Finding a Niche through an External Degree-Completion Program

Finding a Niche through an External Degree-Completion Program

Evan S. Smith (University of Missouri, USA) and Terrie Nagel (University of Missouri, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-870-3.ch010
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The University of Missouri began seriously investigating an external degree- completion program in 2000, working with an existing Bachelor of General Studies Degree Program (BGS). Concerns included the development of Capstone and Writing Intensive courses. The program has entailed training advisors; updating curriculum; revising student services procedures; marketing; and coordinating with other branches of Extension.
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Setting The Stage

CDIS reviewed its own print-based and online courses and their match with campus requirements, including new concerns for computer information and literacy (computer proficiency), and presented mock transcripts to administrators. The aim was to serve adult, non-traditional learners in a degree-completion program, although CDIS had contemplated a full degree program. At the time, over 78% of adults age 25 and older in Missouri did not have a bachelor’s degree or better (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000).

The planning process exposed several concerns. The BGS program is housed on the Columbia campus, so one concern was using CDIS’s far-campus courses (e.g., Rolla and St. Louis). Although many courses were already in place, some junior-senior-level courses needed to be commissioned or revised. CDIS also needed faculty cooperation, especially on Capstone courses (faculty-directed special projects) and Writing Intensive (WI) requirements new to CDIS and requiring special approvals. The agenda included working with, educating, and informing advisors and representatives from campus offices such as admissions; maintaining a paper trail; updating and digitizing the curriculum; marketing the program; and coordinating with other branches of Extension.

CDIS began as print-based correspondence in 1911, but by the 1970s, CDIS used computers in enrollment, some multiple-choice grading, and word-processing. By 1997, CDIS created a website and produced courses in homegrown templates for the Internet.

In 1998-1999, CDIS researched external degree programs in the US. The CDIS catalog had a page devoted to external or distance degrees but cited only other programs. In the 1960s, a Certificate in General Studies offered through MU’s College of Arts and Science (A&S) and the Extension Division covered only the first two semesters of undergraduate work. Later, MU began offering a BGS through A&S with very specific requirements including residency, credits, Capstone, Writing Intensive, and Computer Proficiency. Could CDIS provide such a program with its courses? CDIS believed that it could do so, as most courses offered through CDIS were A&S and met general education requirements (see Kleiber & Zhu, 1995, for a similar plan of action).

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