“I like to think that we instill this spirit in our students,” says Melanie Jones of the Victor Hugo quote that appears on the wall in her office in Milam Hall. She is an adviser for the College of Public Health and Human Sciences and coordinator for the new online degree in human development and family sciences.
“Particularly for our distance students, their dream is a critical step to creating their reality, to earning a degree,” she adds. The degree is an excellent opportunity for people in professions such as youth counseling, social work, crisis intervention and marriage and family counseling.
Brandi Hoel, who also advises students by phone and email says “Distance students are often juggling a job, family and community activities. Add online classes and well, it’s not for everyone, but we find that those enrolled in our new online degree are determined, focused, and organized. Each one is creating a new future.”
The degree offers great flexibility, exploring families and human development through the lifespan in the contexts of school, work and communities. “There is no question that people who provide direct-line service to individuals and family members are needed in every nook and cranny of Oregon and beyond,” says Alexis Walker, co-chair of the School of Social and Behavioral Health Sciences.
“The HDFS degree will enrich my career as a teacher and strengthen my role as a wife and parent,” says Amy Perkins (right) of Springfield, Ohio. “Taking it online gives me the flexibility to stay home with my children who are 4, 6, 8, and 10 and lead Girl Scout troops. I was prompted to take this degree online because I’m from Oregon and am excited at the idea of walking with my class at OSU”.
We talked to Melanie and Brandi about the new online degree to learn more about what it means for students.
Synergies: What kind of a course load can distance students expect and how long does it take to earn a degree?
Jones and Hoel: Typically students take a combination of major courses, general education requirements, electives, and in some cases classes toward a minor. Some may have transfer credits to apply to their degree .The pacing for this degree is entirely student driven and we work one-on-one to find what suits each individual – they may want to enroll full time, part time, or ease into the process by taking only a class or two to start.
Synergies: What job possibilities and careers are available with this degree?
Jones and Hoel: Students with a degree in HDFS choose careers working with people across the lifespan in social work, parent education, teaching, crisis intervention, gerontology, family counseling and other positions in schools, non-profits, and community outreach organizations. This degree is excellent preparation for graduate work in these fields as well.
Synergies: What does the current online student class look like?
Jones and Hoel: Currently we have 43 distance students earning an HDFS degree and they come from all over Oregon as well as California, Ohio, and North Carolina. Most of our students are working, have young children (or both), and/or are in transition geographically due to another family member’s location. Some are pursuing the degree to make a job or career shift.
Synergies: What are the advantages of taking an online degree?
Jones and Hoel: Students say that one of the primary draws is that it allows them tremendous flexibility. Online students have many life demands which is what often draws them to distance learning to begin with. Many report they schedule in assignments late at night or early in the morning before heading to work.
Synergies: Is the coursework difficult for a returning student?
Jones and Hoel: As advisers, this is a difficult question for us to answer, but it comes up a lot. It’s important for students to understand the realities and time demands of coursework (whether online or in person). As a distance student, usually we can only make contact via phone or email, so we encourage students to stay in touch with advisers if they need support and/or have concerns about time management or navigating online courses. We encourage students to stay on top of add/drop deadlines and to speak up if they have a question. We don’t want small questions or concerns to turn into huge obstacles and mountains of worry later in the term.
OSU’s Extended Campus has several resources online, including an Ecampus librarian. Yes, distance students write papers too! Extended campus also has an Ecourse demo on their website, so if you are considering online classes, this is a great chance to sample the overall “feel” of an OSU Ecampus course.
Synergies: Is this a good major if I want to become a teacher?
Jones and Hoel: The HDFS degree provides great background for students who want to pursue education and related careers. It’s important for students to understand that licensure requirements differ per state. The HDFS degree alone does not contain teacher education licensure requirements, so students completing our degree do not walk away ready to teach in an elementary setting. Advisers will gladly assist students in pursuing/researching information and resources related to licensure program options.
Synergies: If I am interested in the degree, what do I need to do?
Jones and Hoel: If interested, your first step is to apply and be accepted to OSU through the regular admissions process. Once admitted, you can contact the Extended Campus and/or review the OSU Ecampus website for information about next steps. Admitted distance education students are required to submit an online orientation. Once our Ecampus advisor receives this information, we contact students directly for an advising appointment and related next steps. We communicate with students via phone and email, and are prepared for using other technologies such as Skype.