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Keuka College News

Going the Distance Starting Mid-June

Keuka College courses are offered in Keuka Park, at community colleges and hospitals around the state, in China and, beginning next month, in cyberspace.

“We will offer as many as seven Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP) courses online beginning in mid-June,” said Keith LaSota, director of instruction for ASAP.

The College’s venture into distance education was made possible by a gift from Hall residents Donald and Christine Wertman. Donald is chief operating officer of Seedway LLC in Hall and a member of the Keuka College Board of Trustees.

The Wertman Office of Distance Education will be housed in the Center for Professional Studies and International Programs.

“I want to thank the Wertmans for providing the impetus for this exciting new endeavor,” said President Joseph G. Burke.

“Inspired by Dr. Burke’s enthusiasm, dedication and commitment, Mrs. Wertman and I examined a number of new initiatives and elected to support the creation of an Office of Distance Education,” said Wertman. “This program has a ready clientele among Keuka’s ASAP students and has potential reach into new markets domestically and abroad to students who otherwise would not have the opportunity to earn credits and degrees at Keuka College.”

Initially, Keuka will gear its distance education offerings toward students who need to add elective credits in pursuit of bachelor’s degrees through ASAP. Keuka offers bachelor’s degree completion programs in organizational management, criminal justice systems, social work, and nursing. Adult students take courses one at a time, one night a week in Keuka Park or other locations around the state, and typically earn their degrees in less than two years.

“Going the distance education route eliminates any transfer issues that sometimes crop up when these students take these elective courses at other colleges,” said Gary Smith, associate vice president for professional studies and international programs.

Keuka’s distance education initiative will be led by LaSota and an instructional designer. The staff will also include an assistant designer, technical support specialist, and instructional support specialist. The College is in the interview stage in its search for the lead instructional designer, according to Smith.

Pioneers and Progress

Although the establishment of the Wertman Office of Distance Education signals Keuka’s formal commitment to distance education, offering courses online isn’t a foreign concept on campus.

Professor of English Doug Richards first used the technology to teach Poems, Plays and Prose to ASAP student in 2001 and Associate Vice President for Academic Programs Jeanine Santelli has employed it to teach a genetics course to nursing students.

“Doug and Jeannine were our distance education pioneers,” said Smith.

Keuka received a huge hi-tech boost in 2005 when it was awarded a $1.82 million federal grant to enhance instructional technology on campus. The five-year, U.S. Department of Education Title IIIA Strengthening Institutions Program grant has provided equipment and funded a multi-faceted faculty development program, including instructional technology training.

Director of Educational Technology Jeff Snow has been at the forefront of this technology enhancement and one of the most effective tools introduced by Snow is Moodle, an open source software package that helps educators create effective online teaching communities. Snow said more than 200 courses “have been set up” on Moodle and approximately two-thirds of the faculty use Moodle “in some form.

“Our faculty use it to post course syllabi, handouts, assignments, and other things,” said Snow, who added that Moodle was designed as an online course feed.

“Jeff has done a great job prepping our faculty for this distance education initiative,” said Smith.

Future Applications

Distance education at Keuka College, said Smith, “will be a collaboration between our traditional and non-traditional programs. We know that we won’t be able to grow [the ASAP distance education offerings] without the help and support of faculty and others from the traditional core liberal arts program areas.”

Smith expects the College to eventually offer required ASAP courses online to students pursuing bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Keuka currently offers master’s degrees in management and criminal justice administration through ASAP.

“Offering courses online gives us tremendous flexibility,” said Smith. “For example, let’s say we have 12 students pursing the master’s in management degree at Jamestown Community College and another 12 doing likewise at Finger Lakes Community College. Suppose there are two students at each location interested in adding a concentration in accounting. The numbers aren’t there to warrant teaching those additional courses the traditional way, but it could be done by teaching them online.”

ASAP classes are held once a week, so when inclement weather or other circumstances force a class to be cancelled, the instructor and students are forced to make adjustments in order to stay on track. However, the ability to deliver courses online takes the weather and other issues out of the mix.

The College is also investigating the possibility of offering online courses to occupational therapists who must garner continuing education units in order to maintain their professional certification.

While conceding that ASAP will be the focus of distance education in the short term, Smith said it will impact the traditional program down the road.

“We know that some of our traditional students like to take courses during the summer at colleges near their hometowns,” explained Smith. “Why not take an online course from Keuka instead?”

In 2005, Keuka joined the Online Consortium of Independent Colleges and Universities (OCICU), which boasts more than 65 members.

“Some of our ASAP students with credit deficiencies go to OCICU for electives,” said LaSota. “Keuka has always been a user in terms of courses but with our distance education program in place, we can become a provider of online courses to the other members.”

That should appeal to faculty and traditional students alike.

“I know we have faculty members who always wanted to teach their ‘favorite course,’ courses that are unique and different,” said Smith. “At a small school such as Keuka, there’s a limited market for them. However, with OCICU, there is and we will soon have the means to offer them to a broader audience of college students.”

And that means traditional students will have more elective courses from which to choose.

“Keuka College,” said Smith, “has always been dedicated to serving the needs of students and the creation of the Wertman Office of Distance Education is yet another example of how Keuka is meeting the changing needs of today’s students—on campus, in New York, in China, and now everywhere you can use a computer.”

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