For many years Franciscan University has offered online programs and classes where both local and distant students can enroll and receive Franciscan University class credit. More than 1,000 students, both undergraduate and graduate, are taking advantage of this opportunity this spring semester. Cory Maloney, director of online programming who holds a doctorate in science in information systems and communications from Robert Morris University, has been coordinating and watching the growth of the online program for many years.
Currently, there are four graduate degree programs entirely online: the Masters of Business Administration, masters of science in education, master of arts in catechetics and masters of arts in theology. Associates degrees in theology and philosophy are also available to be completed online.
Many of the undergraduate core classes at Franciscan University are also offered online. Maloney expressed how these associate degrees and core classes are marketed towards high school students who would like to receive college credit before graduating high school. “We would ideally like the home school connections students to finish an associate’s degree before they come here. We would rather them take our core classes instead of community college courses, so we can form them in Franciscan University’s mission,” Maloney said.
The first online program at Franciscan was the Masters of Science in Education. Maloney said, “We started with the MS in education because a partner approached us and asked if we would offer an online degree their teachers.”
From there, Franciscan University has realized the need to expand its mission. It later added other masters programs and associate programs for students to utilize. “We realized that a lot of students cannot come to Steubenville, so we want to bring Franciscan University to them,” Maloney explained. “We feel like we can educate people and form them better than other places in the world.”
Many students will enroll in online courses because they fit their schedules better or the students cannot be present in Steubenville to take classes. Students who enroll in online courses will find several tools to aid their education. “Students would have course videos, readings and tools to engage with other students, such as discussion boards, course blogs, journals and, in some courses, wikis,” Maloney said. “Students also have the ability to peer review their work before they submit it to the professor, and that creates a better community.” On campus, students are allowed to enroll in one online class a semester, except for education majors who are allowed two.
As for the future, there is a proposed program for a Masters of Arts in Catholic Leadership. This program would consist of different tracks, specifically, education leadership, business non-profit leadership and healthcare leadership. Every course would have the same core classes, but would still offer classes specifically for that program. This proposal has not been approved yet.
Feedback for the online program has been great as well, according to Maloney. “Students like the flexibility of it, and the ability to watch the lecture over and over again, and they have time to think and reflect upon their work,” he said. “We find that students work and read more online.”
Maloney emphasized how online students appear more engaged in the course when compared to a passive experience in a traditional classroom setting. “They are more engaged online, rather than a student who sleeps or does not pay attention in the back of a classroom,” Maloney said. The online enrollment is growing exponentially because students enjoy taking online courses, he said.
Maloney also explained how faculty members have expressed that the online courses have helped them teach on ground better. Faculty members have said that online classes have influenced the way they teach on campus as well. They can use their recorded lectures and quizzes for online students in their ground courses. Interaction between students and professors are better online too, according to Maloney. He expressed how professors have to give feedback to each student individually multiple times, so the professors get to know their online students.
More information on the online programs and classes offered at Franciscan University can be found on Franciscan University’s website. Students on campus are encouraged to take an online course if it will be easier on their schedules.