Working Students Can Finish Degrees Online
Feb. 4, 2013
For A.J. Davis, Cal State Fullerton's online undergraduate business degree program has proved its value in how it works with his life.
"Life is busy," said the Redondo Beach resident. "I work 40-50 hours a week at a fast-paced and highly technical company and live approximately 35 miles from the campus. This online program allows me to maintain a healthy work/school/life balance even under these circumstances. It's a win-win."
Luz-Angelica Figueroa of Burbank, agrees. "I had been putting off this goal since 2007 when I obtained my associate's degree from Cypress College. My sister and I both graduated from there and were planning on attending Cal State Fullerton. She obtained her bachelor's degree from CSUF. Two years ago, I left Orange County after I got married and went to live and work full time in L.A. County, making it very hard for me to make the commute to Fullerton.
"While looking for programs online, I was very happy to find out that now CSUF offers the online degree completion, as it looked like a program tailored specifically for me!"
Davis and Figueroa are from the inaugural group of students enrolled in the program, which was launched in the fall. It is offered through Cal State Online.
"We began the program because we had several undergraduate degree-seekers who were working full time," said Yi "Jenny" Zhang, professor of information systems and decision sciences and program director. Students admitted to the program must have completed 60 units prior to admission.
"The first cohort was very small, and some of the students were our former CSUF on-campus students but had dropped out of the program because of their job and other issues that made it difficult or impossible to physically attend courses on campus," Zhang explained. "The online program provided them an opportunity to be able to complete their degree."
Online courses are eight weeks long and offered one at a time, so "our students can really focus on just the one class."
Online Courses Meet Goals
Zhang emphasized that the courses are as rigorous as those offered on campus. "They are taught by the same faculty and have the same assessment components. All exams are proctored through an online proctoring service. To make sure that the courses were kept to a high standard, the faculty were given a year to prepare and develop them."
That extra time came in handy for Sinjini Mitra, assistant professor of information systems and decision sciences, who had taught "Introduction to Business Statistics" in the classroom, but not online before last fall.
"It was a great learning experience for me. The resources available through OASIS [Online Academic Strategies and Instructional Support] were a great help," she explained.
"The most time-consuming aspect was recording the PowerPoint lecture videos. I am glad that I devoted a substantial amount of time to this because the students really enjoyed the course and found it well-organized," said Mitra, who joined the campus in 2011. "I felt that the students in the online class really benefited from the video lectures, especially since they could listen to them as many times as they wanted. I received very few questions from my students in the online class about the lectures."
"We're really trying to do several things to keep up the quality level, to maintain consistency, even down to designing a course with a course template that includes welcome videos, recorded lectures, weekly road maps on what students are expected to learn, to achieve," Khang explained. "We even have an assessment team that reviews the courses to make sure they cover everything that they are supposed to cover, that they are consistent with the goals of the overall program."
Through Cal State Online, students have access to technology support and a coach who helps the students stay on track with their studies.
Meeting Student Needs
"It has been a very positive experience so far,” said Davis, who expects to complete his bachelor's degree in 2015. "It is comforting knowing each and every step I must take to obtain my degree, and this comfort level is primarily due to the faculty members and staff's attentiveness," Davis said.
Figueroa was concerned about meeting the demand of classes with working full time, and said she was surprised that the hardest part in the process was making the decision and signing up for classes.
"They have required discipline and effort to prepare and finish assignments on time, as well as study for tests, but the experience has been very rewarding," she said. "I had a surprisingly good experience while taking 'Quantitative Business Analysis: Probability and Statistics' with Dr. Sinjini Mitra. Statistics is a class I was always the most afraid of, in part, because it was the most challenging for me back in community college. But, Dr. Mitra was constantly in communication with us as students, always extremely prompt in giving us feedback after we turned in any assignments or tests, and always willing to help. She was very quick to respond to any questions from the materials and her slideshows and online lectures were clear and very helpful.
"I am 100 percent sure that I will be able to apply and use the skills and knowledge I am acquiring through this program at my current job," added Figueroa. "My hope in the near future is to start my own business along with my husband. Perhaps in the fields of real estate, tax preparation or personal finance."
"My career goal is to lead an organization or company that contributes toward improving the general well-being of our society," Davis said. "I believe that CSUF and this online program will be a catapult in achieving this goal."
By: Pamela McLaren, 657-278-4852