Bryant Callahan was under pressure. Stationed
at McConnell Air Force Base, this Atlanta native (pictured on the cover
of this issue) had decided he wanted to apply for officer training status,
but he didn't have a college degree. A colleague who had earned a degree
through Southwestern College's professional studies program was urging
him to enroll in the degree completion program there, but Callahan wasn't
"You ought to try it, you really should,"
Callahan's friend told him.
So one day, as Callahan drove past the
center on south Rock Road in Wichita, the young serviceman made up his
mind. Thinking of his wife and baby daughter, he stepped through the
door and became a Moundbuilder.
But then September 11 intervened. Callahan
learned he would be deployed to Germany at the end of November. His
chances of finishing a degree by August 2002, the deadline if he hoped
to be accepted to officer training, were impossible with a traditional
What happened next, Callahan says, simply
was a blessing.
Because Southwestern had been accredited
to offer majors online last June, Callahan was able to continue his
education while deployed in Germany for 91 days. He began his first
Southwestern class in January, half a world away from the traditional
class locations. Twelve- to 16-hour workdays were followed by classwork
(sometimes at 2 a.m.) that was completed on his computer, and on his
And on May 11, he walked across a stage
in Stewart Field House to accept his Southwestern College diploma with
a major in business quality management. He had beaten the deadline.
Today Callahan is one of about 150 adult
learners who make up the fastest-growing populations ever to enroll
at Southwestern, the online learners. These students enroll in classes
and map their majors just like traditional students, but when it comes
time for class, they sit down at their computers at any hour, log on
and learn. Eight weeks later they have earned Southwestern College credit
anywhere in the world.
In fact, a map in professional studies
director Candyce Duggan's office spells out the exploding success of
the program visually: Red stars mark the home locations of learners,
and are scattered throughout eight states and three countries. Silver
stars, denoting faculty members, are in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma,
Missouri, and Iowa.
In the academic year since accreditation,
the program has grown from 32 enrollments last January to 156 in May,
a figure Duggan expects to pass 200 quickly.
These learners choose from six majors completely
online (business administration, business quality management, computer
programming technology, criminal justice, human resource development,
and pastoral studies). Selected courses from the remaining four professional
studies majors also are online (in computer operations technology, manufacturing
technology, nursing, and production management).
Duggan says the same kinds of advantages
that have drawn adult learners to the professional studies programs
now are attracting online learners: Shortened, intensive classes that
can be completed while the student continues to work full-time; scheduling
that allows for sitting out a session if necessary; and high-touch student
service have the added assets of flexibility and convenience online.
The online learners agree.
Traci Owen shares homework space in her
Ponca City, Okla., living room with her daughter. Traci is working on
her business administration degree; Caitlin is winding up seventh grade.
"Although there are set deadlines every
week, I can work at my own pace as long as I make the deadlines," Owens
explains. "As a wife and mother I also feel it is an advantage for me
to be home while working on school - Caitlin is as hard on me getting
my homework done as I am on her!"
It takes a certain type of personality
for online to be practical. Self-discipline, ability to focus, motivation,
and personal responsibility are factors mentioned by current learners.
Almost anyone, they say, has the technical savvy to complete the course;
the other qualities are far more important.
"Course work is due on a specific date,
and failure to submit it results in a non-passing grade, just like any
other class, so a student must want to get it done," says Beverly Hodge,
a business administration student from Perry, Kan. "There is no common
meeting place, where reminders are issued. We have to be responsible."
LaChalle Shay lives close enough (in Wichita)
to take traditional on-ground classes but has chosen online to fit her
schedule. The student who will succeed online, she says, needs to be
a good planner. "The person best suited for this program is the one
who can discipline themselves to set aside a designated day of the week
or at least time during the week to complete the homework, review the
lectures, post to the discussion board and submit the work," she emphasizes.
Tom Howard, pastoral studies, Ponca City,
"Not having an instructor or fellow student
right there to ask a question is sometimes burdensome (of course, they
are both as close as a phone call or e-mail)," he says. "However, being
able to enter into an online discussion at 2 a.m. when you can't sleep;
not having set class periods that you have to attend; no travel time;
interacting with fellow students from across the country; these are
very positive aspects of the online classroom for me. "Without them
I would not be completing my degree anytime soon-if at all." Terry Allison,
another pastoral studies student whose home in Bogue, Kan., is too far
to commute to traditional classes, seconds Howard's assessment. He can
be studying during the hours he normally would be using to drive to
a class location, he points out.
As she advises prospective students Candyce
Duggan suggests they "test drive" an online course before committing
to complete it (see sidebar for instructions). She promises most who
try the class will find the Blackboard® class management software remarkably
user-friendly. The college has worked to increase the size of the bandwidth
dedicated to online learners, and has made other technical changes that
lessen the chance for technical malfunctions.
Along with the technical improvements,
Duggan works to keep Southwestern's noted personal touch. Learners in
Southwestern's professional studies sites are greeted with cookies and
soft drinks during the first sessions of each class. Online students,
soon after they enroll, receive a package through the mail containing
microwave popcorn and hot chocolate mix.
Even though an occasional student decides
online isn't a good option (usually, Duggan says, these students are
motivated by direct personal contact) Duggan foresees the day when online
learning will no longer be the exception to the rule. Certainly this
outcome is not what she expected when she began her career in professional
studies, she admits.
"It would never have occurred to me," she
says. "I thought you had to be a tech-ie, but you don't. You can sit
at home in Wichita, Kansas, and communicate with the world, and to me
that will never cease to be just fascinating. I think it's one of the
best things that's happened in education."
Test Drive Online
. Go to the Southwestern College Web site,
. Click on Professional Studies
. Click on CampusNet (button at top of page)
. Log on to SCholarLink (top right side)
. Log in (left of page)
. Enter user name student1, enter password student1
. In the box titled "My Courses," click on Career Building Follow remaining
instructions throughout course.
Takes Over as Coach
Douglas '94, who was an assistant coach at Southwestern before going
on to coaching positions in Texas and North Dakota, has been named head
football coach for the Moundbuilders.
Douglas began his new duties June 2, accepting
a position left vacant when a head coach named in February accepted
a position nearer his home.
"Chris is a person of high integrity, an
outstanding and well-respected graduate of Southwestern, and a loyal
Moundbuilder," said President Dick Merriman in announcing the new coach.
"I know his commitment to the college is enduring and I'm confident
he'll be very successful in leading our program."
and Staff Recieve Awards
chose dean of students Dawn Pleas-Bailey (left) and chemistry professor
Terry Barnett as top staff and faculty when the SGA announced its annual
awards this spring.
Others receiving spring awards included
Troy Boucher, Fassnacht Outstanding Faculty Award; Candyce Duggan, Fassnacht
Outstanding Administrator Award; Evelyn King, Fassnacht Outstanding
Staff Award; and Phil Schmidt, United Methodist Exemplary Teacher Award.