Archives For Distance Learning

The Sam Houston State University motto, “The Measure of a Life is Its Service,” resonates deeply with SHSU Online student Peary Perry.

Perry, 73, a Houston resident, has lived a full life. He served his country in the United States Army as a tank commander, worked in the Houston Police Department as an undercover vice squad officer, and acted as president of several successful companies across a multitude of industries.

When it comes to pursuing his online Master of Arts in History degree, Perry makes the case for online learning, coupled with hard work and dedication, to help individuals overcome adversity to achieve their goals.

“I hear a lot of people say ‘I’m too old to go back to school, or I should have gotten my degree but I didn’t,’ and what I’m trying to emphasize is that you’re never too old to learn, you’re never too old to get a degree, and there’s always an opportunity out here for you if you want to take advantage of it,” he says. “I’m not your normal master’s student, but this is a professional opportunity and a challenge for me to pass on to others that you’re never too old to learn.”

Admittedly, getting back into higher education was a transitional period for Perry. He received his undergraduate degree from St. Edward’s University in 2008, attending both online and on-campus courses. He enrolled in SHSU’s online master’s program in fall, 2014, and was pleasantly surprised to see the technological advancements in his online courses.

Perry says his courses are immersive, with a variety of classwork that utilizes several mediums.

“What brought me to SHSU was the ease of enrollment, the description of courses, and the references that I found from prior students made me think this was the place I needed to be,” he says, “But the style of learning is what got me hooked. Today there is more encouragement to participate in classes, which I enjoy much more because you are encouraged to express your feelings about certain subjects.”

SHSU has received numerous awards for their student engagement within online programs, promoting quality participation in courses, providing students opportunities to both readily interact with their instructors and classmates, and allowing students to complete their degrees in a reasonable amount of time.

Perry is not alone in his educational journey; in fact, his support system acts as an inspiration for him completing his degree.

“The reason this is important to me is because I have four sons, my oldest is 51 and my youngest is 39, and I have three granddaughters, 22, 10, and 2; I think it is very important for them to know they are never too old to learn, whether it’s cooking, history, or economics,” he says. “My experience has been, the more you exercise your brain, the more alive you are.”

SHSU offers over 40 fully online degree programs, including two doctoral programs, as well as 24 online certificate programs. For more information on any of SHSU’s online programs, visit distance.shsu.edu.

Forensic science is under the popular-culture microscope, thanks to programs such as Law and Order, CSI, and NCIS playing on millions of television screens across the world. But long after the glow of Hollywood’s lights have dimmed and actors have returned to their trailers, an assistant professor in SHSU’s Department of Forensic Science is bringing the reality of forensic science to life in the online platform.

Dr. Jasmine DrakeAssistant Professor Jasmine Drake, Ph.D., a Louisiana native who came to SHSU by way of the Drug Enforcement Administration as a forensic chemist, developed and teaches an online Ethics and Professional Practice course to be used for the Minor in Forensic Science program. She says the concept and capabilities of online learning allow for instructors to impact a larger number of students in a global economy.

“Although an online platform may not be appropriate for particular courses in forensic science, such as those requiring the learning of lab-based concepts, there are many fundamental courses across various forensic science disciplines which can be effectively taught online,” she says. “One thing I enjoy the most about teaching online courses is that it gives me the opportunity to interact with and impact a larger group of students. Many of the students enrolled in my online course are non-traditional students who would not otherwise be able to attend the same courses in a traditional classroom setting.”

Additionally, the Department of Forensic Science offers an online “Introduction to Forensic Science” course, where instructors with experience as practitioners use their experience in the field, along with the technological capabilities of online learning, to deliver a stimulating and flexible learning environment for students.

Drake says when it came to developing the course, she utilized several technological applications with assistance from the CJ Online Instructional Design Team, including lecture materials, video content, web-based links, and audio recordings.

“I believe it is my responsibility as an online instructor to effectively deliver course materials and learning objectives in a fashion that would mirror the face-to-face instruction found in a traditional classroom setting,” she says. “One challenge to online teaching is achieving a sense of community, but I was able to address this challenge by integrating discussion topics and forums to increase the sharing of ideas and communication between individual students.”

​The minor in Forensic Science caters to criminal justice majors who have a general interest in forensics and intend to apply for graduate programs in forensic science or pursue investigative or forensic career paths.

