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Virtual College earns recognition

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The following article came out today in the Hays Daily News. We thought we would share this with you since it speaks to our philosophy of education and will give you an idea of how important you, our students, are to us. Thanks to the reporter who wrote the story, Elizabeth Golden, for giving us permission to reprint her story here. This is a very nice addition to the list of high rankings the Virtual College has won this year, and we are pleased to be able to share it with you.

7/11/2014

By ELIZABETH GOLDEN
egolden@dailynews.net

The Virtual College at Fort Hays State University has been recognized as one of the most affordable degree programs by onlineu.org.
OnlineU is a nonprofit website dedicated to refocusing the higher education conversation around affordability and quality.
"We are trying to migrate the conversation away from prestige and selectivity," said Kimberly Wetter, head of marketing at SR Education Group.
"We're trying to start talking about affordability and quality. We started this research because student debt is out of control, and we wanted to change the way people thought about online education."
Tuition costs for the virtual college are $186.50 per credit hour for undergraduate and $251.38 per credit hour for graduate coursework.
OnlineU listed the 20 top universities in the 25 most popular programs of study.
"FHSU really showed a strong commitment to affordable degrees across the board," Wetter said. They're offering the most popular degrees to earn online at one of the most affordable prices in the nation."
The early childhood education and the teaching program were ranked in the top five after the company researched more than 2,000 universities.
"These ranks are a great way of indicating the quality of the Virtual College," said Dennis King, director of the Virtual College and learning technologies. "We can't afford traditional advertising, so what we do is take that money we would spend other places and put it back in our programs. We don't have that advertising budget. This is a way for us to advertise on a national and international scale, and do it by offering quality programs that an affordable price."
The Virtual College has been in existence since 1998.
"We were an early adopter of online education," King said. "We have a culture on campus. Our faculty and staff are hired with the idea that they will be working with Virtual College students and offering online programs."
More than 6,000 students FHSU students are "truly virtual," meaning 100 percent of their coursework is completed online. The university aims to reach 7,500 "truly virtual" students by 2020.
For the previous year, the overall number of students enrolled in online education dropped, but FHSU's enrollment increased by more than 12 percent, King said.
"In tough times, you have the option to either grow the university and take a small profit and reinvest the rest in the university," King said, "or to charge more, have fewer students and take a larger return. We've made the commitment that we rather serve 100 students and get a small return than serve 10 students and get a large return."
The average age for Virtual College students is 34, and the majority of students are from Kansas.
"It's our obligation to serve Kansans," King said.
"You see what (the Virtual College) means to them. You see the passion they have; the accomplishment of completing an education while raising kids, working a full-time job. What we do changes lives." Not just for that individual person, but for their families and every generation after that. We're changing history every time we graduate someone from a program."

Out of State Authorization

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Online and Distance Education is an important part of Fort Hays State University's (FHSU) program offerings, with many students participating in federal financial aid. Recent amendments to the Higher Education Act of 1965 include changes in regulation for State Authorization that may impact online, distance, and correspondence education providers.

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Education issued a regulation tying an institution's ability to offer federal financial aid in a state to the institution being authorized in the student's state. The regulation was subsequently "vacated" by federal court ruling and is not currently being enforced. However, FHSU is still working to comply with state policies for distance education.  The relevant language includes:

If an institution is offering postsecondary education through distance or correspondence education to students in a State in which it is not physically located or in which it is otherwise subject to State jurisdiction as determined by the State, the institution must meet any State requirements for it to be legally offering postsecondary distance or correspondence education in that State. An institution must be able to document to the Secretary the State's approval upon request. State Authorization Regulation Chapter 34, § 600.9(c)

FHSU is working with state agencies to comply with required authorizations so that we can continue to provide educational access to students across the country.  The requirements as to which educational activities require authorization vary from state-to-state.

The Syllabus – A most important document

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  On the first day of class, or sometimes sooner, the syllabus will be made available to you. Read it thoroughly. Of all the documents you will get in a course, the syllabus is perhaps the most under-appreciated. Not only is the schedule in the syllabus, all of the class rules and expectations are there also. What, if any, are the prerequisites for the course? What is the name of the required text (and other materials)? What are the course objectives, and what should you learn? How often must you log in to the course? Does the professor take late work or not? What do you do if you miss an exam, and what (if any) are acceptable reasons for submitting late work or taking a make-up exam? What accommodations are offered for students with learning disabilities? Are there discussion boards in the LMS (learning management system – e.g., Blackboard, Moodle, Angel, etc.), and if so, how frequently are posts required? How will you be graded? How long after your work is submitted should you expect to get feedback and a grade? What work is due, when is it due and how should it be submitted?

