Interview: Herbert E. Muse, Jr. Ph.D., Montgomery College

Herbert E. "Buddy" Muse, Jr., Ph.D., Distance Learning Associate Director for Research and Innovation at Montgomery College joins us today to discuss distance education.

Tell us about the distance learning programs offered at Montgomery College.

Distance Learning has been practiced at Montgomery College for about 30 years, starting out with courses on television. Courses were added, mostly noncredit ones using videoconferencing with other community colleges in Maryland.

In 1989, Montgomery College won a U.S. Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) grant for the installation of a computer conferencing system, the forerunner to today's online courses. Innovative College faculty first developed online courses in the mid 1990s.

Today, the Montgomery College's Office of Distance Learning supports over 110 online courses and more than 100 faculty members in most credit academic areas of the College. There are more than 8,000 online course enrollments each year at Montgomery College. About 70% of the 2,300 online students are also taking traditional classroom courses, but 600 to 700 students are only enrolled in online courses.

The College's Workforce Development and Continuing Education program, which offers noncredit courses, sponsors more than 60 online noncredit courses in a wide variety of subjects every month. These courses last 6 weeks and cost about $100 each.

Montgomery College's Office of Distance Learning supports the academic mission of the College and its many departments through online delivery.

What is the typical duration of each of your online courses?

The length of our online credit courses mirrors the schedule for the traditional credit courses. Like our traditional courses, we have some online courses that last an entire semester and other courses that are shorter and more intense in time. We offer online courses year-round, including summer and our winter mini-mester.

Our noncredit courses through the College's Workforce Development and Continuing Education program last 6 weeks.

What would you say makes Montgomery College programs different than other comparable online programs?

We have a wonderful support from a third party vendor that includes comprehensive training for current and prospective distance learning faculty.

Our online course enrollment has grown steadily every year. Our courses are popular and fill quickly.

How important would you say accreditation is when choosing a college with online courses?

It is absolutely rule #1. When I chose a doctoral program, it was the first and most important criterion.

Montgomery College is accredited by Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Taking an online class at Montgomery College assures students that they are taking a class at a respected, accredited institution.

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

The courses, including their descriptions and course objectives, are the same as those held on the ground. Only the delivery method is different. The courses are developed by the Montgomery College faculty and are aligned with the offerings of all other courses from the respective academic departments.

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

In terms of access, online classes are more convenient, both for the student and the faculty member. Online learning allows for busy adults to pursue learning and teaching while balancing numerous other responsibilities.

In terms of learning, there is a tremendous emphasis on reading and writing in most online learning courses. Furthermore, one gets to know his or her classmates and instructor at deeper levels online if there is a strong emphasis on discussion in the course. Opportunities for critical thinking are abundant in online learning.

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?

The Office of Distance Learning does not help students find internships, but the College's academic departments and career/transfer centers, located on each campus, help students.

Does Montgomery College offer any job placement services to your online students?

Yes, Montgomery College offers job placement services through its Student Employment Services Office.

Is financial aid available to online students?

Yes, Montgomery College offers students the opportunity to receive financial aid.

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

I would advise students who enroll in our online courses to take our online or face-to-face orientation sessions.

What do you enjoy most about your position at Montgomery College?

I enjoy everything about distance education, from working with students, teaching and doing research to working on state and regional issues with my colleagues from around the state of Maryland.

Can you tell us more about Montgomery College?

Montgomery College is a public, open admissions community college with campuses in Germantown, Rockville, and Takoma Park/Silver Spring, Md. The College also offers courses at its workforce development/continuing education centers and other off-site locations throughout Montgomery County, Md. The College serves nearly 60,000 students a year, through both credit and noncredit programs, in more than 100 areas of study.

To Request more information about the distance learning programs available through Montgomery College, Go here to visit them online.

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

That concludes our interview!

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