Despite its lack of a physical presence, the Online Campus plays a large role at Southern Adventist University. Offering a wide range of undergraduate and graduate courses online presents students with interactive learning experiences that will benefit them in their career field.
Degrees that can be completed online are a Master of Business Administration with all emphases offered, a Master of Science in Nursing with an emphasis in nurse educator or nurse administrator, and a Doctor of Nursing Practice, which will begin fall 2012. An online four-year degree in nursing is also in the works. In addition to these degrees, a select number of classes are offered online as an alternative to traditional classes. Approximately 350 students are enrolled each semester, said Pegi Flynt, director of Online Campus. For the winter 2012 semester, 148 graduate and 202 undergraduate students were enrolled.
Online learning offers a different spiritual atmosphere than regular lectures, but Southern strives to incorporate faith through different methods. The online classes feature weekly worship focuses, pre-recorded devotionals, prayer requests in discussion forums, support from professors, and more. The values held by the Online Campus include faith, flexibility (how and when education happens), and focus.
“Focused means that learners actively participate in rigorous and rich learning experiences that help them develop the competencies needed for their field or profession,” Flynt said.
Unknown to many is the dual enrollment option offered through the Online Campus. A portion of those taking undergraduate online courses are 12th-grade students from Southern Union academies earning dual enrollment college credit. For Heather Peel, a senior home school and Online Campus student, taking dual enrollment online classes has been invaluable. By the end of the semester she will have earned 15 college credit hours to give her a head start when she attends Southern as a freshman in the fall. Earning these credits besides doing her high school studies may seem tough, but the ease of online courses has made it all possible.
“I’m able to work at my own pace and can be flexible with my schedule,” Peel said. “It’s also definitely made me more responsible.”
Graduate students who choose online versus classroom typically live far from campus or are working professionals that cannot come on campus for classroom lectures. Undergraduate students enrolled in online courses typically have a conflict in their schedule that prevents them from taking traditional classes.
Jeff Wadley, masters in education student, appreciates many of the advantages Southern’s Online Campus has to offer. Being married with a family and a full time job limits the amount of time available to Wadley. However, earning his graduate degree is alleviated with the enormous amount of flexibility the Online Campus offers. Coursework can be done according to his schedule, leaving him the chance to enjoy as much free time as possible.
“I couldn’t have gone back to school if it wasn’t online,” Wadley said. “Having online courses and a good reputation of academics made Southern a really good match for me.”
When Wadley enrolled, he was surprised at the personal relationship that can be developed with the professors despite the online status. Teachers were open to emails and phone calls, and would set up live online chats for discussions.
“I didn’t expect it to be that well done and meaningful for me,” Wadley said.
As for the technical aspect of the Online Campus, Wadley greatly appreciates the efficiency of the online system. E-class, the program used for online courses, allows students to check grades and email, turn in assignments, complete quizzes, and more.
“The online system is excellent,” Wadley said. “It has worked flawlessly.”
Although there are many advantages that come with the Online Campus, it certainly isn’t for everyone. Flynt said lacking certain traits make online learning more difficult than learning in a classroom.
“An online learner must be self-directed, persistent, and motivated,” Flynt said. “Without these dispositions, learners will not do well and should not take online courses.”
As with signing up for any course, students should speak with their academic advisor for guidance when choosing an online course versus a traditional classroom course. For more information and to see whether Southern’s Online Campus is a right fit, call 423.236.2087.