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Online Programs Are Named National 'Best Buys'

By Jim Raper

Old Dominion University online bachelor's degree programs in psychology, human services and nursing, and master's degree program in nursing have been included in Best Buy lists compiled by Get Educated, a consumer advocacy service for online college students.

The Get Educated ratings are based on a national survey of accredited universities. Approximately 1.5 million students a year visit GetEducated.com seeking advice on online degree programs. U.S. News & World Report has called Get Educated "for 20 years the leading consumer advocate for online college students."

ODU, a public doctoral research institution with its main campus in Norfolk, was a pioneer in technology-delivered distance learning in the 1980s and has become a national leader in distance learning. Approximately 10,000 ODU students have graduated through distance learning.

The university's original satellite delivery program, Teletechnet, was launched in 1994 in partnership with the Virginia Community College System to provide quality higher education to students away from the Norfolk campus, and especially to those who live in areas with limited educational opportunities.

Distance learning students enrolled in ODU programs tend to combine their studies with a steady job (65 percent) and be older than 26 (59 percent).

Although course delivery originally was mainly via interactive television broadcast from the Norfolk campus, in recent years delivery modes have been expanded and are now primarily online. ODU distance education in 2011-12 showed an enrollment of 19,409 in Internet courses, 7,972 in satellite courses and 3,430 in video stream courses.

The university's online programs include 16 bachelor's, 16 master's, five doctoral and one educational specialist degree.

ODU's current distance learning network consists of nearly 50 locations - mainly community colleges and military installations - throughout Virginia and in Arizona and Washington State, as well as U.S. Navy ships deployed around the globe. This doesn't count the many students taking online courses when and where they want. Altogether, ODU distance learning counted 7,498 students taking 13,236 courses in the fall of 2012.

Here are the ODU online programs that are ranked as Get Educated Best Buys:

Nursing B.S. - with a total cost to a student of $32,760, the program ranked 9th in the country. The average cost for bachelor's programs in nursing among schools surveyed by Get Educated was $44,311. The post-licensure B.S. degree in nursing (BSN) curriculum at ODU was implemented nearly 25 years ago, and was among the first distance learning programs offered by the university. In 2002, the School of Nursing began full online delivery of the post-licensure BSN program. Currently, between 250-300 registered nurse students are pursuing the post-licensure BSN online at ODU.

Nursing M.S. - with a total cost to a student of $14,148, the program ranked 13th in the country. The average cost for master's programs in nursing among schools surveyed by Get Educated was $22,130. Online graduate nursing programs at ODU include Family Nurse Practitioner, Women's Health Nurse Practitioner and Adult/Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist/Educator. There are also Doctor of Nursing Practice programs in Advanced Practice and Nurse Executive. At present, there are nearly 200 graduate nursing students who are pursing degrees through online study.

Psychology B.S. - with a total cost to a student of $32,760, the program ranked tied for 18th in the country. The average cost for bachelor's programs in psychology among schools surveyed by Get Educated was $45,548. The psychology department began offering an online major in spring 2011 and now offers 18 fully online courses. In 2012-13, there were nearly 1,800 students taking online psychology classes. About 800 of the current psychology majors (close to 65 percent of all psychology majors) have taken at least one class online and 170 majors (almost 15 percent of all psychology majors) are completing their degree entirely online.

Human Services B.S. - with a total cost to a student of $32,760, the program ranked tied for 18th in the country. The average cost for bachelor's programs in human services among schools surveyed by Get Educated was $45,548. The Department of Counseling and Human Services began offering the entire bachelor's program in human services online in the spring of 2012. Currently there are 396 majors and 204 minors completing their requirements fully online. This is half of the declared majors in the human services programs. Several things make this program unique to ODU. The entire upper-level curriculum of 14 courses is offered online every semester, including summers. Live online class meetings are held several times a semester. Finally, students are required to engage in a culminating 400-hour internship that is directly supervised online.

Praise for the Office of Distance Learning came from faculty members who have overseen the highly ranked online programs: Barbara Winstead, who stepped down this fall as chair of psychology, and Amy Landers, director of the online psychology program, both of the College of Sciences; Karen Karlowicz, chair of the School of Nursing in the College of Health Sciences; and Tammi Milliken, undergraduate human services program director, and Mark Rehfuss, director of the online human services program, both of the Darden College of Education.

"The Office of Distance Learning at Old Dominion University has done an excellent job of supporting departments and faculty, both in terms of resources and expertise, in preparing and delivering online programs," Winstead said. "We are committed to having an online educational experience that is of the highest quality."

Distance education students have given their ODU programs a thumbs up, too. Ninety-five percent of those who participated in a recent survey said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the quality of faculty, with the degree of academic challenge and with the knowledge and skills needed for future work provided by their programs.

Andy Casiello, associate vice president for distance learning, said he was grateful for the "dedicated and hardworking" faculty and administrators who have ramped up ODU's online offerings in the past few years.

"High-quality faculty, students and programs coupled with a popular online delivery mode make for a winning combination," he added.

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