 

All these questions and more are answered by the syllabus. Here is a really great idea – keep all the syllabi you get, from every course you take. Why? Someday you may transfer schools, or go to graduate school at another institution. When I applied to my MBA program, the university had various prerequisites that I had to show that I had satisfied. For example, I had to have taken a statistics class. Since I had majored in business, that wasn’t a problem, but then I found that they wanted to know that my business statistics class had certain specific key learning outcomes. Did it contain certain elements of inferential and descriptive statistics, or just one type? Having kept my syllabus from that undergraduate statistics class, it was easy to see what I had taken and what aspects of stats I had been exposed to. The same types of questions were asked about a couple of other courses I had taken. Having the syllabus from courses I had taken saved me from having to take (and pay for!) several courses prior to admission to graduate school. My daughter is in college now, and scans all of her important documents into her computer as pdf files so she will have them when she needs them.

 

One thing most instructors put into their syllabi is a caveat that the course schedule is subject to change. For that reason, do not take it on faith that the course schedule will remain as it was written. Be alert. When you log into Blackboard, look for announcements that will tell you if things have changed or are changing. Knowing that the assignment due date or exam date has changed is your responsibility. Another good idea is to create a master calendar with the key due-dates for all your classes. That way, you will never miss a deadline. Take a look at all your classes and assignments. Do you think you will need tutoring for any of your classes? We provide a service called Smarthinking here at Fort Hays State for our online students. Don’t wait until the last minute to get access. Allow at least a week to get everything done, including the sign-up process. A good time to get started with whatever tutoring service you may use is the first week of class. That way you will have access when you need it.

 

I’ll close this article with another thing we’ve discussed previously. I can’t stress enough how important it is to get to know your professor. If your professor recognizes your name when he or she gets a post or email, things just go better. Make contact early in the course. Ask for help sooner rather than later. If you have questions about anything in the course – assignments, the work itself, projects, whatever – do not wait to get answers. As an instructor, I sometimes get emails on Friday afternoon wanting to know what to do with a major assignment that is due that night. I typically make assignments due at 11:59 p.m. the day they are due. Waiting until the day the assignment is due to ask about it? Not a good idea.

 

Best of luck to you as you begin your new semester. If we can help in any way, don’t hesitate to contact us!

 

Brad Goebel

The Virtual College

Fall Classes Are Forming!

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It’s pre-enrollment time at FHSU!   Whether you are part-time or full-time, exploratory or degree seeking, traditional or a non-trad student, it’s important you connect with your Academic Advisor.  Every student at Fort Hays State University is assigned to an advisor with whom they have the opportunity to visit with about their academic program and their career and life goals.  Your advisor is there to assist you with course selection, make suggestions in program planning and to help you with academic questions or issues.  Your academic advisor is your connection to success at FHSU!

As a student, you need to remember you are ultimately responsible for the choices you make. Take the initiative to contact and maintain a working relationship with your advisor.  Below are tips of what to do before you meet with your advisor to pre-enroll:

·       Call, email or stop by to make an appointment - and keep your scheduled appointment

·       Be prepared - have a list of questions or concerns you wish to address

·       Be open and honest about issues that may be prevent  you from achieving your best…remember your  advisor wants you to succeed and reach your academic goals

·       Familiarize yourself with the degree requirements

·       Utilize  resources available to you on campus

·       Follow through on your advisors recommendations

Your Academic Advisor is there to help navigate you your through your educational experiences. Visit regularly with your advisor to evaluate your educational plans, experiences and opportunities at FHSU. 

Best of luck!

Debbie Staab

 

FHSU Serving Military

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Serving those who serve us is a distinction that Fort Hays State University is proud to share.  Over a decade ago, FHSU was one of the original 16 schools to be accepted into the Navy College Program Distance Learning Partnership (NCPDLP).  The partnership grew this week as the U.S. Navy selected Fort Hays State University's Bachelor of Business Administration in management, emphasis in human resources, for its distance learning program.

"The degree successfully meets 40 percent transferability in major and major-related requirements," said Joyce Larson, project director of the Navy College Program Distance Learning Partnership.

The Navy handbook that lists the available degrees is a data networking system created by the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges. It includes those degree programs and courses that are readily transferable for military students.

"Basically, the NCPDLP partnership allows Navy members to transfer their military experience and perhaps college credit into FHSU somewhat seamlessly," said Jeremy Carlton, military success specialist at FHSU.

