When K-State Global Campus—then the Division of Continuing Education—was established in 1966, the delivery of online classes was decades from development, but the idea of education from a distance was beginning to change the way the university and the higher education community engaged students in learning, regardless of their location or stage in life. Over the past 50 years, new technologies have become an integral part of the world. And K-State Global Campus has used the changing tools of the times to deliver distance learning to students and professionals worldwide.
As part of the K-State 2025 Strategic Action Plan (pdf), Global Campus seeks to, “extend Kansas State University’s intellectual resources through quality degree programs, lifelong learning, and professional development opportunities.” Whether it’s helping traditional on-campus students graduate on time through summer and intersession offerings, facilitating a graduate program for a professional to retool their skills and receive a master’s degree without leaving their current position, helping community members with some college experience be able to receive a bachelor’s degree, or facilitating continuing education and professional development opportunities, K-State Global Campus has played a role in a multitude of K-State success stories. “The diverse and broadening challenges in the field of education are the key to why I’ve been a continuing educator all my working life,” said Sue Maes, Dean of K-State Global Campus. “There couldn’t be a better profession from which to have an impact on the world.”
This video helps tell the stories of the students from all walks of life who are served by K-State Global Campus. From undergraduate and graduate students to working professionals, K-Staters studying at a distance have achieve their educational goals through flexible programming and course delivery.
Grown from the university's extension roots, Global Campus has been delivering knowledge to communities across the state of Kansas since it began. Instructors used the nickname "windshield time" to describe their commute to these communities to deliver in-person courses and training. As part of K-State's land-grant mission, these activities evolved to meet the current needs within these communities.
At a time of national and global tension following the Cuban Missile Crisis of the early 1960s, nuclear engineer Jerry Boettcher took a job at K-State to help bring knowledge from the laboratory into Kansas communities by helping them build fallout shelters that would keep them safe from radioactive material. "It was a lot of work, all that driving," said Boettcher, "I was in a different town every night." Funded by a grant from the US Department of Defense, members of the communities would identify a building where they would take shelter during an emergency, and Boettcher would discuss feasible structural enhancements that would make them safer. The "students" in this engagement activity represented a cross-section of each community who would then work to teach others what they had learned from the training. "There were public employees, city employees, or people from regional hospitals and universities. While the subject was interesting to me, my challenge was to try to make it interesting to them so they could feel comfortable instructing others," said Boettcher.
After the Vietnam War, Bill Lockhart was part of a Kansas State University program that assisted returning service members in their transition towards postwar career success. For 13 years, the program helped veterans from across the country complete the General Educational Development test, or GED, and prepare them for their post-high school educational and career interests. Lockhart found that students wanted to talk not only about what they needed to learn for the GED, but also discuss what they hoped to do after they received it. "The thing I didn't understand when I started was how much counseling you would do in a program like this," said Lockhart. His role grew to into being a listener and supporter of students, who understood their lives in the military and their diverse backgrounds.
The methods for extending knowledge changed drastically with the invention of new technologies. By the 1970s, Telenet audioconferencing sites were being established throughout Kansas to help connect teachers and learners across distance. Content was distributed through written lectures printed in newspapers and, by the 1980s, telecourses were being broadcasted on television through PBS programming. Windshield time was soon replaced with recorded VHS tapes and CD-ROMs and, in 1996, the launch of K-State's first online course and degree program.
This video tracks the 50 year history of distance and continuing education at Kansas State University—from "windshield time" to K-State Online.
Today, there are new challenges, and K-State's Global Campus is leveraging the tools of today to help meet individual and community needs. "In looking back, it's clear how education rose to meet both workforce and societal needs," said Dean Maes. Many of the purposes have remained constant, but the way this content is delivered looks much different today. "The food science program, one of our longest-running programs, moved from videotapes and in-person summer institutes to online delivery to help meet industry needs in food product development and safety. Engineers who build bridges, women who manage farms, students needing courses on human sexuality, academic advisors wanting to make a difference for their students, or US Navy personnel studying nuclear engineering are all touched by K-State Global Campus," she said.
