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Interview: Barry Pasternack, California State University - Fullerton

Barry Pasternack, chair of the Department of Information Systems and Decision Sciences at California State University Fullerton joins us to discuss distance education.

Tell us about the distance learning programs offered at California State University Fullerton.

CSU Fullerton currently offers three on-line Masters degree programs " MS in Instructional Design and Technology, MS in Software Engineering, and MS in Information Technology. We also offer numerous individual courses in a distance learning format. Information on distance learning programs offered by all campuses of the California State University can be found by clicking here.

What is the typical duration of each of your programs?

Each of the three programs lasts approximately 20 months.

What would you say makes California State University Fullerton programs different and better than other comparable online programs?

First would be the cost. Currently the cost for the entire degree, excluding course materials (e.g. texts) is under $8,000. Second is the quality of our faculty and their experience in delivering distance learning courses. For example, faculty members in my department have been offering courses in an on-line format since 1999. Third, is the accessibility of our faculty. Fourth is the fact that the degree is from Cal State University, Fullerton, one of the three largest public universities (in terms of student enrollment) in California with over 180,000 graduates in our 50 year history.

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

Extremely important. Our programs were all reviewed and approved by our regional accreditation agency, WASC, and are reviewed under the same rules and procedures as regular degree programs.

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

All our on-line degrees have assessment plans built into their programs. In cases where the same course is taught in both a traditional and distance learning format similar exams and projects are given in both courses. In the MS in Information Technology degree program we require the students to come to campus on weekends to take their exams or to arrange to take their exams at a secure testing facility. The on-line degree programs have faculty oversight groups, part of whose job it is to ensure educational quality.

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

Perhaps the major advantage is that the student does not have to travel to campus to take classes. In the southern California area commuting times during rush hour can be brutal, with the result that a Masters degree taught in a traditional format may not be feasible for certain individuals. For these students an on-line format may be the only realistic way they can pursue a degree. A second advantage is the student is, to a greater extent, more invested in their learning. The flip side of this, however, is that the student has to have the maturity and motivation to complete the courses without there being the requirement of class meetings to attend.

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, we have both a campus internship office and departments have internship coordinators. I should point out that this has not really been an issue as the vast majority of the students in the on-line Masters degree programs already have jobs.

Does California State University Fullerton offer any job placement services to your students and graduates?

Yes. We do have a Career Development Center that students can use to help find jobs. Again, this is probably not used to a great extent because the students in our on-line programs are generally already employed.

Is financial aid available to students in your programs?

Yes. We have a number of scholarships available for students as well as normal need based financial aid programs available through the state of California.

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

Students should ask themselves if they are "self starters" who can work in a somewhat unstructured setting. Probably more importantly, they should ask themselves if this is a subject they are interested in studying.

What do you enjoy most about your position at California State University Fullerton?

I enjoy the collegiality of the university and the fact that faculty have a great deal of freedom to select activities to be involved with. As a department chair I have greatly enjoyed working with students as well as faculty colleagues, staff, and administrators.

To Request more information about the distance learning programs available through California State University - Fullerton, Go here to visit them online.

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

That concludes our interview!

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