One in every three Mississippi State University graduates is an online student.
Evan Hawkins, Distance Education program coordinator at MSU, shared that statistic, along with many others involving distance learning, with Starkville Rotarians Monday at Starkville Country Club.
Hawkins said the national demographic for students taking classes online across the U.S. are individuals between 25 and 50 years old, with many working full-time or managing a family.
More settled students may have good jobs or families but may want to finish their education, according to Hawkins.
“They might come because they need a bachelor’s degree for a raise or a promotion. Maybe they need one because they are looking at a new career field. I have some that aren’t worried about a bachelor’s degree, they are thinking about a master’s but they need that bachelor’s first to get there,” Hawkins said.
The program employs more than 300 faculty members who are available to students in person at the campus, if needed, Hawkins said.
For majors such as engineering, lectures are recorded on campus for distance education students to view online, and students can come to the MSU campus for academic guidance just like students at the campus.
Another key difference between MSU’s online distance education program and other online degrees is MSU offers test-proctoring, which gives students the option to come on campus to take tests.
This program offers four bachelor’s, 23 master’s, and seven doctoral degree programs online and confers about 1,000 degrees every year.
Hawkins said the university strives to make sure online courses are equivalent to courses taught at the main campus.
“Students can learn the same information, it’s just delivered in a different way,” Hawkins said.
Joni Seitz, Distance Education program facilitator, discussed a goal to create scholarships for online college students in the Distance Learning program at MSU, a program which is booming today. The program recruits students for online degree programs, certificates and courses.
Seitz said some students join the program to change a career track. One student from Georgia with a degree in geoscience went back to MSU to get a teaching certification while teaching science to sixth graders.
“It struck me that he is going to be teaching 30, 60 or even 90 students over the next thirty years,” Seitz said. “His passion for teaching is shown in his desire to make the career change. We were proud of the difference we were able to make in Ryan’s life and in the lives of the student’s he is going to touch.”