‘Labor of Love’ Leading Design and Success of Online Programs

Kent State Works Stacked Graphic

According to U.S. News & World Report, some employers still favor traditional program graduates over those with a fully online degree. But the report also notes that online degree programs are gaining acceptance, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. DuBois

Kent State University is already among 2023’s Best Online Programs, and those programs are working hard to continue changing the conversation about online degrees and demonstrating their value. Employers are seeing that students who earned their degree online have the same quality of education as those who studied in person.

“Now that there are enough programs out there that are well-done, employers are saying ‘Yes, we trust an online degree from a place like Kent State, where we know students are getting a quality education,’” said Cathy DuBois, Ph.D., associate dean for graduate and online programs for the Ambassador Crawford College of Business and Entrepreneurship.

This shift of trust in employers has allowed for a shift in students, encouraging people to go back to school online to continue their education.

U.S. News ranked Kent State University’s Master of Science in Nursing, Master of Science in Nursing (Education), Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Master of Education in its 2023 Best Online Programs list.

Meghan Harper

Kent State earned these rankings because of the care and effort it takes with all of its online programs.

The design of Kent State’s online programs all start with one main goal: Put the students first. A team of professors, instructional designers and educational technologists work together to design a program that benefits the students taking it.

“I've always felt that we put students first,” said Meghan Harper, Ph.D., director of the school of information.

Amy Grincewicz

Professors work with instructional designers like Amy Grincewicz, Ph.D., director of instructional design at Ambassador Crawford College. Grincewicz takes the knowledge from the professors and then puts it on Canvas with the help of her team.

“I always look at it as we're gift wrappers and magicians,”

she said. “The faculty has the gift of their knowledge and their content. The instructional designer takes that and gift-wraps it by creating the framework of the learning path. Then we give it to the magician, who is our educational technologist, to create it in Canvas, so the students can have a wonderful experience.”

Kent State Online is the department that helps supply the different colleges with these instructional designers and educational technologists to create their online programs.

Lakitia Avery, director of Kent State Online

“We assist different colleges with various services as they're coming online. We’re here to serve the university and its colleges,” Lakitia Avery, director of Kent State Online, said.

Along with helping the different colleges of the university create online programs, Kent State Online also participates in Quality Matters, which ensures that all online courses are up to date and have the best quality possible for online learning.

Dr. Stephen Mitchell

Quality MattersTM is a nationally recognized nonprofit organization that focuses on the results of the teaching and learning of online courses. Through a rubric and peer review, Quality Matters is able to certify online courses and programs. Quality Matters is focused on the design of courses and programs, not the teaching. The university has 58 Quality Matters recognized certified courses: 37 from Ambassador Crawford College of Business and Entrepreneurship, 20 from the College of Public Health and one from the College of Arts and Sciences.

“We've really made sure that we emphasize the rigor of the online program is consistent with the rigor of a face-to-face program,” said Stephen, Mitchell, Ph.D., associate dean for administrative affairs and graduate education in the College of Education, Health and Human Services.

The education college does this by measuring its online courses with Quality Matters standards.

“Within our college, we have two full-time, distance-learning educational designers, and they do an internal review measuring our courses against the Quality Matters standards,” Mitchell said.

The Quality Matters certification provides students with the knowledge that the program they are applying to is designed to give them a high-quality education. “A QM certified course illustrates that the course is student-friendly,” Grincewicz said. “Certification means that a course is consistent, logical and easy to navigate. In addition, QM courses ensure that all learning activities focus on the learning outcomes.”

The Online Master of Business Administration program is the first and only online MBA program in the nation to earn the Quality Matters Program Design certification and the Learner Success program certification.

“Each course really is a labor of love,” Grincewicz said.

Kent State’s online programs are not only made with the highest quality in mind, but they are also made with accessibility to students in mind.

“We're trying to meet students and potential students where they're at,” Mitchell said.

Students from across the state, country and globe are now able to continue their education at Kent State without having to come to campus.

“Online education makes the program more accessible to people because they’re not limited by geography,” Harper said.

This increased dedication to accessibility for students has also had a positive impact on the university’s online program enrollments. DuBois has especially seen this impact on the Ambassador Crawford College’s graduate program.

“In fall 2018, we had 30 graduate students in fully online business programs, and this spring we have more than 200,” DuBois said.

The accessibility and flexibility of online education has provided students with the opportunity to fit school into their already busy schedules.

“Graduate school can fit in with everything else the students are doing because it's online,” Harper said.

The quality and accessibility of Kent State’s online programs has allowed students to go back to school and continue their education and career with a degree that has the same quality as an in-person degree. This is all possible because of the university’s commitment to continue to better the quality of the education it offers to students.

“The university has been very supportive with helping the faculty maximize and make the best of their online teaching,” Harper said.

View U.S. News’ 2023 Best Online Programs here.

POSTED: Friday, April 14, 2023 11:32 AM
Updated: Wednesday, April 19, 2023 05:27 PM
Tanner Poe, Flash Communications