Drake says students interested in pursuing online learning must take the time to understand their courses and plan their time appropriately to succeed.

“I think that technology is rapidly changing the face of education, and I would advise any students interested in pursuing an online education to be sure to keep an open line of communication with their professor to ensure they understand the learning objectives and specific rubrics for course assessment,” she says. “They should also pay very close attention to the course schedule and timelines for mastering concepts, since it is ultimately the student’s responsibility to manage their time in an online course, which is self-paced.”

For more information about SHSU’s Department of Forensic Science  or the Minor in Forensic Science, visit www.forensics.shsu.edu.

Sam Houston State University Online students come from many different places and life situations, and all face unique challenges as they work to earn their degrees. Angela Cravens, who just graduated this past week with a bachelor’s degree in general business administration, has successfully balanced work in the information technology sector and raising a young family while also earning her online B.B.A. at SHSU… and she intends to take her education even further.

Cravens had previously attended SHSU as a traditional student, but had discontinued her earlier studies due to financial constraints. She earned a Project Management Professional (PMP) designation while working at global software firm BMC in Houston, and her company also encouraged her to seek a bachelor’s business degree.

Cravens2She was quick to select SHSU’s online B.B.A. program. “I have attended many other state universities in the past, and SHSU by far offers more interaction and technology to accommodate the best online experience,” Cravens notes. “I also liked the fact that if needed, I could be advised via Skype or phone, or even drive to campus if absolutely necessary. Either way, there was always a way to get the guidance I needed.”

Flexibility was also very important to her. “I chose the SHSU Online degree program for convenience and well-rounded nature of the program,” she says. “As a full-time working professional with children and work-related travel, having the flexibility to do my studies was key.”

Another factor in favor of SHSU Online’s program for Cravens was her ability to transfer a generous number of hours from Lone Star Community College, and to take courses at the University Center. As she says, “I was able to maximize my hard-earned educational dollars.”

Though online learning by its nature involves a large amount of solo effort by students, Cravens was also able to make some important connections with fellow students as she approached the final year of her B.B.A. program. “It was in my final year of studies that the assignments required heavier collaboration in a team structure for projects, and I’m still in contact with several classmates outside of school as a result,” she notes. “There were many working adults, parents, and non-traditional students that I could identify with in the online program, and we inspired and encouraged each other along the way.” She also appreciated many professors in the online program, including Mrs. Cathy Lockwood (statistics), Dr. Robert “Chip” Matthews (entrepreneurship), and others who, she says, “inspired me to examine things from different angles and try my very best.” Cravens3

On May 8, Cravens celebrated her graduation with her husband, Aaron J. Cravens (SHSU ’11 and U.S. Army veteran), her two children, and her grandmother—who, she notes, grew up working on a cotton farm and did not have the chance to attend college. “Ever since I was a little girl, she has very much inspired me to become a woman in business,” she says.

While achieving her B.B.A. is an important milestone that she hopes will help advance her professional IT career, she already has a further goal – she hopes to return to SHSU to earn a master of business administration degree in the future. Cravens believes SHSU Online’s program is one of the best in the nation for both the quality of education and the ability to meet the needs of returning or continuing students.

2015-USNews-Web-Hero(NoSwoosh)-1940x746For the fourth straight year, Sam Houston State University has earned national recognition in U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings of online education programs.

2014 was the first year that SHSU was invited to participate in the ranking process for Best Graduate Online Criminal Justice degree programs, and the university came in at #5 in the nation.  In the Student Services and Technology area of the ranking dimensions for this program, SHSU is second nationwide. The Student Engagement and Faculty Credentials and Training dimensions of the rankings also contributed to the program’s overall top-shelf ranking. And the new student retention rate for this program is 85 percent for the 2013-2014 academic year.

Another standout ranking for SHSU was in the Graduate Online Information Technology Program listing. Here the university notched a rank of #7, again with exceptional scores in Student Services and Technology, Student Engagement, and Faculty Credentials and Training. This program has earned similar high rankings in past years in the U.S. News & World Report listings. SHSU’s overall rank of #7 places the school in the top sixth, or top 16 percent, of all schools included in the ranking report for Graduate Online Information Technology Programs nationwide.

