Virtual College Blog

Fort Hays State seeks to expand free educational resource offerings

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11/10/14
What "open educational resources" means is free or vastly reduced costs for classroom materials, including notoriously expensive college textbooks. Fort Hays State University began seriously looking into "OER" in 2012.

The program really began in earnest this year and, over the summer and fall, students in seven classes at FHSU saved $77,947 on textbooks, said Dennis King, director of the Virtual College and learning technologies.

"Our goal is to maintain or increase quality while reducing cost," said King. "That's our mission."

King said that by fall 2015 those savings could be more than $300,000.

"It's exciting," he said. "There's a lot going on."

One thing that is going on is FHSU OER Day Tuesday, Nov. 11, in the Memorial Union's Black and Gold Room. Nine faculty members and staff people involved in the university's institutional push to find ways to cut the costs of higher education will make presentations on different aspects of open resources.

The event is a come-and-go affair for faculty, intended to open them up to the value of OER and to give them information on how to do it. It will last from 11 a.m., when interim Provost Chris Crawford, an enthusiastic promoter of OER, will give a welcome, to about 2:30.

The full schedule is available through the FHSU OER Day-November 11th link on the Web page at www.fhsu.edu/oer/. All presentations will be videoed and made available in on the OER website.

Topics and presenters include Dr. Robert Channell on his experience with OER as a professor of biological sciences. Dr. Gavin Buffington, professor of physics and chair of the department, will present "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly -- Tales from an Early Adopter."

Another presentation, this one in the afternoon, will address a topic in good, bad and ugly terms: Drs. Justin Greenleaf and Brent Goertzen on using student teams to create OERs. King highlighted one 800-level leadership studies class that produced chapters for an OER text for 300-level undergraduate students.

The afternoon will also include Maslyn Phoenix, open education librarian at Forsyth Library, and Seung Gutsch, pronounced "sing gooch" (the oo sound rhymes with "due"), instructional designer for the Center for Teaching Excellence and Learning Technologies, will talk about "Finding, Creating, Implementing OERs."

King will open the afternoon round with a presentation on a "New Launch of OER Mini-Grants." The initial rounds of grants were issued so far to encourage faculty members to engage in the hard work necessary to either create open-resource classes or reconfigure existing classes for open resource methods.

The first round of grants totaled $18,000, said King, and the second round, about to be launched, is $35,000. This round, he said, is intended to encourage early adopters to keep innovating and to generate new developers who will be able to learn from and expand on the lessons of the last year. King emphasized the cost-effectiveness of the grants by noting that the $77,000 in textbook savings in seven classes over the summer and fall of this year resulted from about $5,000 in grants.

Classes using open resources have also increased dramatically since the first in the fall 2013 semester. That class was the only one that semester. Spring 2014 saw five open resource classes, but this fall's class offerings had 143 OER courses.

The university has made a commitment to exploring OER as a way to meet its mission of offering quality education at affordable prices, said King.

In an email encouraging faculty to attend as many of the sessions as possible, Provost Crawford noted that research has shown that one of the main reasons students leave before earning a degree is the expense.

"No news," said Crawford. "Our students often work 20-plus hours per week. Whatever we can do to help control the cost of resources helps our students stay in school and miss fewer classes due to work-related conflicts and fatigue."

He also promised that funding for the mini-grants will be available. "If Dennis runs out of money, I'll find a way to get more funds to support OER adoption."

FHSU receives affordability recognition for online Master's programs

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Affordability and online education are hallmarks for Fort Hays State University, and GetEducated.com, a consumer group dedicated to rating both, has again recognized FHSU programs.

FHSU programs earned seven top-10 affordability rankings in four GetEducated categories, including three No. 1 rankings.

FHSU's Master of Liberal Studies with an emphasis in educational leadership and management, administration, was No. 1 in two GetEducated categories, Best Affordable Master's in Education and also in Best Affordable Master's in Educational Leadership.

In GetEducated's Best Affordable Online Master's in Educational Technology category, FHSU's Master of Liberal Studies with an emphasis in instructional technology was No. 1 and the universities Master of Science in instructional technology was No. 4. The master of Science in instructional technology also placed in the top 10 in another category, coming in at No. 10 among Best Affordable Masters in Education.

FHSU's Master of Science in special education was No. 3 in GetEducated's Best Affordable Online Master's Degree in Special Education category.

