Global push puts Lamar at forefront in online education

Global push puts Lamar at forefront in online education

More and more educators are seeking to earn college degrees online, and more and more often, they’re earning those degrees at Lamar University. Beaumont’s Lamar University ranked ninth out of 1,617 schools in the number of 2011 bachelor’s and post-bachelor’s education degrees conferred that were earned all or partially online, according to an analysis released by USA Today on Aug. 8.

In 2011, Lamar awarded 1,863 education degrees earned completely or partially online; 10 years earlier, that number was 70.

The analysis was based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Willie Broussard Jr., associate director of academic partnership at Lamar, said the growth of the university’s online program could be attributed to research conducted by the institute.

“We use research to find the most popular degrees,” he said. “We’re not just offering any degree online, but the ones that are translating into sending folks into the workforce or retraining them for the workforce.”

Broussard said another factor driving the online program’s success is its cost-efficiency.

“We’re able to keep the quality because it’s the same faculty that we have here (on campus) that are teaching online,” he said. “It’s the same doctors that teach face to face, and we make sure that (online classes have) that academic rigor and quality.”

Broussard said an example of this rigor could be seen in the Education Master’s Degree Program.

“We do receptions before graduation and I constantly hear the feedback that the rigor was there,” Broussard said. (The graduates) tease about discussions with the professors, but they know they are equipped professionals at the end of the day.”

Lamar director of public relations Brian Sattler, in a May edition of Cardinal Cadence magazine, says, “New construction and renovation have transformed the face of Lamar University and contribute greatly to the university’s continued growth. Less visible, but perhaps even more significant to Lamar’s growth, is the university’s leadership in online education. Thirty percent of Lamar’s credit hours are now generated through online courses and nearly 4,200 of Lamar’s current students never set foot on campus”

“LU’s College of Education and Human Development surmounted significant challenges as it broke new ground in higher education,” Sattler said. “When Lamar launched the online master’s programs in October 2007, it lowered the cost of earning degrees for thousands of teachers.”

Lamar’s online Master of Education program has also been deemed the most affordable by and received three award badges for ranking as a top affordable option among online masters degrees for teachers and educators.

According to Lamar’s Web site, “The GetEducated ‘Best Online Colleges’ ranking indicates LU’s programs were independently reviewed, compared to its national peers, and found to be the ‘Best Buy’ nationwide for teachers and educators for whom college affordability has become a critical issue. Lamar University ranked as the No. 1 most affordable online education school in the nation at about $6,450 for its online master’s for Texas teachers. The average overall cost for all master’s degrees in the online survey was $16,731.”

A group Sattler says benefits from gaining their degree online is nontraditional students aged 36 to 50.

“They went to work, and now they’re hitting the glass ceiling and want to finish their degrees,” he said. “They can’t pack up and go. They are employed and have family responsibilities. Our program fits this niche.”

Lamar will add six online programs in its Fall 2012 semester’s offerings.

“Lamar is launching a Bachelor of Science in communication, a Bachelor of Business Administration in general business, a B.B.A in management and a B.B.A. in entrepreneurship, as well as a Master of Public Administration in criminal justice, and a certificate in English as a second language,” Sattler said.

Broussard believes the online programs will continue to grow.

“With successes and time, we’ve gotten greater acceptance from professors and programs who were stringently saying we’ll never go online, and they are more receptive,” Broussard said. “The more programs come online, the more other programs understand that this is the future. If our program wants to survive, we’re going to have to look at reaching students outside of Southeast Texas, Houston and Southwestern Louisiana. We’re going to have to think globally.”

The University of Phoenix was No. 1 in the number of bachelor’s and post-bachelor’s education degrees awards conferred in 2011 with 5,976, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.