In the rankings of Best Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs, SHSU fell within the top 25 percent of all universities included in the survey. Similarly, in the Best Online MBA Programs rankings, the university’s rank is comfortably in the top third (31 percent) of all schools surveyed.

Bill Angrove, associate vice president for distance learning, says: “The #5 ranking of the Best Graduate Online Criminal Justice degree programs is especially rewarding to me as this is the first program to be put online after my arrival at SHSU Online in 2009. In helping to develop this program, I was honored to work closely with the former Dean of the College of Criminal Justice, Dr. Vincent Webb, and I am sure he is as thrilled as I am to receive this recognition. It’s also an honor to be recognized by U.S. News and World Report with high rankings for so many additional online degree programs.”

SHSU Online’s service plays a key role in the university’s placement regarding U.S. News & World Report’s “Student Services and Technology” indicator by providing student support and highly accessible technologies and services and strong support to its students.

U.S. News & World Report’s “Student Engagement” indicator measures the degree to which programs promote quality participation in courses, allow students opportunities to both readily interact with their instructors and fellow classmates similarly to a campus-based setting, and allow students to complete their degrees in a reasonable amount of time.

SHSU offers more than 35 fully online degree programs, including two doctoral programs, as well as 24 online certificate programs. For more information on any of SHSU’s online programs, visit distance.shsu.edu.

A complete listing of the U.S. News and World Report online rankings can be found at http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/sam-houston-state-university-227881.

shutterstock_194704859Although online education has gained significant popularity in recent years, the processes of obtaining a degree online as opposed to taking classes on campus still raises doubts for many.

However, a recent white paper from Learning House and Aslanian Market Research, titled “Equal Opportunity in Higher Education: Understanding Rigor and Engagement Across Learning Modalities,” found that there are strong similarities between the quality of on-campus and online courses:

  • Online students write and read as much as traditional students
  • Faculty members for online courses provide the same amount of feedback as faculty in traditional classrooms, and possibly more quickly

The report, combining data from a survey conducted by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) as well as Online College Students 2014: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences (OCS), obtained results from more than 500 institutions nationwide and 27 in Canada, and 1,500 individuals nationwide, respectively.

Through comparing the results of the NSSE and OCS surveys, it was found that across nearly all the questions examined, there were little to no significant statistical differences in academic rigor or faculty engagement between the groups. However, there were some directional trends and conclusions that did emerge, including:

  • Online students are writing just as much as, and possibly more than, NSSE students.
  • Online students are preparing just as much as NSSE students, but may be spending more of this preparation time reading.
  • Online students report feeling less challenged by their online coursework
— perhaps due to their age and life experiences they bring into the classroom.
  • Online faculty are providing the same amount of feedback, but may be doing so more quickly.

Our student stories speak for themselves, but SHSU Online is dedicated to providing modern technological applications and support to the university’s award-winning distance education programs. Visit our Awards and Recognitions page to see how SHSU Online stacks up against academic institutions across the nation.

SHSU offers more than 35 fully online degree programs, including two doctoral programs, as well as 24 online certificate programs. For more information on any of SHSU’s online programs, visit distance.shsu.edu.

SHSU President Dana Hoyt was recently on the set in Florida with former Entertainment Tonight host Julie Moran to record an episode of “The Balancing Act” on Lifetime Television. The two discussed SHSU Online as well as a number of different ways online education can be beneficial for women, namely flexibility, affordability, and quality.

“The Balancing Act” is currently in its sixth season and focuses on topics that are relevant to women and their busy lifestyles. This particular episode takes a deeper look at the subject of Online Education and the burgeoning population of female online students.

Be sure to check out the show above featuring Dr. Hoyt and SHSU Online!

SHSU’s Computer Science Department continues to merge innovative technology into both online and classroom environments, allowing for a range of comprehensive and interactive projects for students.

Utilizing Blackboard Learn and Blackboard Collaborate, professors in the department have cultivated an immersive learning environment and have received rave reviews from students.

ShashidharDr. ShashidharDr. Narasimha (Karpoor) Shashidhar, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science, continues to integrate technology applications such as Blackboard Collaborate into his online and on-campus courses. These applications create an immersive experience for students and add another element of interactivity to courses, resulting in increased student engagement.
Shashidhar is dedicated to investing the time to create and edit videos, record lectures, and produce other supplemental materials including digital forensics tools to upload into Blackboard. Shashidhar says his efforts are rewarded by increased levels of comprehension from students.

