Interview: Arthur J. Acton, Ph.D., Extended Programs, Clarion University of Pennsylvania

Arthur J. Acton, Ph.D., Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs, Extended Programs, Clarion University of Pennsylvania joins us today to discuss distance education.

Tell us about the distance learning programs offered at Clarion University of Pennsylvania.

Clarion University offers eleven certificate, associate, bachelors and masters degrees fully on-line. These include certificates in education; associate degrees in arts and sciences and early childhood; bachelors degrees in liberal studies and nursing (degree completion program); and masters degrees in Library Science, Nursing, Rehabilitative Sciences, Business Administration and Mass Media Arts and Journalism.

What is the typical duration of each of your programs?

The duration depends upon the degree level and whether the student goes full time or part time. The certificates take about a year, the associate degrees 2-4 years, bachelor's degree 4-6 years and the masters degree 1-2 years.

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

Accreditation by one of the federally approved regional accrediting agencies assures a standard of quality recognized throughout the academic world. It is also recognized by prospective employers as a mark of academic integrity. If the student needs to transfer coursework from an accredited college, it almost guarantees acceptance.

What would you say makes Clarion University of Pennsylvania programs different and better than other comparable online programs?

In addition to regional Middles States accreditation, Clarion University has 22 national accreditations for its various programs. The on-line programs share these accreditations including accreditations by AACSB International--The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, The American Library Association (ALA), The Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI), The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), The National Council for Social Studies (NCSS), The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and The National League of Nursing (NLN)

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

The courses required to support these degrees meet the same curricular and instructional standards as classes delivered on campus and are taught by the same faculty currently teaching in the traditional classrooms. As a result, the degrees earned online offer the same quality and accreditation as a degree earned through the university's traditional on-campus programs.

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

Online programs offer students scheduling flexibility to enable them to plan their educational program around work, family or other responsibilities. They also enable students who are in geographically remote areas or place bound to obtain a college 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?

Students in the various programs have opportunities for internships or other applied practical experiences including nursing clinical and student teaching assignments.

Does Clarion University of Pennsylvania offer any job placement services to your students and graduates?

The University provides job placement services for all its students and distance education students are eligible for that service.

Is financial aid available to students in your programs?

As a state university, tuition rates at Clarion are very competitive. The university provides limited financial aid for online students, but tuition is discounted for non-Pennsylvania residents to 102% of the rate that Pennsylvania residents pay. Students are eligible in most cases for state and federal aid and some specific programs, like nursing and early childhood, have external aid programs to assist students.

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

Online learning is a different learning environment from a traditional on-campus experience, but students should understand that faculty have the same expectations of them as in their other classes. Students need to allow as much study and preparation time for an on-line class as they would for an on-campus class. Even though they are not attending a class in person at a specific time and place where regular attendance is required, they still need to "attend" the online class and be active participants. If you don't participate, the instructor doesn't know that you are there. As a result, online students need to be more self-disciplined and motivated.

What do you enjoy most about your position at Clarion University of Pennsylvania?

I have enjoyed being on this new frontier of higher education. Over the last 10 years in distance education I have seen a program with only one or two classes and a handful of students blossom into a broad program engaging a myriad of faculty and enrolling thousands of students. At the same time the pace of technological change and innovation in distance education has been almost mindboggling. It has been an exciting challenge to work to be sure that Clarion University remains at the cutting edge of online education.

To request more information on distance learning programs at Clarion University of Pennsylvania, go here to visit them online.

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

That concludes our interview!

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