FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2008
Contact: Ilene Lumpkin
Director of Media Relations
201-291-1111, ext. 5122
Berkeley College Celebrates
Ten Years of Excellence in Online Learning
Online teaching has never been a difficult sell to the faculty at Berkeley College. In fact, from the beginning there was a waiting list of professors ready and eager to explore the virtual classroom.
“I get asked by colleagues all the time if we give stipends or special benefits to encourage our faculty to teach online classes,” says Mary Jane Clerkin, DA, Coordinator of Online Faculty, who also teaches online classes. “The truth is that our online instructors are very interested in new technology and eager to explore this exciting way of teaching.”
This fall Berkeley College celebrates 10 years of online learning. The college started out slowly with just one or two online courses, and today offers a multitude of disciplines online including Liberal Arts, Sciences, Math, English, and Computer Information Systems. In addition, Berkeley College Online™ offers 28 Bachelor and Associate degree programs completely online. The online “campus” is approved by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Most of the online professors are longtime faculty members at Berkeley College, and also teach on-site classes.
Serving the Needs of Students Always Comes First
According to Dr. Clerkin, the decision to begin offering online learning options at Berkeley College in 1998 was a natural progression, given “the College’s longstanding commitment to incorporate technology into its curriculum and the computer expertise of its students.”
“This anytime, anywhere learning fit in perfectly with the busy schedules of many of our students, and was one more method by which Berkeley College opened up new learning opportunities and adapted to the special needs of its students,” says Dr. Clerkin, the 2007 recipient of the Best Practices Gold Award for Distance Learning Teaching Online presented by the United States Distance Learning Association.
With an Associate’s degree under his belt, Eric DeJonge of Forked River, NJ, turned his attention to four-year colleges and the pursuit of a Bachelor’s degree. His plan was to juggle a full-time job, a family and social life, and college - a difficult task for the South Jersey resident who lives far from the nearest four-year institutions.
Mr. DeJonge found the perfect solution in Berkeley College Online.
“When I compared colleges that offered complete degrees online, I felt that Berkeley’s program was more organized, and I felt more secure knowing the college has on-site campuses,” says Mr. DeJonge, who hopes to complete his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in March.
Berkeley’s Road to Success in Online Learning, a prerequisite for taking online courses, prepares students for the world of distance learning. Berkeley College students who are enrolled in complete online degree programs have ongoing support.
“There students have easy access to faculty, the library and librarians, as well as their advisors in student development, advisement, and career services,” says Berkeley College Interim Online Dean, Beth Coyle, EdD. “And, just like all Berkeley College graduates, our online degree students have access to a lifetime of career assistance.”
The Right Approach Led to Ongoing Growth and Success
The success of Berkeley’s online program is largely due to the fact that the College started out slowly.
“We didn’t expand without doing the necessary research into the best approaches to distance learning,” says Berkeley College Provost Rose Mary Healy, PhD.
A Distance Learning Task Force reviewed literature and attended conferences, and reported back to administration on ways to successfully expand the online program. To prepare for online teaching, faculty members are required to take a preliminary Road to Success in Online Teaching course designed by Dr. Clerkin. In addition, Berkeley instructors have access to a wide variety of onsite and online workshops.
Because of this ongoing support, learning new technology was never an issue for Professor Manuel Correa, who has taught online for five years and also teaches on campus.
“The real challenge as an online instructor is how do you get the same understanding from your students when you are not physically in a classroom?” says Professor Correa, the 2007 recipient of the Online Faculty Award for Outstanding Teaching.
Lively Online Class Discussion
At Berkeley College many online professors use video technology to bring presentations to life. And, while it’s true that distance learning students don’t experience the dynamics of classroom discussion, online faculty agree that their students don’t miss out on dialogue. In fact, online students often have to work harder to earn credits for “classroom” participation.
“You get two or three students responding back and forth, and then others join in, and the whole magic of dialogue happens,” says Professor Correa. “It’s exactly the same type of learning taking place as you have in the classroom, except that this discussion is happening over the course of a couple of days.”
Mr. DeJonge doesn’t feel that he is “missing out” by not attending classes on campus.
“I actually find that pursuing my degree online is more rewarding,” Mr. DeJonge says. “A greater number of students participate in online discussions. That makes the discussions more interesting.”
Distance learners at Berkeley College benefit from interactions with students from all over the world.
“My ‘boundaryless’ online classroom with its diverse student body has produced more interesting interactive discussions than I ever could have imagined,” Dr. Clerkin says.
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