Interview: Shelley B. Dixon, Director of Outreach, Empire State College

Shelley B. Dixon, Director of Outreach, Center for Distance Learning at Empire State College joins us today to discuss distance education.

Tell us about the distance learning programs offered at Empire State College.

Empire State College of the State University of New York (SUNY) offers associate and bachelor's degrees entirely online through the Center for Distance Learning in each of 11 areas of study (The Arts; Business, Management and Economics; Community and Human Services; Cultural Studies; Educational Studies; Historical Studies; Human Development; Interdisciplinary Studies; Labor Studies; Science, Mathematics, and Technology; and Social Theory, Social Structure and Change). Within each area of study, students customize their own unique concentration (or major) according to their needs and college requirements.

What is the typical duration of each of your programs?

Associate degrees are 64 credits and bachelor's degrees are 128 credits. The length of time it will take a student to complete will depend on how many credits are being transferred in and how many credits per term the student decides to take. Empire State College has a liberal transfer policy " students may transfer up to 40 credits for an associate degree and 96 credits for a bachelor's degree, as long as the credits are applicable to their degree program.Students may be part-time or full-time " and that also impacts the duration of the program.

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

Empire State College is a leader in adult and online education. Every student is assigned a faculty mentor who not only guides the student in enrollment choices, but is there to assist the student in individualized degree program planning. Our courses are developed by a team of faculty and technical experts who pay close attention to adult teaching and learning methods, and are rich in online resources and support. Instructors are experts in their fields " our full-time faculty hold a Ph.D. As part of the State University of New York, Empire State College students must meet general education requirements in addition to liberal arts and sciences requirements. Additionally, as part of a public university system, our tuition and fees are very reasonable. As mentioned earlier, we have a liberal transfer policy. Students can transfer in credits from regionally accredited institutions, use CLEP or DANTES test scores, American Council on Education (ACE) and NPONSI credits, and can apply for prior learning assessment to determine college-level learning for work, military and life experience.

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

Extremely important. Regional accreditation is the "gold standard" in higher education. Credits from regionally accredited colleges and universities are the most easily transferable in the United States. Empire State College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

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

Empire State College students may study in a variety of modes, including guided independent study, study groups, cross-registration at another college, and online. Online courses are developed in a creative, team-based environment and must be vetted by an internal curriculum committee before they are released. Online courses are reviewed on a regular basis, with upgrades and revisions undertaken when required. Course evaluations conducted at the end of each term by students are key indicators of what is working well and what needs to be revised. Students are required to log in to their courses 2-3 times per week to keep up with online discussions and lectures. Instructors are provided with training before teaching in the online environment and also provided with on-going training as new developments in course software become available. All instructors have at least a masters' degree, and many are Ph.D. level. As with our students who study in other modes, Empire State College Center for Distance Learning alumni have gone on to be successful in graduate school and in their professional careers " indicating the quality of our programs. On the SUNY Student Survey, Empire State College is routinely rated #1 out of all of SUNY (64 campuses) in student satisfaction.

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

It really is all about what will work best for a given student. There is a great deal of flexibility in studying online that many working adults find beneficial. They can study when and where it is convenient for them, rather than being locked into a particular location-based, time-based program. For the student who is juggling work, family and community responsibilities, online education may be the only way that a student will be able to complete a degree.

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, some of our students use internships as part of their degree plan. Faculty mentors are a critical factor in helping to design the internship and assisting students to find the best fit.

Is financial aid available to students in your programs?

Yes, students can apply for federal and state financial aid, using the FAFSA and the New York State TAP application (for New York residents). Empire State College also has a number of scholarship opportunities for which students can apply.

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

Students who are new to online learning need to have good time management skills and have the ability to work independently. We often suggest that students try one class as a non-matriculated student first to see if they like it, before applying for admission to a degree program. We also suggest that they test their equipment to make sure that it will be adequate for online study. We provide toll-free telephone information sessions as well as an online orientation that we highly recommend to prospective students.

To Request more information about the distance learning programs available at Empire State College, Go Here to Visit them Online.

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

That concludes our interview!

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