Many colleges provide courses to improve skills

score Question:
I have a number of smart employees that have been with me for quite a few years and still have a strong desire to go back to school to get a degree. Both for personal reasons and because it will make them more qualified for advancement I'd like to be able to help. I've suggested Rock Valley College night and weekend courses but never get very far. Is there any other opportunity for these employees?

Answer:
I'ts admirable that you feel you need to support their cause. In addition, I think it shows a concern for employees that is not evident at many places of work. There are nmerous colleges that provide online courses, but do not offer a degree. This is fine for those that only need a few courses to satisfy their need for a course or two, but I also understand the pride and good feeling of accomplishment from getting a college degree.

The only college in this area that I know of that offers a college degree through online matriculation [enrollment] is Lakeland College in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. This is a small liberal arts college with a registration of about 3,500 [about 1,000 on-campus students and the rest are online students.]

However, according to Peterson's Guide to Distance learning Programs 1999, there are nine U.S. schools that offer bachelor's degrees online, including Maryhurst University in Oregon, University of Phoenix and Baker College in Michigan.

The nice thing about this program is the students do not have to sit down at the computer the same time every day to attend real-time classes or chat sessions. The can dial-in directly to the server to download assignments when it's convenient for them. It allows students to match the school session to their free time that may vary with family and work. They can make comments, ask questions, chat with other online students about assignments and problems, and send completed work in when finished by using a proprietary software program from Comvene.com. This software allows the student to get class information and get/submit assignments any day and at any time. The students may work when they want or need too, although they have a syllabus and must meet deadlines.

The availability of this program has been a great benefit to students with physical disabilities. It provides them with a chance to get their education while letting them avoid uncomfortable lecture halls, the hassle of class changes and classrooms that have limited ramp access.

The lack of face-to-face interaction hasn't been a detriment to the learning experience. Online discussions and group work does much to replace this face-to-face relationship. Students have more time to formulate their answers, and they seem to get a lot more out of it. Teachers have said that they feel they have more interaction with the individual students than they would in standarrd classrooms.

There has been some concern about academic integrity through this faceless, voiceless medium, but the coordinators and professors state that the dangers are no greater than in a resident college with 300 students in a lecture hall.

The tuition cost at Lakeland College is about $650 per online course, while daytime students pay about $1200 per course.

This type of an education is not for everyone, but it can be an answer for many. Lakeland College can be contcted at www.lakeland.edu or www.lakeland.edu/online or email at online@lakeland.edu or call 888-525-3638.

Bill Bryan is a counselor with the Service Corps of Retired Executives. SCORE offers counseling, workshops and seminars on small business operations. You can reach Bryan through SCORE, 515 N Court St. 815-962-0122, for information and appointments.


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