Education programs expanding onto Web, technology to meet needs

PLAINVIEW – The Division of Education at Wayland Baptist University has added four master’s degree choices to the online options for the university, growing the already booming menu for graduate study over the Internet.

The university announced last year the availability of the Master of Public Administration and Master of Christian Ministry degrees though the Internet, opening up possibilities for students at the 13 other campuses within the system.

This fall, the Master of Education becomes available, with four specific choices of study: special education, educational administration, higher education administration and instructional leadership. Though the degrees have been offered on the traditional campus setting for several years, the move to online delivery was made, in part, to help meet the need for teachers in the vast South Plains region.

“We’re seeing more and more teachers who don’t want to travel or just can’t because of the distance, so this makes it easier for them to get the degree,” said Dr. Jim Todd, chairman of the Don Williams Division of Education at Wayland.

The education choices on the graduate level offer two certification options for teachers and others wanting to advance in education careers and two other options for working on the corporate level or in higher education.

The specialization in special education provides coursework that prepares teachers for licensure in early childhood through 12th grade special education, in direct response to the urgent need by many school districts nationwide as well as in the West Texas region. The 36-hour degree program is available to individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds as well, noted Todd, since it does not require a prior teaching field for certification.

Also offered is the Master of Education in educational administration, another degree designed to meet high needs as identified by the state education agencies. According to Todd, many principals are reaching retirement age and leaving gaps within districts. In many smaller districts, especially those with few schools, the ability to promote within is limited to teachers with that administrative certification. The online program allows teachers far and wide to pursue the degree and certification for future advancement.

The specialization in higher education administration is a relatively new offering designed with an admittedly somewhat self-serving purpose as well. Including coursework to lay a foundation for those wanting to move into college or university leadership roles, the degree was meant to help employees of Wayland to be able to expand their future career options. And with 13 campuses far flung, the online format makes that possible for all employees.

“We really want to help grow some of our own folks as well, so there is an internal focus as well as an internal focus,” Todd said. “This degree will also appeal to folks on military bases who want to move into the field but are limited in their ability to attend traditional classes.”

The final offering delivered online is the master’s degree in instructional leadership, one Todd said is designed for individuals desiring a career in corporate training and development of employees. Instructors of all kinds can benefit from the training, especially those in the military who may one day pursue civilian work in the corporate setting using their instruction backgrounds.

Though not offered online, another relatively new offering to the education lineup for graduate study is the degree in educational diagnostics, also identified as an area of need in regional districts. The specialized training prepares individuals to enter the field of educational assessment.

Besides branching into online education, the Division of Education is also pursuing options of delivery through interactive television (ITV) technology. Currently, connectivity exists between the Plainview campus and other WBU campuses in Amarillo, Lubbock and San Antonio as well as the Region 17 Education Service Center in Lubbock.

Todd said though limited courses are being offered via ITV, the university is still in the process of working through technological issues before widening the scope of classes offered in that manner. He is hopeful the systems will allow for courses within the education division and across other disciplines to be taught from the Plainview classroom and delivered to other WBU campuses, eliminating the time and expense of travel for faculty members and opening up courses that external campus students can take.

Once the “kinks” are worked out of the system, Todd said eventually most all the Wayland campuses will be connected and will be able to share faculty resources. He said the system is currently being used to a small extent for human resources work and expects it to be helpful in the future for centralized staff training of external employees, regular teacher education meetings and shared committee work.

For information on any offerings of the Division of Education, call 291-1045 or visit the graduate admissions office for application information.