November 13, 2007
07-164

Kate Elliot
Communications Specialist

National Distance Learning Week Nov. 12-16

VALDOSTA - To generate broader awareness of the nation’s more than 3.2 million college and high school students who take online classes, The United States Distance Learning Association established the country’s first distance learning week, Nov. 12 - 16. Schools across the country are holding events and launching virtual programs this week to publicize the array of online options and the benefits of learning from a distance.

Valdosta State University offers a variety of distance learning programs through online courses, podcasts and videoconferencing. WebCT Vista is the school’s Web-based learning management system used to offer virtual instruction. Vista enables professors to enhance traditional classes with online lecture notes, discussion boards and quizzes. The program also establishes virtual classrooms to teach students who may not be able to attend traditional classes because of distance or full-time employment.

Valdosta State offers online degrees, including a Master of Business Administration-Georgia WebMBA, Master of Library and Information Science, Master of Public Administration City Manager Track, Master of Special Education, Master of Social Work and a degree in Instructional Technology Ed.S. In February, the university announced the creation of a Doctorate of Public Administration. The Internet-based program allows students to develop as professional public managers and leaders in a format that is convenient to them.

“This is the only doctorate in the public administration program [Doctor of Public Administration] right now in the state, and it's designed to serve practicing professionals in Georgia and the nation,” Dr. Louis Levy, vice president for Academic Affairs, said. “This program is for people who have jobs and want to increase their training and skills. It's a flexible, innovative program, using very powerful technology.”

VSU’s distance learning opportunities connect students to a world and opinions traditional students may only read about in textbooks. Dr. Jiri Stelzer, associate professor of Kinesiology and Physical Education in the College of Education, developed an international health and wellness course that connects VSU students through IP videoconferencing and WebCT to peers at Abant Izzet Baysal University in Turkey and Palacky University in the Czech Republic. The technology used in the class, which explores cultural differences in health sciences and global health crises, has also enabled students to take a virtual field trip of the NASA facility and pose questions to NASA experts in an online roundtable.

VSU employees also benefit from the expansion of online instructional services. Distance Learning offers online employee workshops, conferences and brown bags about a variety of instructional technology topics. The university is equipped with technology that enables faculty to hold video and Web conferences with colleagues throughout the world. VSU also initiated USG’s podcasting service, which VSU instructors may use to broadcast lectures and class assignments to students’ audio devices. Students download the audio files off the Internet and listen to them on their MP3 players.

Frank Barnas, associate professor of Broadcast Journalism, has been working with VSU’s Office of Admissions since May to develop one- to-two minute podcasts about various departments and landmarks on campus. Admissions aims to compile more than 100 podcasts that visitors may download to learn more about the university.

“Admissions is closed many of the weekends when students come down to tour the university. These podcasts allow people to take a self-guided tour using a virtual map of campus,” said Barnas, who teaches a 200-student Introduction to Mass Media WebCT course, the university’s largest online course. “We have completed about 36 audio modules, so we hope to have the podcasts accessible from the admissions office Web site soon.

In October, the University System of Georgia launched Georgia ONmyLINE, a Web site that provides access to distance education offerings throughout the System’s 35 colleges and universities. The Web site, www.georgiaonmyline.org, provides students with a searchable catalog of online courses and programs. This central listing, which is updated each semester, allows students to register and transfer credits among multiple USG institutions.

“[Distance] learning programs are invaluable because they provide a segment of our population with critical literacy and job-related skills as well as the means to take their careers to the next level,” Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, told the National Distance Learning Association, the world's premier distance learning association.

Valdosta State’s Distance Learning Web site features a Student Online Readiness Tool that helps students determine whether they possess the self-motivation and learning styles necessary to succeed in online courses. For more information about distance learning at VSU, call the distance learning office at (229) 245-6490 or visit the Web site at www.valdosta.edu/distance/.