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Higher Learning Commission approves distance learning

ISSUED: 3 June 2020
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) has approved a request by Shepherd University to offer distance education courses and programs. The approval will allow Shepherd to offer academic programs in which 50 percent or more of the required courses may be taken online.

Dr. Jason Best, director of strategic research initiatives and HLC accreditation liaison officer, said expanding into distance learning will allow Shepherd to attract and retain not only traditional undergraduate students, but also groups such as adult learners, working adults, and graduate students.

“Nationally, the number of traditional college-bound seniors is decreasing. In addition, many students need to be employed in order to earn a university education,” said Best, who coordinated the HLC site team’s visit to campus and worked with various groups throughout the application process to provide additional data.

“I think it is exciting for us to be able to provide expanded access to those who might not otherwise be able to pursue a university education,” Best said. “It is a wonderful opportunity to expand Shepherd’s regional, national, and global educational impact.”

“In addition to being able to expand offerings in current academic programs, Shepherd can now design new programs amenable to online delivery that will provide more opportunities for current and future students,” said Dr. Scott Beard, provost. “For many of those students, the flexibility offered by programs such as these will help to facilitate their educational attainment and degree completion.”

Beard said the university is looking specifically at offering the M.B.A. and M.A. in curriculum and instruction fully online, as well as opportunities in the health care field, such as the R.N.-to-B.S.N. program.

Beard pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic forced Shepherd to make a rapid shift to remote instruction in the latter part of the spring 2020 semester, moving nearly 900 course sections online.

“We proved that we were able to move many processes online, support our students in this modality, and to offer a quality online academic experience,” Beard said. “As we move forward, training for all faculty in this modality is crucial, as is the technology infrastructure and student support services. The online and hybrid modality will offer flexibility for students in a variety of programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.”

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