For some, degrees are clicks away

Bringing the classroom to students wherever they are

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— With the increase of non-traditional students returning to college to start or finish unresolved continued education, a plethora of online degrees now are becoming available from different Colorado colleges.

With the recent addition of an online bachelor's degree completion beginning fall 2001 at Colorado State University, residents in rural communities will have another opportunity to finish what they started years ago while continuing to live in a place such as Steamboat Springs.

CSU's online degree program is for students who have completed 60 credit hours with the intention of finishing the last 30 hours in upper division courses at CSU through the Internet.

Those who have completed an associate's degree in art or an Associate's degree in science from a Colorado community college, will be best suited for the completion program, said Debbie Colbert, program manager.

The program will offer five classes in the social science field of the College of Liberal Arts. Every semester thereafter, new classes will be implemented.

The program's duration will depend upon the number of credit hours previously completed and each student's pending schedule.

But Dr. Robert Ritschel, dean of Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus, said because the degree is so specific, it is limiting the number of students who would like to continue their education.

"If you're not too picky about a degree you want, like just a bachelor's, then yes, this will work for you," Ritschel said of the five classes offered in CSU's online completion program. "But CSU is actually a late-comer as far as putting stuff online."

Colbert said because the online degree was a pilot program, the need for specificity was high. Although the program may be limited now, the future holds endless possibilities, she said.

"Now that the initial program is underway, in the near future, there will be several others," Colbert said of adding classes and degree options. "As of now, (having other degrees) wasn't seen as a need from the community."

Pam Burwell, business manager at CMC, will not take advantage of the bachelor's complete in the fall because she already finished her bachelor's in Comparative Religion/Asian studies in 1995 with help of a distance program from Regis University in Denver.

Burwell's degree was left hanging since the early 1970's.

After marriage and children, her interest in learning became more augmented and after attaining an associate's degree at CMC, the next natural step was to finish. But what were her options when she resided in Steamboat?

"It's great when you're raising kids. They model (distance learning) so you can be working full time while getting a degree," Burwell said. "I took two classes a semester. Once I took three and I would never do that again."

It's been six years since her graduation from Regis and she has since obtained a master's in Asian Studies from the University of California, Dominguez Hills.

How to enroll Registration deadline for the online degree completion program at Colorado State University in Fort Collins is May 7 for the fall 2001 semester. Visit and register online at www.csu2learn.col.... edu/csun/ddp/socialsci.html

But while Burwell was successful, Ritschel said he doesn't think there are many non-traditional students like her.

"(CSU) is not going to get a lot of people on this," Ritschel said. "You need to be a highly motivated adult learner. There are not a lot of those people around."

While it's a marvelous program for those who are motivated, Ritschel said he doesn't think the success of a new, online, specified program will get very many

people motivated.

Colbert said more students at CSU are non-traditional and the distance degree program will make it easeir for them.

The majority of students at CMC also are non-traditional, meaning older than 23. However, some students do not intend to receive a degree, but simply want to learn more about a subject or get ahead in their job, Ritschel said.

"There's a benefit of being in the classroom. You're not getting a lot of feedback by sitting in front of a computer," Ritschel said of the online degree program.

Sitting in a classroom, asking a professor questions or hearing other students' comments help any students' learning abilities, he said. However, Colbert said students have the opportunity to "talk" with the professor and other students in chat rooms online.

"The chat rooms create a real nice flow and you can interact there," Colbert said.

Although CSU has had a distance degree program for 35 years, this is the second undergraduate online completion degree for those who already have credit hours they would like to transfer to receive a bachelor's degree.

Whether they're community college students or non-traditional students, the online completion program gives them another option to further their education while not uprooting themselves.

"There's an ease and convenience of taking courses online," Colbert said. "The prestige and credibility is the same with an online degree."

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