By Karis Rogerson
Asbury’s Adult Professional Studies (APS) program plans to move completely online beginning in the spring 2014 semester.
According to Josh Fee, director of APS, the program is made up of three majors: elementary education, leadership in ministry and business.
The program has “created a way for Asbury to expand its mission to a population of students that has not necessarily been its focus over the last century,” Fee said. 230 non-traditional students are currently enrolled in the program.
Fee described the program as “redemptive” for participants. “For many non-traditional students, their first time around … didn’t work out too well for a variety of reasons,” he said.
APS has worked to provide access to education for people who wish to continue learning and might not have other options.
“It’s an incredibly meaningful process for these students,” Fee said. “For many of our students, they are the first in their family to finish a college degree.”
Fee has noticed that APS graduates bring more people to their commencement celebrations than traditional undergraduates. “I think that it’s because it’s such a big accomplishment for them to do it while they’re working full-time … while they’re being moms and dads, while they’re managing other responsibilities,” he said.
The elementary education major has been completely online for the past two years, Fee said, with the other two majors moving online this spring.
As the program moves completely online, Fee says he expects the new format to “make those [benefits] geographically independent. He manages recruitment along with program administration, and has often been called by prospective students who were unable to have an Asbury experience. “I think what the online delivery model does is offer opportunity to extend the Asbury University experience beyond the Wilmore campus,” he said.
When the program was still based on face-to-face instruction, students were able to experience community with other students at Asbury’s satellite campus in Florida through the distance-learning model. Dr. Gerald Miller, an Asbury professor of 41 years who has taught with the APS program for several years, said, of the effect the format had on the classroom, “I easily began knowing their names … and so we could interact with one another.” He added that the community was so deep, members of both classes prayed for each other and acted like any other class.
Fee does not expect the sense of community to change much as the program moves online.
“The main thing that we wanted to ensure with our students is that they always feel connected to our institution,” he said. He has received positive feedback from students whose experience studying online with Asbury has been far better than at other schools.
Fee added, “The delivery model is what our students have been asking for,” telling of students for whom job requirements or family obligations would make an online program ideal.
“These are Asbury University students; they’re not online students,” he clarified. APS uses various technologies to create the community students come to expect from Asbury. He predicts the use of live, face-to-face discussions as well as a future use of social networking will foster community.
“We can create a distinct experience of community in the online format,” Fee said.