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August 6, 2008

Adult learners the focus of new programs at ULM campus

Four walls and a classroom no longer define our idea of a university.

At the University of Louisiana at Monroe, we educate increasingly bright and promising high school graduates who live and study on our beautiful campus. But we can also educate intelligent single parents who live in Shreveport and work full time. We are expanding our idea of a university. We know education is economic development. And we know we can better our state by educating the 600,000 Louisiana adult learners who have earned college credits but have not completed their degrees.

ULM's new program, Gateway to Online Degrees (GOLD), targets those adult learners. GOLD is a clearinghouse for all of ULM's online degrees; it enables nontraditional students to utilize the convenience and accessibility of online learning in an accelerated mode. One such degree is the online bachelor of science in health studies with a concentration in marketing/management. According to the Louisiana Labor Department, nearly 30,000 health services positions need to be filled in this state by the end of 2010. The online health studies degree will prepare professionals for mid-level management positions in a variety of health care organizations and increase the capabilities of our state's workforce.

Other GOLD degree programs include bachelor of general studies, business concentration; bachelor of general studies, social science concentration; associate of general studies; master of arts in gerontology; and master of arts in criminal justice.

ULM recently proposed several new online programs: a master of science in nursing administration, a master of fine arts in creative writing, a bachelor of science in instructional design and a master of science in dental hygiene. The Board of Regents approved ULM's development of these programs, and they will be added to GOLD after the Regents grant permission to begin accepting students.

A recent study in the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education reveals the desire for flexibility is one of the main reasons for enrollment in an online course. The study also found online students are very satisfied with the instruction and the applicability of learned concepts.

Dr. Robert Hanser, assistant professor and acting head of the criminal justice department, teaches online courses at ULM. Hanser highlights an important point: Education is multifaceted.

"Online learning allows the working adult student access to higher education opportunities when they might otherwise find it impossible to achieve their educational aspirations," he notes. "The online learning environment bolsters the curriculum because it provides a wealth of information that is right at the student's fingertips, allowing instructors to combine resources from cyberspace with their lecture formats, providing a much richer source of information and enhanced media delivery to students who are located anywhere in the world."

As much as I believe in personal interaction with students, I know ULM must be inclusive of all instruction methods. The students of the future, both those coming directly from high school and the emerging adult learner population, will demand we provide them with a postsecondary experience that fits their schedules, not ours.

At ULM, we continue to change so we meet the needs of these students with anytime, anywhere, anyplace instruction. With innovative programs like GOLD, ULM will contribute significantly to changing the economic and educational landscape in Louisiana.

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