Within the state of Kansas, Global Campus has helped prepare more educators for Kansas classrooms and allowed more students to complete their degrees. Across the state, many school districts have struggled to recruit certified teachers to fill positions in high-need areas. A partnership with the College of Education, the online Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program enables individuals who have the desire to teach but received bachelor's degrees in other subjects to earn a degree in 12 months and be recommended for Kansas' initial teacher licensure in grades K-6. The Kansas Board of Regents' Kansas Transitions to Teaching (KTTT) project will provide fellowships for up to 30 applicants who, upon completion of the graduate program and necessary licensure, can transition into full-time teaching roles in an underserved geographic area in Kansas. The targeted areas include: Dodge City, Garden City, Liberal, Great Bend, Topeka, and Kansas City, Kansas. "The MAT and KTTT have mitigated many of the financial, educational, and geographic obstacles that previously prevented passionate people from becoming educators," said Tom Vontz, professor of curriculum and instruction.
In addition to preparing future educators, Global Campus has supported degree completion programs that help strengthen economic viability in Kansas communities. According to the Kansas Board of Regents, nearly 500,000 Kansans have some college experience but have not received a bachelor's degree. "An educated workforce is essential to increasing our economic viability in the ever-competitive global economy," said Ron Jackson, program coordinator at Global Campus. Through the On Track campaign, K-State Global Campus has been working to change that statistics by helping community members complete a degree. The campaign showcases the value and flexibility of convenient course schedules, student services, and campus resources through hosted informational sessions to answer questions about financial aid, degree options, the K-State application process, and more. "All Kansans—and all adult students—can finish their degree," said program coordinator Jo Maseberg-Tomlinson. "We'll do everything we can to help them get there."
As industry and societal needs continue to evolve, Global Campus is focused on increasing access and making it possible for students from all walks of life to attain a world-class education. In addition to working with colleges and departments to help them imagine and launch new programming, Global Campus has made a concerted effort to raise scholarship funds to help support students through their experiences. This involves engagement with organizations across the state to raise awareness of the need for scholarship support for nontraditional students. Most scholarships established across the nation are for students aged 18-24 attending class full time on a university campus. Students studying at a distance often must take fewer classes at a time to balance work and family obligations, making them ineligible for most traditional full-time scholarships. Through generous philanthropic contributions, including through the Innovation and Inspiration Campaign for K-State, Global Campus has grown its capacity to support more students along their educational journeys.
Allan D. Sicat received his master's degree in engineering management from K-State Global Campus in 2003. A graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point and a former US Army officer, Sicat is now the president of Carousel Designs in Douglasville, Georgia and a distinguished Global Campus Alumni Fellow. Driven by his strong relationship with K-State and his passion for college accessibility among service members, Sicat established a scholarship that will provide financial assistance for active duty military and military veterans to enroll in a distance education program. His generosity made it possible for Crystal Miller of Junction City, Kansas to pursue her educational goals. Miller joined the Army in 2003 and attended basic training to become a member of the military police; she completed three years in the reserves and spent time in Afghanistan supporting the troops. After breaking her hip, Miller is now a disabled veteran who supports her family on a limited income while she works to earn her degree in family studies and human services. Growing up, Miller said she often went without food as a child and didn't think she would ever go to college. "I was the poor kid growing up in Las Vegas who heard other kids talking about going to college, and I thought it was too expensive for me," she said. Miller has found her passion in her degree program and hopes to make a difference for children like her, who may be unaware of the funding options available to help them attend college. "I have had a lot of issues from being injured and this scholarship helps me immensely," said Miller. "This completely boosts my spirit and gives me one more semester to go on."
For 50 years, Global Campus has expanded access to Kansas State University’s knowledge through continuing educational activities that serve a wide diversity of populations in Manhattan and communities around the world. As technologies continue to evolve over the next 50 years—or even the next few years—so will the way K-State delivers education to students and professionals in communities near and far. The next game-changing innovation can happen at any moment, and K-State must remain at the cutting edge of this advancement in order to become a top 50 public research university and increase its accessibility through 21st century teaching and learning.