Two other FHSU degrees also earned No. 4 affordability rankings, the Master of Science in Education, in Best Affordable Master's in Education, and the Master of Science in educational administration, principal, in Best Affordable Master's in Education Leadership.

GetEducated.com is a consumer group that provides a fact-based compilation of comparative data on 3,672 accredited online degrees to help students locate the highest-quality online education programs in selected career areas. A million and a half online students visit GetEducated.com annually seeking advice on online degree programs.

The online students will receive more than an affordable education while virtually attending FHSU. With many of the same services offered to them as students on campus, they are able to receive tutoring and textbooks, are able to work with career services, and are able to participate in a variety of different organizations.

According to Virtual College statistics, FHSU has 6,965 virtual students with 455 faculty members to accommodate them, an instructor for every 15 students. This amount of students per instructor presents exceptional levels for communicating with the other students in the virtual classes and with the instructor, said Kathleen Dougherty, online student communication strategist for FHSU's Virtual college.

GetEducated.com is a consumer advocacy group that rates and ranks online college degrees for their cost and credibility. The group issues report cards on degree programs in an effort to bring transparency to the selection process in terms of cost, public perception and verified student satisfaction.

Pre-Enrollment for the Spring 2015 semester

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Pre-Enrollment for the Spring 2015 semester begins soon!  Please see the Academic Calendar for your date to pre-enroll.  You can also check your date by logging into TigerEnroll and selecting the semester you wish to pre-enroll in.

Pre-enrollment is the time when you select your class schedule for the upcoming semester.  You will pre-enroll yourself in courses on the TigerEnroll system.  Once pre-enrolled, these classes are saved until you make payment arrangements in TigerEnroll or until the enrollment deadline has passed.  

It's important that you take advantage of an Advising Appointment prior to pre-enrolling yourself in courses.  Academic Advisors can assist you in selecting courses for the upcoming semester.  Many courses have pre-requisites or co-requisites, so it's important to discuss your schedule with your advisor.  It is also a great time to discuss your progress towards graduation and your career goals.  Academic Advisors of virtual students are often available using a variety of avenues, such as phone, instant messaging, video conferencing (such as Skype and Google Hangouts), and email.  Not sure who your advisor is?  Log into TigerTracks and click on "Advisor Information".

Prior to your advising appointment, complete the following:
1.    Review your online degree summary or course checklist to make sure everything is updated.
2.    Check TigerEnroll to ensure that you don't have any enrollment holds on your account (second tab).
3.    Review potential course options and their accompanying prerequisites on TigerTracks (to view prerequisites, just click on the course title in TigerTracks).
4.    Prepare any additional questions you may have.  Your advisor will do his or her very best to answer any questions that you may have, and at the very least, direct you to the appropriate department.
Once pre-enrollment begins, courses fill up fast!  It's important to pre-enroll on your designated day in order to avoid missing out on the courses you need.

Happy Pre-Enrolling!

Awards – Why They Matter, and Why They Don’t

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Awards – Why They Matter, and Why They Don’t

A really wonderful problem for a university to have is having to build more trophy cases. Winning awards, whether on the athletic field or in the classroom, is always great as it shows a tangible outcome to the efforts that go into making the student experience everything it should be.

Last week, Fort Hays State University was recognized by TheBestSchools.org in an article entitled “The Best Online College in Each of America’s Fifty States.” According to the publisher, we were selected as the best in Kansas based on academic excellence, course and degree offerings, faculty strengths and reputation for online degree programs. You can read the full article at http://www.thebestschools.org/features/best-online-college-in-each-american-state . Since the article lists the schools in alphabetical order by state, you will need to scroll down a bit. You’ll find that TheBestSchools.org recognized the same benefits of an FHSU online education that U.S. News & World Report recognized earlier this year when they ranked our online programs #16 nationally for Best Online Bachelor’s Programs, #20 for Best Online Graduate Education Programs, and #64 for Best Online Graduate Business Programs. When combined with online tuition that is in the bottom 2% in the United States, FHSU does offer value that is truly remarkable, and it’s great when other organizations notice.

So, honestly, these awards do mean a lot to us.  They are third-party recognition of the constant and dedicated effort we put into online education here at FHSU. When we win awards, and in a year like this year when there are almost too many to count, we do feel good about the recognition.

