I am not knocking the education at non-accredited colleges, but rather pointing out that while it may not seem like something important to consider right now, it may have a tremendous impact on a student's future.

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

The course description, content, and objectives are no different in online versus classroom-based courses. The primary difference is found in the delivery of the course content. Classroom courses tend to be teacher-centered, while online courses are student-centered. Classroom courses are often lecture-heavy, while online courses require more reading and writing. The value of an online education depends on the type of student and how well their skills fit the online environment. If you were to ask which type of course (classroom or online) was generally more engaging and challenging, the majority of our students (many of which are enrolled in both) would not hesitate to choose the online course. In addition, our online programs and degrees are subject to the same accreditation procedure as our traditional programs and degrees.

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

The first would be a deeper understanding and appreciation of your own abilities. The challenging nature of an online course requires students to complete a lot of work in a relatively short period of time, and in many ways mirrors the real world workplace. The second greatest benefit to an online degree is the amount of quality interaction and collaboration a student will experience with both their fellow classmates and their instructors. Unless a student just simple does not participate, the nature of online courses lends itself to more discussions and back and forth communication than you will see in the average lecture/instructor centered classroom course.

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?

Many of our programs have internship requirements built directly into the course work. We work with students in developing an appropriate internship that meets academic requirements and will assist them in any way we can to secure an internship site. However, Fisher College Online has students all over the United States and even in other countries, so, for practical reasons, finding an internship site is solely the responsibility of the student.

Does Fisher College offer any job placement services to your students and graduates?

Currently, Fisher College Online does not provide any job placement services to students or graduates, unless a student resides in the Metro Boston area (our network of professional staff and faculty at our main Boston campus have many relationships in the surrounding communities). Similarly, to the internships, the practicalities of job placement for a widely dispersed student body are currently not within the scope of our mission.

Is financial aid available to students in your programs?

Fisher College Online provides financial aid from a variety of Federal, State and Institutional sources. Financial aid consists of grants, loans, and scholarships that are awarded based on financial need. Financial need is determined through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which must be filed each year. Fisher College Trustee and Merit scholarships are also available. If a student is not eligible for Federal financial aid or if they prefer to pay out of pocket, Fisher College Online does offer a flexible payment plan.

Do you have any advice for students who have never attended an online school but are considering enrolling in one?

Understand that online courses do offer many wonderful benefits such as convenience, flexible scheduling (asynchronous learning), improved writing skills, and substantial interaction with other students and faculty. However, online courses are often more challenging than traditional courses because they (should) require more self-discipline and a greater investment of individual time and energy (reading and writing assignments, posting to discussion boards, etc.). If a student does decide to attend an online school, it might be best to start with just one course until they become familiar with the online environment and can judge whether this type of learning is suitable.

What do you love most about your position at Fisher College?

Aside from the wonderful group of people that I work with, I love the fact that everyday I am presented with new academic, administrative, or technical challenges and that through it all, I am able to assist individuals in the pursuit of one of the greatest achievements of their lives. Student success is my top priority at Fisher College Online and also happens to be a very rewarding endeavor.

For more information on distance learning programs available at Fisher College Online, go here to visit them online.

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

That concludes our interview!

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