“My students feel more empowered; they are now interacting more actively on the discussion forums in class and are confident in posting questions and asking for help when needed,” he says. “They are happy to know that their instructor is investing time and effort to enhance their learning and they return the favor by working harder to perform well in the course.”

Shashidhar is incorporating these methods in COSC 5330 – Malware Analysis, COSC 5325 – Organization System Security, DFSC 5330 – Cryptography, and DFSC 1317 – Introduction to Digital Forensics courses this semester.

BennettProfessor Andy Bennett, director of the Center of Excellence in Digital Forensics, monitors emerging technology trends used in higher education and says the use of technology in the classroom allows instructors to increase learning comprehension and interactivity from students.

“The feedback we receive from students is that asynchronous instruction is all well and good, but Blackboard Collaborate provides us with a mechanism to communicate synchronously and better deliver information to our students,” he says. “Using Collaborate takes preparation, but it’s the closest we can get to teaching in person using an online platform. We’ve had a lot of success using the program.”

Blackboard Collaborate, a comprehensive online learning and collaboration platform, allows students to participate in real-time, synchronous course activities and discussions. Students may access Blackboard Collaborate both on their computers and on their mobile devices in real-time, allowing them to interact with their professor and classmates.

Bennett encourages his colleagues to reach out to him if they are interested in utilizing technological resources such as Blackboard Collaborate in their courses, and feels the tools add another dimension to the learning experience.Bennett says the faculty in the Department of Computer Science actively solicits student responses regarding the use of immersive learning applications, and the reactions from students are consistently supportive.

In fact, the department’s dedication to technology integration and online learning helped earn the Master of Science in Information Assurance and Security program a national ranking of No. 2 among “Best Online Graduate Computer Information Technology Programs” by U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings of online education programs from nearly 700 schools across the country.

“I’m really advocating the use of Collaborate on campus; we’ve got to use these tools in classrooms across the university and get the word out to the entire faculty,” he says. “As educators, we do our best to get in the heads of our students to understand what makes them learn; ultimately, this is a potential gateway to that goal.”

SHSU-CampusMyth 1. An online degree is not as meaningful as a “face-to-face” degree. The only difference between an online degree and a “face-to-face” degree is the delivery method.  Rather than sitting in a classroom or lecture hall, students listen to lectures in mp3 format, communicate in discussion boards, and perform their assignments at their preferred location.  This delivery platform allows students to fit their courses based on availability, work schedules, and other life responsibilities.

To a considerably lesser extent, it’s like driving to the library to check out F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” or reading the book on your tablet; either way, the end result is the same.

Degrees through SHSU Online are the same accredited degrees as offered on campus, simply presented in a format available to those who would not be able to pursue it otherwise or do not have the schedule to allow it.

Myth 2. Online Degrees are trendy and aren’t popular with employers.

Online degrees are popular with students across a wide demographic because it allows them to pursue their education according to their availability and at their preferred location. You can do your assignments after work, on your lunch break, or whenever your schedule allows, day or night.

According to a recent survey by Inside Higher Ed, online enrollments have steadily increased in the U.S., and as the cultural investment in technology continues to progress, there is no reason to believe online learning won’t continue to gain popularity.

Employers also value online degrees, as evidenced by articles such as Employers on online education from CNN and Online Degrees Don’t Impede Job Searches from U.S. News & World Report.

As you will see in more points below, taking classes online shows personal and professional ambition and a great deal of dedication; how are these not positive qualities in a prospective employee?

Myth 3. Online courses are only for computer-savvy students.

Basic online usage and an understanding of how websites work is more than enough to get you started. It’s just like anything else; the more exposure you have to something, the easier it becomes.

And you’re not alone; we have a dedicated staff available via email and a call center from 7 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Saturday. Visit our “Contact Us” page to touch base with us however you would like; we’re happy to answer your questions.

Don’t let your fear of technology stand in the way of your degree.

Myth 4. When taking online classes, you have to figure it out for yourself.

Taking classes online, like physically attending class, allows you to ask the instructor questions, discuss topics with other students through discussion boards, and take additional time to absorb course material.

