Students potentially from around the world will benefit from the expertise for which FPU has long been known in its region at a new level: fully accredited M.A.s in education with emphases in curriculum and teaching (focus on leadership), school library and information technology, and kinesiology. A credential will also be available in library media. Classes are set to begin in 2008.
Interest is already apparent. More than 20 inquiries–some from outside from outside the United States–for an online curriculum and teaching option came in after the blended version was posted on the FPU website at fresno.edu. "We didn't advertise it at all. There was a demand," said Jeanne Janzen, director of curriculum and teaching.
The value of all three degrees will be the same as current face-to-face or blended online systems. "The content for the program is the same," said Jim Ave, director of kinesiology.
"Our program is noted for its quality," said Jo Ellen Misakian, interim dean of the School of Education and director of library media. "I wanted to keep that quality."
Email is one way students and faculty stay in touch. Faculty respond within 24 hours, usually less, and keep office hours online, just as they do for conventional classes. "You have to know if you're a professor teaching online that that's part of it–you have to be responsive to the students," Janzen said.
"Actually they get more feedback and quicker than if they give me an assignment and wait for comments," Misakian said. "(Students) say we are actually closer when we are online."
Students will also participate in threaded conversations–researching topics, posting information and answering questions–keep journals, listen to podcasts and use technology in other ways. "We've kept teacher voice in the course by being innovative," Janzen said.
School library media requires 32 units for the credential and 44 for the master's degree and will take about the same amount of time–two-three years for the M.A.–as the face-to-face program. Candidates are classroom teachers who wish to become library media teachers.
Curriculum and teaching (focus in leadership) offers a 36-unit accelerated course students can usually complete in two years. Courses focusing on leadership and conflict resolution make FPU's program unique.
Kinesiology consists of 36 units to be completed over 14 months, mostly in the summer. Ave is looking for physical education teachers, coaches, athletic trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, athletic directors and those interested in sports administration. Among totally online programs, FPU is the only university with a training emphasis for certified athletic trainers, and one of fewer than 10 to offer an emphasis in physical education.
What Ave said about the kinesiology degree applies to all three online programs. "It's a better fit for our target students, and it opens up our borders."