Interview: Merodie A. Hancock, Vice President & ED., Central Michigan University Off Campus

Merodie A. Hancock, Vice President & Executive Director for Central Michigan University's Off Campus programs joins us today to discuss distance education.

Tell us about the distance learning programs offered at Central Michigan University.

Central Michigan University offers Bachelor's, Masters and Doctoral programs in the Online environment.

A major goal of Central Michigan University is to provide academic programs for students whose career or personal circumstances limit their access to traditional forms of higher education. In keeping with this goal, we strive to deliver high quality, fiscally sound, and responsive-to-market programs to adult learners. We are committed to education as a lifelong process that extends beyond traditional academic learning. We provide opportunities for adult students to achieve their individual education goals for personal growth and career development. In that vein, we offer Bachelor's, Master's and Doctoral programs in the online environment to meet the needs of our clientele.

What is the typical duration of each of your programs?

Our bachelor's degree completion programs vary in length depending on the number of credit hours a student brings with them. The typical student starting with the equivalent of an associate's degree would need to complete approximately 60 hours of coursework with CMU. However, as little as 30 hours may be required, again dependent on credits transferred in. CMU takes into consideration all previous coursework from regionally accredited institutions as well as prior work experience and military credit, as long as it is applicable to the degree the student wishes to obtain.

At the graduate and doctoral levels, most of our programs take anywhere from 1 to 3 years to complete, depending on the amount of time the student is able to devote to the program. We all know, "life happens", so our programs allow the flexibility for students to step away for a short period of time to tend to life's needs and then return to finish what they started.

What would you say makes Central Michigan University programs different and better than other comparable online programs?

Central Michigan University's online programs provide the same high quality offered on the main campus, meeting the same rigorous academic standards of the campus counterparts and utilizing the same faculty base as our face to face programs. CMU does not strive to be all things to all students, but is fully dedicated to providing quality academic programs and student services to those students who refuse to sacrifice excellence for convenience. We are certain our graduates, regardless of delivery, will earn a degree that stands the test of time in academic standards and relevancy to career growth.

Our student services are second to none. CMU provides the same level of support and services to the students in our online programs via the internet or by phone as we provide our face to face students. This begins with the initial inquiry and continues through admission, financial aid support, library access, and all other services that support students throughout their affiliation with CMU. Particularly noteworthy is our Off-Campus Library Services (OCLS), which is nationally recognized for its services to the students we serve.

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

For the discerning student, the key in differentiating all of the "online options" available today is accreditation. In the day and age of technology, anyone can put an "educational program" together. However, the primary differentiating factor is accreditation. CMU's programs are all approved through the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the highest level of accreditation any school can receive. This accreditation can be critical to any student that wishes to pursue further education or to transfer credits from one school to another.

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

Each course or degree program offered meets the same rigorous academic standards as comparable courses and degrees offered on the main campus. We only offer those courses and/or degree programs which meet a documented need and are academically sound. Our environment is continually monitored to identify changes which require new approaches to meet clients' needs. And all courses and degree programs are monitored closely to ensure high quality products are provided to the students. CMU's Online courses and programs must meet all curricular standards set out by the Academic Senate and are continuously monitored for adherence to these standards. Also, annual assessment surveys are conducted on all programs offered away from the main campus.

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

Online education fosters an environment of participation. Historically, there have been students who sit in a classroom amongst their peers formulating profound comments and questions but never verbalize them. Some may not have any public speaking experience, others are inherently shy. Whatever the reason, these students are not participating in classroom discussions. The online environment removes those barriers allowing students to fully engage in the learning process.

Is financial aid available to students in your programs?

Federal financial aid is available for degree seeking students at the undergraduate and graduate levels for those that meet qualifications.

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

The best advice would be to tell them to stay on top of the course work. Since most online courses are self directed and are in an 8-week compressed format it is crucially important for students to keep up with the reading and assignments. It is also important for online students to find a secluded or quiet place like the local library when working on class assignments. Often, students use a computer at home surrounded by the busyness of daily life that restricts concentration on the task at hand. If students can schedule dedicated time in a quiet location to solely work on class assignments, they will better position themselves for success.

What do you enjoy most about your position at Central Michigan University?

Knowing that we are educating society. As we all know, education is the great equalizer and working for a university that helps bring the power of knowledge and education to students regardless of geographic location creates its own rewards. Whether it's a mother of three, a deployed solider, or a student from a foreign country, we are enhancing the knowledge base of global citizens - and that's exciting!

To Request more information about the distance learning programs available through Central Michigan University, Go here to visit them online.

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

That concludes our interview!

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