On the other hand, winning awards is only a by-product of the ongoing, intense focus we have on student success. We don’t think about awards when we try to better serve our students. For example, at a time when most universities were cutting back on new programs and initiatives, we invested a significant sum of money into creating a professional advising group to serve most of our 6,000+ online students with a more personalized and comprehensive advising service. We are always looking for better ways to serve students so they will be successful in their academic pursuits. That’s really what drives us, day after day. We do listen to feedback from our students, and encourage it.

The awards are great, and we like winning them. However, awards or no awards, our focus in on student success, and always will be. It is at the core of what we do, and at the end of the day, it’s the successes we’ve had with our students that really makes us proud.

Brad Goebel

Publication names FHSU best college for online education in Kansas

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Fort Hays State University's reputation as a national leader in the quality of its Virtual College programs was bolstered again this week when it was ranked the best college in Kansas for online education.

TheBestSchools.org ranked FHSU No. 1 in an article, "The Best Online College in Each of America’s Fifty States."

"We believe that many prospective students are in positions in which they need to earn their degree online," said Wayne Downs, managing editor of TheBestSchools.org. "However, that doesn’t mean they don’t want a school close to them in case they want to use the library, visit a professor or participate in other events. This was our primary motivation for producing this article."

TheBestSchools.org selected FHSU’s program based on several weighted factors, including academic excellence, course and degree offerings, faculty strengths, and reputation -- especially reputation for online degree programs.

Here is the link to the article:
http://www.thebestschools.org/features/best-online-college-in-each-american-state/

"We are always gratified when an independent organization recognizes our educational excellence," said Dr. Mirta M. Martin, FHSU president. "It is important to emphasize that this honor also reflects on the excellence of our on-campus offerings, because our core faculty develop the courses they teach both in the traditional classroom and online."

Dennis King, director of the Virtual College, noted that the online students include a very special cohort -- members of the Armed Forces at home and abroad. "We have been recognized as a military-friendly school for several years by GI Jobs Magazine," he said, pointing out that the criteria for making the Military Friendly Schools list includes efforts to recruit and retain military and veteran students.

King also stated that in addition to excellence, FHSU offers exceptionally low tuition to its online students. "We are in the lowest 1 percent nationally in terms of online tuition," King said. "This means our students are getting a top-tier education at the most affordable price."

FHSU's recognition as the best university in Kansas for online education was just the latest in a continuing series of such honors.

Most recently, just last month, TheBestSchools.org ranked FHSU's online M.S. in educational administration as No. 16 in the nation. It was selected based on academic excellence, course offerings, faculty strengths and reputation.

Earlier this year, U.S. News & World Report recognized FHSU as the top university in Kansas and one of the elite universities in the nation for the quality of its online education programs.

The news magazine evaluated online higher education in six categories. FHSU offers courses in four of those categories. All four were rated among the best in the nation. For online bachelor's degrees, FHSU ranked 16th. For online master's degrees in education, FHSU ranked 20th. For online master's degrees in business, FHSU ranked 64th. For online master's degrees in nursing, FHSU ranked 71st.
FHSU was the top ranked university in the state of Kansas for each category except online nursing, where the University of Kansas was ranked 24th.

Of equal importance, the online courses and degrees offered by Fort Hays State through its Virtual College are less expensive than every one of the universities that were ranked as high or higher than FHSU in the U.S. News survey.

About TheBestSchools.org
TheBestSchools.org is a leading resource for prospective students seeking a college or university degree. Many schools in the United States, including Auburn University, Boston University, Texas A&M University, Fordham University and FHSU, reference its rankings.

Success this Semester

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It is sometimes hard to grasp how rapidly the semester, once begun, moves to conclusion. It’s hard to think that we are already in the third week of the semester. Many of you will start having your first exams soon, if you haven’t had one already, and the semester projects will be due before you know it. As an instructor, I’d like to give you some advice on how to succeed this fall.

When the instructor says to read the chapter prior to class, read it. Not only will you be better prepared for class, you will comprehend and retain the material much better. As instructors have only a limited amount of time to lecture and discuss, the lectures will make a lot more sense to you if you’ve read the chapters first. It’s also a lot easier to go from a broad knowledge base to the specifics highlighted in the lecture rather than the other way around. It will make your studying much more effective as well, and maximize your chances of success on exams.

