According to a recent report from the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS), graduate program enrollment in the United States has continued to increase over the past several years. Goucher College’s Welch Center for Graduate and Professional Studies is working to address that growth by launching more than 10 new, mostly online programs for a range of students from undergraduate to professionals.
Students choose to pursue a graduate degree for varied reasons, including personal growth, employment opportunities, and career advancement. The challenge for many adult students is juggling the work-life-school balance, and online classes can allow more flexibility for scheduling and location.
“We want to become an important academic provider for working professionals,” says Kathy Doherty, associate provost/executive director for graduate programs and professional studies at Goucher College.
Enriching the offerings of the popular and respected graduate programs in education, students and teachers seeking an M.A. in Teaching or M.Ed. will now have the choice of completing the degree fully online or in an accelerated online program. These two new options are in addition to the in-person and hybrid options available, and will increase accessibility for students while reducing the cost.
To determine which other new programs would be offered, the Welch Center looked at what has been identified as an area of need in Maryland. Using research from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, among other sources, the administration wanted to address both students’ interests and job opportunities.
“What we are trying to emphasize in our new online offerings is professional development,” says Doherty. “How can you, as an adult, advance in your career? Goucher can give you the skills that you need, the credential that you need, and provide you with faculty who are experts in their field.”
Doherty emphasizes that practitioners will be teaching many of the classes. For the new online M.S. in Higher Education Policy, Research, and Administration degree, experts in the higher education field will share their hands-on experiences with students through a newly designed curriculum. Additionally, select former low-residency and in-person programs are now also available completely online, including the M.A. in Digital Arts.
“These are programs to provide students with a competitive edge in the marketplace,” says Doherty.
The Welch Center is also building out a bachelor’s degree in professional studies (B.P.S.) program that will offer an online undergraduate degree in business management, early childhood education, or health services management to adult learners who have previously earned an associate’s degree. Several other concentrations are planned for a Fall 2019 launch.
As technology has continued to evolve at lightning pace, the software and hardware that are available to enhance an online course have greatly expanded. Online teaching is no longer static and now includes audio and video conferences, integrated multimedia, and opportunities to engage with other students.
“I really like how Goucher does the online classes because they’re really interactive,” says Robin Smith ’19, a student in the low-residency M.F.A. in Art & Technology. “I’ve done online classes before and you just do a discussion board. … It’s much more than that. We meet face to face through video, so I get to see and have actual discussions about the work with my fellow classmates and my teachers.”
To support the influx of fully online graduate students, the Welch Center has also hired a student success coach who will work directly with online students in an advisory role.
In addition to the online M.A., M.S., and B.P.S. programs, the Welch Center is working to build a stronger connection to Goucher’s undergraduate community. The graduate program is partnering with undergraduate faculty impacted by the recent academic revitalization to bring their expertise to the graduate programs. “They will make our programs stronger,” says Doherty.
The Welch Center is also bolstering its 4 + 1 undergraduate and graduate program offerings, which currently include historic preservation. Doherty says they want to expand the 4 + 1 degree options to offer a greater value and benefit to students and the college. “We need to make it easier for students to do the 4 + 1 program,” says Doherty.
These new programs build on the eight current graduate programs that focus on education, fine arts, and other professional studies, including the College Board’s Advanced Placement Summer Institute, which trains teachers in AP courses (see sidebar) and fully online post-master’s certificate programs that appeal to working professionals looking to stay current on new knowledge in their fields.
The Educators Institute at the Welch Center was recently awarded a six-figure, five-year contract to offer a series of eight-week online professional development courses to Baltimore County Public School (BCPS) teachers. The Welch Center is also partnering with several professional organizations across the state to provide additional professional development opportunities for teachers and educators in Maryland.
Additional programs are being reviewed by the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) and will be offered once approved. Each of the new programs builds on the college’s mission of creating lifelong learners and complex problem solvers.
For more information on the Welch Center for Graduate and Professional Studies at Goucher, please visit www.goucher.edu/grad.