Online and in-person courses are similar in that you will get out of them what you put in. If you are proficient with your assignments, you may be able to finish work early, or within the timelines of the instructor, you can take your time with assignments.

It is the student’s responsibility to complete their work, but help is never out of reach!

Myth 5. Online classes are easier than “face-to-face” courses.

Many students say pursuing their degree online is the most difficult thing they have done in their professional life, but they also say it is the most rewarding.

Taking classes online requires a great deal of discipline and a desire to succeed, and many students learn a lot about themselves while pursuing their degree online. Whether students are procrastinators, early birds, or on par with the syllabus, it takes a lot of effort to earn an online degree.

For more information on any of SHSU’s online programs, visit distance.shsu.edu.

SHSU faculty members, continuing to embrace and cultivate emerging technologies, are integrating the capabilities of Interactive Television (ITV) into courses to improve the distance learning experience for students.

ITV is a platform that utilizes videoconference technology to allow an instructor to teach and seamlessly communicate with a group of students attending the course from a remote classroom in real time. Through the use of streaming video technology, the professors and students in two separate locations are able to communicate directly, either by asking questions or receiving feedback.

SHSU Student using ITV technology on laptop

The program effectively broadens the student-professor dynamic for distance learners and allows more students to have access to a higher quality course.

Julie Combs, director of the Center for Research and Doctoral Studies in Educational Leadership, says she is excited by the way ITV has effectively brought a physical presence to online learning.

“I have used ITV over a period of several years in the Education Leadership doctoral program, and I am very pleased with all that we can do to share information with students,” she says. “I think the biggest advantage of ITV is that it allows students from many different regions to join a class in a face-to-face format.”

Since the university adopted ITV technology several years ago, faculty accessibility and ease of use has been a point of focus for SHSU Online employees.

Currently, there are seven rooms at SHSU-The Woodlands Center (TWC) and the main campus that are ITV ready. Four are in TWC and the other three are on the main campus – in the Lee Drain Building, the Teacher Education Center, and the College for Humanities and Social Sciences.

Matthew Fuller, assistant professor and coordinator of Higher Education Administration, has used ITV for two semesters and says the technology has acted to bridge the geographical gap for students in distance learning environments.

“ITV has been reliable and the DELTA Center staff has made this technology very easy to use. I have used it to teach doctoral level classes in law, curriculum, and assessment in higher education,” he says. “I have tried some interactive group work where students on one end of ITV prepare something to present to the entire class.”

Not only has ITV improved the quality of education for distance learners, it is now easier than ever to incorporate into courses. If you are interested in utilizing ITV with your course(s), contact Graphics Designer Derrick Alexander at dda006@shsu.edu .


SHSU Online
recognizes individual student needs in distance learning environments and is committed to providing a variety of distance learning options.

Our online degree programs, which utilize the Blackboard Learn system, include a range of disciplines that prepare students for rewarding careers. Correspondence courses, online teacher certification, and continuing education programs are available, in addition to the below degrees.

  • Online bachelor’s degree programs
  • Online master’s degree programs
  • Online doctoral degree programs

With programs ranging from criminal justice to business, education to technology, and history to instructional leadership and technology, SHSU’s online programs cater to a diverse group of disciplines that can lead to exciting professional opportunities.

SHSU Online continues to add courses annually while providing expert technical support via email or phone six days a week.

Online correspondence courses offer another opportunity to earn college credit without stepping inside a classroom. Students can learn at their own pace and chose the times and locations to study. This service is highly beneficial to everyone from individuals continuing their college education, teachers seeking certification or additional study in their fields, or anyone wishing to broaden their education. Unless specified, each correspondence course is equivalent to three hours of college credit and includes a comparable workload.

Finally, SHSU Continuing Education offers courses and condensed studies on campus and online through partners such as ed2go, 360training.com, and The Center for Legal Studies. Below are some of the correspondence courses available.

    • Standardized test preparations
    • Business strategy for particular industries
    • Hobbies and creative fields

Courses are designed to meet individual learning goals, which can enhance opportunities for career progression, help achieve a lifestyle change, or share a learning experience with others.

SHSU staff members are ready to help by answering any questions or providing additional information and advice to help choose a class.