Option of shorter online courses gaining popularity at Fort Hays State

By Diane Gasper-O'Brien
University Relations and Marketing
HAYS, Kan. -- As a high school teacher and coach in South Carolina, Charles Assey has to be efficient with his time while studying to become a K-12 administrator.

So, too, does Shannon Addes, a math teacher in New York City/Long Island who operates her own educational consulting business.

Flexibility and the opportunity of completing a course in a short amount of time are two of the main reasons those two students -- although thousands of miles away from north central Kansas -- chose Fort Hays State University's Virtual College as the avenue to take to earn their master's degrees.

There are several benefits for utilizing FHSU's distance learning program to earn a degree, including the option of enrolling in eight-week courses.

Eight-week courses are gaining popularity at Fort Hays State and are available in a broad range of programs through the university's Department of Advanced Education Programs, which offer core courses across several programs.

Instead of enrolling in a traditional 16-week course in time for the fall and spring semester start dates, online students can now choose from several other dates to enroll in the same course that is completed in half the time.

"These offerings are being developed to meet the needs of the adult students who are looking for both an expedited timeline to complete their degree and/or have decided to go to school after one of the three traditional start dates," said Dennis King, assistant vice president for student affairs. "The idea is to offer something for the adult student who presses to move through their program at a little faster pace."

One of those is Addes, who said she enjoys working at a faster pace.

"It allows them to get in and get a lot done in a short amount of time," King said.

Addes was searching for an online opportunity to obtain her New York State educational administration certification. She was intrigued with what she saw on FHSU's website and was even more impressed after speaking to Dr. Robert Moody, associate professor of advanced education programs at FHSU.

"I researched every online graduate program that would be acceptable for New York State certification," Addes said. "After talking to Dr. Moody, I learned that I could incorporate my internship throughout the entire program. I believe that's instrumental because it permits the student to apply theory to practice starting from Day One."
Moody is adamant about making every effort to meet students' needs.

"We are very present; I'm available as long as I'm awake," Moody said. "Teachers like having someone they can communicate with. That's a philosophy in our department, to be available, accessible to the students."

Addes said she was pleased with the intensity of the eight-week program.

"I was ecstatic about the program components and expectations," she said. "My biggest fear going into this program was whether taking an online program in another state would translate for New York State building leadership certification."

It didn't take long to quell those fears, Addes said.

"I can state without hesitation that I feel incredibly prepared to serve as a building leader, and I thank Fort Hays State for that," said Addes, who graduated in December with a master of science in educational administration. "With a foundation like no other, I passed all my New York State certification exams at the highest level of mastery."

Assey said it was FHSU's personal touch that attracted him to FHSU.

"If I had some question, I would send an email and hear back within the day, usually within a couple of hours," said Assey, a social studies teacher and baseball coach at a high school in Columbia City, S.C. "Dr. Moody gave me his cell phone number so I didn't have to go through an automated machine to give me generic answers. He was a real person."

"That definitely sold me on Fort Hays State," he added. "I would encourage anybody out there to go the Fort Hays State route."

Classes are set up through videoconferences where students anywhere can participate. Addes also liked the personal interaction with other classmates.

"Most of the courses require virtual communication with fellow classmates," Addes said. "This permits students to connect beyond a classroom and provides a dimension for authentic application and consideration at every grade level. Not only are you following a curriculum, you are exposed to leadership issues and concerns throughout the world -- a wide range of classmates and a plethora of professions. It was fantastic to learn that way."

"We try to say the only thing that prevents us from having a normal in class room conversation is the computer screen," Moody said. "There's constant communication with one another."

Assey said the ability to take a class eight weeks at a time, then have the option to take some time off -- for instance, during baseball season -- was especially attractive to him.

"Any time you can provide greater flexibility for your students, it's going to be a good thing for them," said Dr. James Barrett, AEP chair, who added that "we've had tremendous growth in these programs."

"We've been very innovative in several things," he added, "and we've received multiple awards for our online programs. All of that ties into our growth."

Other departments at FHSU are beginning to add eight-week courses to their online curriculum.

One of those is the Department of Applied Business Studies, which offers the shorter classes in tourism and hospitality management, one of the fastest growing career fields in the nation.

"We're meeting the needs of different types of learners," said Dr. Stacey Smith, chair of the Department of Applied Business Studies and director of the tourism and hospitality management program. "And I think FHSU has been very creative and innovative with how to understand the global economy and how to keep people connected."

To learn more about the eight-week courses, and Fort Hays State's Advanced Education Programs in general, visit www.fhsu.edu/aep/academic-programs. The next session of eight-week classes begins June 5.

Back to top