Stay on top of your assignments. When you’re given an assignment, get right to it. Putting it off can create lots of problems, as you don’t know what will come up to keep you from getting it in on time. Many instructors do not take late work, and while missing a single homework assignment won’t necessarily kill your grade, I have had students who, at the end of the semester, missed getting the next higher course grade by the margin of the homework points lost from a single assignment.

Successfully studying for exams requires discipline. If you will keep up with the reading assignments, you will find that it is much easier to study for an exam or quiz. “Cramming” the night before an exam may work once in awhile, but in the long run, you will perform at a much higher level if you keep up with the material on a daily or, at most, weekly basis. Your exam preparation will be much more effective and will take less time, freeing you up to study for other classes or do other things.

Finally, get to know your instructor. Whether you study online or in a classroom on campus, take a few minutes to have a personal interaction with the professor. It will go a long way toward making the class more enjoyable, and every instructor likes students who show interest in the course. I had one student scan and send me a business card after the first class session. While I didn’t need the card, I still remember the name of the student who gave it to me.

Best of luck this semester! Work hard, work smart, and keep your goals in mind. Always remember that the Virtual College is here to help our students, so don’t hesitate to contact us for tutoring assistance or other student services.

Brad Goebel
9/3/14

How to Avoid Closed Courses

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How to Avoid Closed Courses
By Erica Fisher, Student Engagement and Advising Center, Fort Hays State University

One of the great things about FHSU is early pre-enrollment for virtual students.  Pre-enrollment for virtual students typically occurs a full week before on-campus students.  However, many virtual students don't take advantage of this perk, and miss out on early pre-enrollment.  Nothing is more frustrating for a student then trying to pre-enroll and finding that all their needed courses are closed.  This situation can be avoided by following the steps below:

1.  Know when you can pre-enroll.  The Registrar's Office provides an Academic Calendar for each semester that lists the opening date for pre-enrollment.  This calendar also includes information on enrollment deadlines, financial aid release, withdrawal deadlines, and more!  Start your semester off right by plugging these dates into your personal calendar.  You can also check your date by logging into TigerEnroll and selecting the semester you wish to pre-enroll in.

2.  Schedule a pre-enrollment appointment with your advisor.  It is important to discuss course options for the upcoming semester with your advisor.   This helps to ensure that you are taking courses in the proper order while adhering to pre-requisites.  It is also an excellent time to discuss academic progress and academic/career goals.  This meeting should be held at least a couple weeks before pre-enrollment begins.  You will find your academic advisor's contact information in TigerTracks.  Once you've logged in, click on the "Online Services tab," and then on "Advisor Information" under the "Academic & Career Advising" heading.

3.  Pre-enroll on your designated day in TigerEnroll.  Do not put this off.  Once pre-enrollment begins, courses fill up extremely fast!  It's important to pre-enroll on your designated day in order to avoid missing out on the courses you need.  Make sure you complete all the necessary steps in TigerEnroll.  Are you a first time user of TigerEnroll?  If so, FHSU offers step-by-step instructions as well as video demos.

4.  Finalize and pay for your enrollment.  Be sure to complete this step.  The deadline for finalizing your enrollment is typically a couple of weeks before the semester begins.  You can find the deadline on the Academic Calendar.  Instructions for finalizing your enrollment in TigerEnroll can be found on the AACE website.

5.  Order your textbooks.  To order books, go to the FHSU Bookstore website at fhsu.bkstr.com OR select "Order Textbooks" from inside TigerEnroll on the "Pre-enrollment/Schedule Changes" tab.  You are able to purchase new or used books (subject to availability), and, in most cases, will be able to sell books back at the end of the semester by following specific instructions outlined on the FHSU Bookstore site. The bookstore also offers a rental option. Please remember to order your books early so you will have them before classes begin!

Sometimes life happens, and the pre-enrollment date slips by before a student can pre-enroll.  If you find yourself in this situation, there is another option:  the TigerEnroll Wait List.  If a seat in a course opens up, the next student in line on the Wait List will be offered that spot.  To add yourself to the Wait List, please view our video demo or speak with your academic advisor.

Remember, the easiest way to avoid closed classes is to pre-enroll on your designated day.  You can view your pre-enrollment day in TigerEnroll or on the Academic Calendar.  When in doubt, contact your academic advisor!

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