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Distance education courses at K-State are the same courses offered on campus with the same instructors and curriculum. Delivery methods include the World Wide Web, CD-ROM, video and audio tapes, guided study and listserv/e-mail. A variety of degree and certificate programs are available at both the undergraduate and graduate level.


K-State Distance Education makes any time, any place learning possible

Web, CD-ROM, audio, video and listservs help make learning more accessible

By Beth Bohn



girl at computer
Photo by April M. Blackmon.




A growing number of Kansas State University students are earning their degrees even though they are not attending class -- at least not on campus.

According to K-State's Division of Continuing Education, about 6,000 students enrolled in a K-State distance education course or program during the 2001-2002 school year.

"We're seeing some real growth. The number of distance education students -- students who are not also taking courses on-campus -- has been going up about 10 percent each year," said Elizabeth Unger, K-State's vice provost for academic services and technology and dean of continuing education. "This spring, the number of K-State distance-education graduates was 89, up from 68 last spring."

The accessibility of distance education, particularly through the use of the Internet, is an important factor in its growing popularity, Unger said.

"Distance education allows students to finish work on degrees they started earlier, to take additional academic work to prepare for a career change or to keep up with a changing profession and to get a degree when the student is place bound or time constrained," she said.

K-State distance education students agree.

* For Karen Hackenburg, K-State distance education was the answer to her hectic work schedule as a coronary care nurse. To enhance the care she could provide her patients, Hackenburg decided to also become a registered dietitian through K-State's distance education program in dietetics. She earned her bachelor's degree in dietetics from K-State in August 2001. While in the program, she was even able to move across country, from Virginia to New Mexico, without disrupting her studies.

* Barbara Admans was a working mom with two teenage daughters when she enrolled in K-State's bachelor of science degree completion program in animal sciences and industry. She decided to return to school because she had reached a glass ceiling in her job and wanted to enhance her career options. Distance education allowed Admans the flexibility to arrange her studying around work and family activities. Her studies also weren't disrupted when she moved from Chicago to California. Admans earned her degree in May 2000.

* Geographic barriers proved no problem for Zichun Yan, who earned his master's degree in agribusiness from K-State while working in China. Yan is currently the technical program manager of the U.S. Grains Council's Beijing office. He earned his degree in December 2001. "I think the degree will help with the work I do now with the managers of Chinese agribusinesses. I think the degree also will enhance my career opportunities with the multinational companies now entering China because of its acceptance into the World Trade Organization earlier this year," he said.

K-State began offering distance learning through its Extension radio station in the 1920s. The university expanded its offerings more than 25 years ago through the use of many other media. Unger said among the factors for the university's strong track record in the field has been creating programs that help students earn degrees rather than ending up with just a set of courses. K-State also doesn't hold distance education students at a distance when it comes to student services.

"We think of these students as K-Staters and try to provide as well-rounded university experience as can be for them even though they don't attend classes on campus," Unger said. Just like students on campus, distance education students have K-State faculty advisers to help with academic guidance. With Web access, distance education students also can take advantage of many campus events and services online, including listening to Landon Lectures, using the library and even reading the student newspaper, the Kansas State Collegian.

"Our mediated courses and programs, especially those offered over the Internet, are quite popular compared to many such offerings at other universities," Unger said. "We think this is because our K-State faculty are using the tools that require students to interact with each other and their professors. K-State also provides access to library resources and technology assistance to distance students. We have faculty and students who tell us they know each other better and feel more personally mentored than from their on-campus class experiences."

K-State's distance education programs also are earning a reputation for innovation and excellence.

K-State's master of agribusiness program, offered through the College of Agriculture's department of agricultural economics, was named the best new for-credit education program by the University Continuing Education Association in 2000 and received the University Continuing Education Association/Peterson's Award for most innovative distance education program in 2001. Launched in 1996, it was the first graduate agribusiness program in the nation to be offered through distance education. As of spring 2002, the Web-based program had 87 students and 18 alumni. The students represented 25 states and seven countries.

K-State's early childhood education distance degree and certification program received an Exceptional Program Award from Region VIII of the Association for Continuing Higher Education in 2001. The program was created to help Head Start teachers in Kansas earn bachelor's degrees and be able to stay on the job while doing it. It is now available to teachers and other employees of accredited school districts in Kansas.

K-State is a partner and the home of the award-winning Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance. The alliance, a consortium of human sciences colleges at K-State and nine other universities, was recently honored with the 2002 Distance Learning Community of Practice Award for Programming Excellence from the University Continuing Education Association for its family financial planning master's degree distance education program. The award is given annually to a distance education program judged to be exemplary in meeting the needs of students. It also recognizes new and innovative programs that use at least one method of distance education.

Fall 2002