The demand for online courses and programs, particularly at the master’s degree level, has never been higher and the College of Education is working to expand its online options.

Students generally cite convenience and the cost of travel when they choose online courses,” said Dr. Howard Smith, dean of the College of Education. “That’s a special concern for students interested in a master’s degree or additional certification. Many of those students are employed full-time and are often balancing the demands of work and families.”

In recent years, the demand for an online educational leadership master’s program in the Kansas City metro area has grown significantly. The challenge was developing an instructional program that met the students’ desires for an online option without losing a personal, face-to face component that faculty believe is important for this degree.

Their solution was an online program that includes two or three Saturday “executive learning sessions” at the university’s KC Metro Center in Lenexa, Kan.

“The focus of these face-to-face executive learning sessions is to provide the aspiring educational leader with the skills necessary to lead an organization composed of all stakeholders toward the attainment of a shared vision,” said Ed Streich, instructor in Special Services and Leadership Studies.

In these Saturday sessions, students learn from veteran, educational leaders who have served as administrators in Kansas and in Missouri.

“This is a good example of thinking creatively to both meet the needs of students while also maintaining the high quality that PSU’s educational programs are known for,” said Chris Christman, chairmanĀ of the Department of SSLS.

Meanwhile, the online ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) program continues to be a popular choice for teachers in Kansas, Nebraska and even overseas and the online master’s degree in reading has a waiting list.

“Public School age children in Kansas speak more than 100 different languages and dialects,” said Alice Sagehorn, acting chairperson for initial programs. “The ESOL program was designed for classroom teachers and school administrators who want to implement best practices of teaching and assessment for English language learners in their classrooms. Teachers who have English language learners already in their classroom, administrators who have or who are planning to have ESOL students, and graduates who are looking for a job all benefit from this program.”

Sagehorn said teachers may take one or two courses a semester, depending on how quickly they wish to complete the program.

An online master’s degree program in reading has also proved to be immensely popular, according toDr. Susan Knell. Students in the program may choose from an option designed for classroom teachers who want to become better teachers of reading for their students and a second option that prepares them to be literacy coaches or reading specialists.

Knell said the program evolved into an online offering because of student demands.

“Once we went totally online, our numbers really skyrocketed,” Knell said. “I have gotten several positive comments from our graduate students about the program, especially the incorporation of recording through Tegrity. My students have said that the recordings make them feel like they’re in class with me.”

“Some courses are very good matches for online instruction. Some aren’t. And some may be great candidates for a blended or hybrid approach,” said Smith. “Our goal is to provide the highest quality instruction in the manner that best suits the needs of each student. That’s a constantly changing target that we are always focusing on.”