FHSU’s partnership with the Department of Defense currently allows more than 150 Navy students, and 550 military virtual students overall, to enroll in courses for their degree programs, said Carlton. FHSU also has about 80 on-campus military students.
This selection comes a week after FHSU received notice that U.S. News and World Reports has ranked the school as a “Best Online Program for Veterans”.   FHSU has agreements with all branches of the military, and is a proud support of the Yellow Ribbon program.  

Virtual College Commencement 2014

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This weekend at FHSU we celebrated the 2014 commencement! Friday night was Graduate school and Saturday morning was Undergraduate. The FHSU Virtual College hosted the annual Graduation Breakfast at the Robbins Alumni Center.   Graduates attended from all over the country, including one that traveled from Honolulu, HI. For many, this was their first trip to campus. We had a great day and really enjoyed meeting and spending some time with our virtual college students. 

Here are a few of the photos from the Graduation Breakfast:

President Hammond with Virtual College Graduate

Dennis King talks to Graduates

Doctor Tisa Mason talks with Graduates

Graduation Breakfast

Graduates at Breakfast

Graduation Breakfast 2014

 

FHSU Graduate School Commencement – Friday May 16th, 2014

Thanks to the Fort Hays State University Virtual College I'm proof that you CAN get your Master's with a full-time job, husband, dog and 2 kids, while selling one house, building another house and moving! It took me more than 3 years to complete, but it feels so good to be done. Go Tigers!! “ 

~ Hayley Bieker

  Hayley Beiker at Graduate Ceremony

What It Takes to Succeed Online

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Albert Einstein once said “If A is success in life, then A = X + Y +Z. Work is X; Y is play; and Z is keeping your mouth shut.” I’m not sure about Z, but all are important elements of a balanced and productive life. Attaining and maintaining that balance is crucial for success in successfully completing an online education program.

We frequently ask Virtual College students how they maintain balance in their lives as they pursue an associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degree online. The answers are sometimes amusing, but underneath the humor is a very obvious dedication to completing something they started. One student wrote, “I have a job that goes until about 6:00 in the evening. Then I go pick up my two kids, go home, fix dinner, help with their schoolwork, get them in the bath and get them to bed. So my school day starts about 10:00 p.m. With luck, I get to bed about 1:00 a.m. But only a year and a half left – and then hopefully a better job and more time with the family – or sleeping!”

Obviously, self-discipline is very important to succeed in an online degree program. You have to make time to get the class assignments done and submitted, and you have to make time to study and learn the material. Our best students have learned to be organized and to make the most of the time they have available.

Most online programs today use a learning management system, or LMS, to facilitate the delivery of course material. You may be familiar with Blackboard, Moodle, Angel, WebCT, or other systems. They are similar in function, providing a “virtual classroom” for online students. They’re accessible anywhere you have an internet connection, and while I wouldn’t try to do a whole course on a smartphone, it probably could be done. Most don’t require that you be a tech guru, but you do have to be comfortable learning new ways to do things.

Log in at least three times a week to make sure you know what’s going on. If you have technical problems, get help at your earliest opportunity. If you’re taking an exam online, turn off everything on your computer except the exam (no music streaming, etc.). I would also suggest that you make sure you have all the bandwidth that’s available in your house or apartment. The kids watching Hulu or Netflix in the next room will eat up a lot of your internet connection and could cause problems while you’re taking the exam. Have them watch a DVD instead for that hour or so. Taking care of this before going into the exam will go a long way to ensuring that your computer won’t lock up on you or kick you out of the exam space.

Contact your professors and support services early in the semester or course term. A lot of people think that an online course isn’t interactive just because people are separated by geography. Not true. As an instructor, some of the best interactions I’ve had with students have been in my online classes. Be proactive. In addition to your submissions, share some of your thoughts with your professor. Ask questions – especially if you are having trouble with any of the assignments. Find out early what student support services are available and appropriate for a given class – library online databases, tutoring services, writing centers, financial aid, etc. – and connect with them for assistance.

Stay in close contact with your advisor. Talk to your advisor at a minimum of once a semester, more often if necessary. They will reach out to you throughout the year. When they do, respond as soon as you can.

I think the final thing, but perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is “How badly do I want this degree?” There are sacrifices to be made, a lot of hard work to be done, and there will be times when the end is not clearly in sight and your determination may waver. As Stephen Covey (author of The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People) said, “Begin with the end in mind.” Start your educational journey knowing all the good things that will come from attaining a higher level of education, and stay focused on your goal.

If you have any questions about learning at a distance, or about our programs, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re always here to help you.

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