A path for working professionals

Hamline’s Online Degree Completion Program aims to make college more accessible to non-traditional students.

Non-traditional students often have more to balance when figuring out their college agenda. They must clamor to find courses that do not interfere with their work hours, and many have to arrange childcare as well. A new Online Degree Completion Program, however, intends to ease these working adults’ scheduling woes.

“It hasn’t launched yet, it’s in the planning stages right now,” Director of Continuing Studies Brian D. Bethune said. “We’re looking to launch in… the academic year of 2018-2019.”

The online degree program will offer a much more limited array of courses compared to an on-campus education.

“This degree program will really be geared towards adults who… have some college but no degree and who are working professionals,” Bethune said. “The program will have a very limited number of majors, a very limited number of course selections to complete a major, and pretty high requirements as to who can be accepted into the program. But it’s really geared towards adults who are 25 and above, who… just can’t come to campus between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., when most of our undergraduate courses take place.”

Currently, the university is exploring offering one degree in business and another in liberal arts through the online program, but the details are still being finalized.

“I started [working at Hamline] about six months ago, and I come from an organization that has both online and on-site programs, and as I was looking at what our counterparts at other institutions nationally are doing in continuing education, one of the things that emerged quite frequently was that continuing education was a place where any of the online… programs took place,” Bethune said. “That was really the germination of the idea, that coupled with my experience and background… The more we looked into it, the more we realized there was a really strong need that was going unfulfilled, and an opportunity to really extend the mission of the university.”

Initially, the program plans to offer admission to a fairly small number of students, with around 10 to 15 entrants in each degree program.

“From there we’ll see how it grows and where it goes,” Bethune said.

Bethune says the online nature of the program has been a cause of concern for faculty, as many professors are inexperienced with teaching via the Internet. In order to assist them, Hamline plans to hire an instructional designer to help faculty transition their courses to an online format.

“Two of the things that I’m very interested in, are how we align our courses for adults, and how they learn differently… and how we can create a course that is what I refer to as gamified, using game theory to help people be more engaged, more involved in the curriculum, so that it’s just like a game. You want to keep going even past the point where you know you should stop, but with education,” Bethune said.  “The more work you do, the more you read, the more engaging it is, ultimately the more you learn.”