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Online options help adults earn college degree

UNO Division of Continuing Studies offers more than 100 degree programs that can be completed online


Published: Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 10:01

More than 100 degree programs at the University of Nebraska can be completed entirely on the web, making higher education more accessible to adults leading busy lives. The online courses prepare students for their career path and give them freedom to learn without being bound by time and place.

At UNO, the Bachelor of General Studies (BGS) degree has over 40 areas of concentration, including women’s and gender studies, art, and physics. Offered by the UNO Division of Continuing Studies, the program is designed to fit within the busy schedules of working adults.

“I didn’t want to sacrifice my family life, which is the top reason I chose Continuing Studies,” UNO alumna Patricia Thraen said. “I work full-time and have three kids, so being able to log in anytime to do my classwork and not have a fixed schedule allowed me the flexibility I needed.”

During her studies, Thraen, 45, worked at a non-profit organization while pursuing a BGS degree concentrating in Nonprofit Administration. She graduated in August 2012 and is now a grant coordinator at a local non-profit.

The courses Thraen took at UNO reinforced and validated what she learned on the job and enhanced her skills in the workplace.

In many ways, online degrees are comparable to traditional four-year degrees. Dr. Regina Toman, director of the Continuing Studies Program, said they end up costing about the same as traditional degrees and usually take four years for those without transfer credit. However, many BGS students do have transfer credit and are able to complete the program more quickly, Toman said.

Online learning is not necessarily easier than on-campus learning, Toman said.  They require instructor conferences and a lot of writing due to the nature of online interaction. Continuing Studies makes students feel engaged and connected to other students in the class utilizing features like Blackboard’s Discussion Board.

“Online learning requires discipline and requires commitment,” Toman said. “It is an exciting format that is gaining a lot of momentum across the country.”

Three new online degree programs were added in the fields of criminology and criminal justice. Added in fall 2012, these programs can be accessed through the University of Nebraska Online Worldwide website.

The new criminology degrees are “an exciting development as part of a collaborative effort between UNO, UNL, UNK,” Toman said. “The first of its kind in the collaborative Nebraska University system.”

Professionals with backgrounds in criminology and criminal justice are in high demand throughout the nation. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts sustained growth in the diverse field of criminal justice, giving distinct advantage to job seekers with a four-year degree.

Adults with military experience are encouraged to apply at Continuing Studies. UNO was ranked sixth among the nation’s best colleges for veterans in a recent report in Military Times.

“The Division of Continuing Studies is open to military life,” Air Force Tech Sgt. Brandon Broussard said. “Quite a lot of people walking through those doors are military.”

Scholarships are available to active-duty service members, veterans and military spouses who apply for the new BGS degree in criminology and criminal justice. The Division of Continuing Studies reassures that the program’s policies support members of the military during times of deployment and adults with demanding work schedules.

The online courses make it “hands down” easier to juggle military and academic life, Broussard said.

Broussard has been in the Air Force for nine years and began his studies at UNO pursuing a BGS in Environmental Studies.

He has since transferred to a degree in Arts and Sciences to expand on the classes he was taking and lengthen the time before graduation.

“I didn’t know how much I would like getting my education at UNO,” Broussard said.

In the Arts and Sciences program, Broussard said most of his courses are still taken online, with one on campus.

The Division of Continuing Studies offers several programs like this, called blended programs, in such fields as Library Science and Civic Administration. Blended programs mix online and on-campus courses.

“We’re going through an exciting change in higher education,” Toman said. “At UNO, as we talk about online education expanding, what I see is a commitment to quality. The staff here makes sure it’s an educational experience for their students and maintains the same high standards that UNO is known for.”


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