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ASU Online Graduate Programs in Education Earn Recognition in U.S. News and World Report 2012 guide


Jan. 24, 2012 -- The online graduate degree programs offered through the College of Education at Arkansas State University have earned recognition in the recently released first edition of “Top Online Education Program” rankings published by U.S. News and World Report.

Arkansas State University currently offers six master of science in education (MSE) degree programs through its large-scale distance learning operations: Curriculum and Instruction; Educational Leadership; Gifted, Talented and Creative; Educational Theory and Practice; Special Education (instructional specialist P-4); and Special Education (instructional specialist 4-12).  Also, ASU offers the post-graduate Education Specialist degree program online.

These programs are administered by the College of Education, for which Dr. Greg Meeks serves as interim dean, and the Department of Educational Leadership, Curriculum and Special Education, for which Dr. Mitch Holifield, serves as chair.  Non-academic support, such as marketing and technical aspects, is provided by Academic Partnerships.

“Over the past four years, Arkansas State University has made significant progress in its large-scale distance learning program, which provides advanced educational development for professional teachers and ultimately benefits students in K-12 education,” according to Dr. Dan Howard, interim chancellor.  “The rankings by U.S. News and World Report provide further evidence of the strides we have made toward establishing a program that provides advanced education that is cost-competitive, allows greater access to participants, and offers high quality instruction.”

Teachers who enroll in the online master’s degree programs qualify for in-state tuition, regardless of their actual residence, and pay the appropriate library and technology fees for students who are enrolled online only.

In the national survey of for-profit and not-for-profit institutions, U.S. News and World Report ranked schools that offer online degree programs based on research criteria in four categories: student services and technology, faculty credentials and training, student engagement and accreditation, and admissions selectivity.

The magazine said on its website that the rankings were created “ . . . in response to today’s high demand for education provided in a flexible manner,” helping students work around the many obstacles around which they must work to advance their level of educational attainment.

"As a full time educator and mother of three, the online graduate programs at Arkansas State University have been the most efficient, effective means of furthering my education and attaining my dreams of becoming a building-level administrator,” stated Leigh Anne Rainey, intervention specialist at Jonesboro High School.  “The coursework was challenging and extremely relevant to my future career goals, while being available at my convenience and my timing.”

While inclusion in the survey results was an honor, ASU’s large-scale distance learning programs fared particularly well in terms of “faculty credentials and training,” in which it was ranked 27th nationally, and in “student engagement and accreditation,” in which was ranked 39th nationally.

“As a teacher, I take responsibility for focusing their learning and providing resources to enable their continued growth and learning,” commented Dr. Jackie McBride, professor of education at ASU.  “It has not been an ‘easy’ transition for me as a teacher, but it has been a worthwhile and rewarding experience as I hear from students across the country who are experiencing success in their classrooms and schools and give the university and professors credit for their achievements.”

The enrollment and graduation numbers at ASU-Jonesboro demonstrate the popularity of the online programs in education.  During 2011, almost 1,300 individuals received a master’s degree from Arkansas State University through one of the online programs in education.  At the fall commencement alone, the total number of graduates from the large-scale distance learning programs was 428.  Another 482 are on track to graduate in May.

Other professors who teach ASU’s online master’s degree programs have noted some of the benefits of teaching online classes.

Dr. Audrey Bowser, assistant professor, said, “Teaching online represents a new culture of teaching and learning. It has given me an opportunity to design an intellectually rigorous curriculum in an online space that critically challenges learners to be more reflective and collaborative.”

Dr. Julie Lamb-Milligan, associate professor, added, “One major benefit for me, as a facilitator of learning, is that all students are required to engage, think and share.  In the traditional classroom, not all will participate.”

Susan Howell Cascio, a teacher at Olive Branch High School in Mississippi, gives much of the credit for her positive experience to the academic advisors who work with students in the online program.

The advisors " . . .  have truly gone above and beyond in helping me achieve in all of my courses.  Their cohesive affirming words, patience and acceptance of occasional re-submissions have been the difference makers for me remaining in the program," she explained.

Brendan Harvey, who teaches at Arlington High School in Tennessee, also commented favorably on the positive impact that participation the program has had on his career.

“Professors and class assistants were of the highest quality and always responded to questions in a timely manner.  Because of my training at ASU, I was able to score high enough on my School Leadership Series Assessment to qualify for certification in all states that require it.”

ASU was recognized by U.S. New and World Report last fall as a tier one institution in its ratings of southern regional universities in “America’s Best Colleges,” 2012 edition, the second year in a row ASU has received that designation.

Information about the master’s and specialist degree programs that are available through online programs at ASU is available at http://degree.astate.edu/.

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