The National Center for Education Statistics reported that nearly 35 percent of higher education students took at least one online course in the US in 2018, with more than 16 percent taking online courses exclusively.
With steady growth in national online education, Clarks Summit University is reiterating its dedication to serving online students. Earlier this year, CSU hired Erica Young as executive director of online education. Prior to CSU, Young was lead instructional designer for digital initiatives at Purdue University and adjunct instructor for Purdue’s Brian Lamb School of Communication. With a decade of experience in online education, Young returned to Northeast Pennsylvania to maximize impact for online students seeking to become Christ-centered, career-ready graduates of CSU.
Department of Online Learning
Centralized under Young, CSU is now strengthening the Department of Online Learning with new hires and reorganization of roles, starting January 1, 2020. Young says establishing this centralized unit solely dedicated to online faculty and student support “speaks to the strategic focus the university is placing on online growth for the coming years.”
Kelly Neff, administrative assistant, and Diane Lytle, faculty development specialist, joined the department in the fall. In addition to admissions counselors Beth Welman, Terry Perrine and Nathaniel Wiens, the online academic advisor Beth McGrew takes great care in helping students navigate online learning options.
Margaret Pisanchyn serves as director of online admissions. Students who study at CSU online tell her they appreciate how CSU prepares them for both career and ministry, all with a biblical foundation. “Students love the quality of their online learning,” she admits. “They appreciate the smaller class sizes, which allows them more interaction with their professors and a closer connection with their classmates. Finding a school that has a solid online program and that is Christ-centered is difficult for students, so when they find CSU, they are thrilled.” Pisanchyn continues, “I am excited for the growth of the online learning department because it provides graduates with a solid biblical foundation as well as a solid foundation for their professional career.”
Expanded Online Degree Options
In addition to centralizing employees around online education, CSU continues to grow its fully online degree options. The Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice was added in 2018 along with five concentrations within Baptist Bible Seminary’s Master of Arts.
Online Associate and Bachelor’s Degrees
Undergraduate students who want to pursue flexible study options can now choose from fully accredited, online programs including five associate degree concentrations and eight bachelor’s degree majors. A unique degree completion program gives adult learners the ability to complete a bachelor’s degree they’ve previously started with room for a large number of transfer credits. All CSU students who earn a bachelor’s degree, whether online or on campus, also earn a second major in Biblical Studies.
Online Master’s Degrees
CSU’s online master’s degrees can be earned in as little as two years through courses offered in manageable eight-week online sessions. With multiple concentrations within the Master of Arts—Bible, Counseling, Literature and Organizational Leadership—students tailor their learning experience to fit their career goals and personal interests. Professionals can open new career doors through CSU’s Master of Arts in Literature, Master of Education and Master of Science in Counseling. The M.S.C. also requires three week-long, on-campus modules to prepare students for licensure. Since the program began, every graduate who went on to take the National Counselor Exam for Licensure passed on the first try.
Online Seminary Degrees
At Baptist Bible Seminary, the two-year Master of Arts is uniquely customizable and immediately applicable, with seven concentrations to choose from. The Master of Ministry and Master of Divinity are available completely online, and two doctoral degrees are completed in a web-enhanced format with some on-campus modules.
A new Accelerated Master of Divinity program is now attainable completely online. In just five years, students can earn both a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Divinity degree. Students can choose to study on the university’s Clarks Summit campus, or they can complete the degree entirely online. These students engage in both undergraduate and seminary academics, combined with real work experience through this powerful and accessible option.
While CSU also offers approximately 40 on-campus, undergraduate programs, the university recognizes the importance for flexible education options, especially for adults who want to reach new goals while they continue in their current work and family roles without relocating.
“Demand exists for microcredentials for the adult learner population as upskilling of workers becomes increasingly more critical,” reports Young. “Part of our mission is to produce career-ready graduates, and we also want to serve people who have already established a career but are seeking new skills to either advance their current career or to reinvent themselves. Currently, the average age of our overall online student population is 35-years-old. We know that offering courses in the online format allows us to reach adults who would not otherwise be able to study with us.”
CSU’s online courses not only lead to a degree; they also serve as professional development for individuals learning to gain new skills. Professionals and those involved in ministry have many course options to choose from in the spring of 2020, including Introduction to Business, Principles of Bible Teaching and A Biblical Theology of Apologetics, which helps people learn how to defend their faith. Most CSU online courses are offered in convenient eight-week sessions, so students can begin at six entry points throughout the year—no need to wait for the traditional, on-campus semester to begin. Registration is still open for five of the six 2020 sessions; students can begin as early as the second spring session, which starts March 9, 2020.