The Quiet Revolution in Graduate Studies

Not so long ago, distance education was a small niche pedagogy, marketed mainly to adults in rural areas or with busy schedules, who found long commutes to college campuses or course schedules impractical.  Information delivery systems were awkward; there was little opportunity for interaction between faculty and students; and the public tended to view such correspondence courses as inferior to residential programs. Times have changed, and Norwich University is leading the way in delivery of distance education through its School of Graduate Studies, formerly known as the Online Graduate Programs.

Building on the strengths of the University, Norwich now offers online graduate programs in business administration, civil engineering, diplomacy, information assurance, justice administration, military history, nursing, and organizational leadership, and will offer graduate programs in education, electrical engineering, health care management, and public administration later this year.  

Today, it is estimated that between 25 and 30% of adults who pursue graduate degrees will enroll in an online program. Employers and the public do not see the word "online" on a diploma from a brick-and-mortar institution, since the delivery method is not a significant indicator of the value of a degree. In fact, Norwich University now refers to the academic division which administers its online degree programs simply as its School of Graduate Studies. Over 1,000 students are now enrolled in programs through the School of Graduate Studies with significant growth expected over the next few years.

The technology which supports distance education continues to evolve at a breathtaking pace; in fact, it is driving a revolution in the way adults pursue graduate education.

Asynchronous online seminars accommodate any schedule, so students and faculty can participate in meaningful discussions even though they are thousands of miles apart and online at different hours of the day.  Voiced-over PowerPoint lectures provide a comparable experience to that enjoyed by resident students in a conventional classroom.  Podcasts allow students to listen to lectures anywhere and anytime:  during the daily commute, a workout at the gym, or while chauffeuring kids to soccer.  Streaming video delivers dynamic content -- lectures, demonstrations, films, etc. -- to the student's own living room computer. The Internet and electronic library resources make research more convenient and timely. The interaction between students and faculty is very personalized and intense -- it must be, because online programs tend to be accelerated, with content delivered in about half the time required for traditional programs. Few online degree programs take more than two years to complete and Norwich is no exception; all School of Graduate Studies degree programs may be completed in eighteen months.

The typical online graduate student at Norwich is a working adult in his/her mid-30s with an eye toward career advancement or personal development. Programs which no longer need to limit their enrollments to residents of a local region are now able to recruit a diverse mix of students, representing a broad range of cultural, economic, and experiential backgrounds. This diversity greatly enriches the learning experience in the classroom; faculty report that they value the wealth of experience and focused energy of more seasoned students.  Norwich University graduate students are expected to apply their studies to their current work environment and real problems, which often benefits employers as well. The learning experience is so engaging, and the faculty so determined to make it meaningful to every student, that graduation rates are unusually high--over 80%--and are among the best in the nation. 

The School of Graduate Studies is currently headed up by long-time faculty member Dr. William Clements.  For more information about School of Graduate Studies programs please visit the School of Graduate Studies.