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Meeting Students Where They Are

Written by Mike Thee
March 25, 2015

A precedent will be set when Seattle University's Adult Education and Training master's degree program enters spring quarter. 

With a quarter century of history under its belt the program in the College of Education is going completely online-the first SU program to do so-in order to more effectively meet the needs of its students. 

"Going online gives us more flexibility in our offerings and allows us to better serve busy professionals who are working in adult education and training," says Bob Hughes, the College of Education's associate dean of research and online/professional learning-and an associate professor in the program. 

There's another reason for the shift. Hughes adds that professionals working in adult education and training themselves are increasingly delivering their coursework in online or hybrid (blending online and face-to-face) formats. Therefore, it makes sense for students who are in, or seeking to enter, the field to be educated in a similar manner. 

Bob Hughes (left) and Kevin Roessger

Holding aside the mode of delivery for a moment, what makes SU's program distinctive is the three different specializations it offers: teaching English as a second language to adults; teaching adult basic skills such as GED preparation; and human resource development, which prepares professionals for training and other educational programs in the workplace. 

"Students are typically subject matter experts who know a lot about a body of content but not about instructional design, pedagogy and teaching adult learners," says Kevin Roessger, assistant professor of Adult Education and Training. 

"We reach very different audiences with different aims, but they take the same education courses except for very highly specialized electives," says Roessger. 

Any student who begins the AEDT program in spring quarter will take all their classes online. Students already enrolled will continue to receive a mix of online and traditional course work. 

The mode by which the program is delivered, going forward, will be largely asynchronous-that is, students will have the flexibility to engage with the course work on a timetable that fits with their schedules. This is important, says Roessger, considering that most students also have jobs, families and other responsibilities. 

But what about good old-fashioned face time for which institutions like SU in particular are known and respected? Roessger draws on his experience of teaching courses primarily, if not fully, online at SU to address the question. He says his courses always include the opportunity for regular real-time face-to-face contact through web conferencing, though it is not required. While only about 20 percent of the students typically take him up on the offer, he says, "It makes a huge difference," because those four or five students who do take advantage of the web conferencing "approach the course much more positively than if they did not have the option." 

For those who live nearby, AEDT is launching a new quarterly networking event on campus that will allow students, faculty, alumni and prospective students to exchange information and cultivate productive relationships to further or explore careers as adult educators. 

The 48-credit program can be completed in two years if students take two courses per quarter or four years if they take one per quarter. 

SU's Adult Education and Training program is one of just two in the state-Western Washington is the other-and the only fully online program in Washington. Yet with online-only adult education and training programs on the rise throughout the country, prospective students have more and more options. 

What sets SU's program apart from others, Hughes says, is its Ignatian grounding. 

Roessger echoes that. "Our program is designed to form critical thinkers for the field; we're not just programming people with skills…we're creating reflective leaders, which is directly tied to the mission of the university." 

Another advantage, Hughes says, is the program's history. "We are embedded in the region and have been here for 25 years. We have a very strong track record of putting people in leadership positions where they can advocate for the kinds of practices that ensure success of every person within their organizations." 

That record of success can be a significant benefit for prospective students. "Within the field of adult education we are recognized for our network," says Hughes. "Our students aren't just coming here to take classes, they're building a network of other people who will connect them into the profession." 

To learn more, visit Adult Education and Training.