Once upon a time "” and it wasn't so long ago "” you got your education, possibly with an applied component, and then you went to work. Pretty much end of story. The overwhelming majority of college students dedicated at least four years on campus and then landed jobs or continued to graduate school followed by work. Earning college degrees in the evening meant a constant juggling of schedules and waiting for courses to be offered, and the occasional distance learning was offered on television or through expensive universities without walls.

 

Meanwhile educators maintained that learning was a lifelong process, often even more valuable after years of experience in a career, and that there are many learning styles that don't fit into the traditional classroom format used for hundreds of years. Thanks to the Internet and the influx of thousands of ambitious, determined nontraditional students, higher education has now changed to the point that, as U.C. spokesman Greg Hand says, "We are looking for opportunities to expand the experiences of our students, both graduate and undergraduate. The traditional, four-year (in a classroom) degree is becoming a thing of the past."

 

Instead, students are finding online classes, often with live chat rooms for questions and clarification, hybrid programs combining classroom and online contact, single registrations for a collection of courses, block or "cohort" programs with a group moving through the requirements together, books delivered to the student's door and graduate certificate courses for targeted skills.

 

The Art InsTITute

of Cincinnati

The Art Institute offers only one program, but by focusing entirely on their Associate Degree of Applied Science in Design/Computer Graphics, the Tri-county school turns out students primed for careers in design, advertising, packaging and more. The associate degree takes two years and is slightly intensive, with eight quarters in two years and 15 credit hours a quarter. This "boutique" art school typically has less than 100 students enrolled, meaning more personal attention to help students refine their own styles.

 

Beckfield College

Situated off of I-75 in Florence, Beckfield is accessible from across the Tristate. And the class options are equally accessible. Students can have the options of evening and Saturday classes in addition to the usual morning schedule and can earn a college degree with just three classes a week. Because of the school's small size, students receive more individual attention during every phase of their education, including enrollment, financial aid, instruction and placement.

Beckfield offers a four-year bachelor's degree in business administration and various other degrees and certifications in criminal justice, health information technology, nursing or paralegal studies.

 

College of Mount St. Joseph

The College of Mount St. Joseph in Delhi has a number of undergraduate and graduate degrees offered in an evening/weekend format for the non-traditional student. Masters degrees in education, nursing, organizational leadership, and religious studies are available, in addition to a Doctorate in Physical Therapy.

MSJ also works with people hungry for a career change. The Accounting Plus program allows students with a Bachelor's of Business earn an accompanying accounting degree. Adult students have the option of consulting with an experiential learning coordinator. These coordinators help students explore credit-earning options for college-level work they may have completed through corporate training or other experiences.

MSJ students have options to participate in Cooperative Education or Service Learning for credit in all baccalaureate programs. All students have access to free services from the career center for counseling and job search

assistance.

Maggie Davis, director of career and experimental education, stated, "The Mount is eager to work with the non-traditional student. In fall semester 2007, our schedules will be structured to allow completion of more credit hours each semester."

 

Indiana Wesleyan University

Indiana Wesleyan University, based in east central Indiana, runs education centers in West Chester and Dayton to serve local working adults. To accommodate people with busy schedules, students register only once for all the classes in their program. Brad Grubb, regional dean for the Cincinnati and Dayton education centers of Indiana Wesleyan, says that signing on for all their classes at once lets students plan months in advance. "They know that if a class that is scheduled nine months from now, it is guaranteed." Here, students sign up for class one night a week and never again have to worry about when they'll have class.

Books and materials are delivered directly to students' doors. Most programs use a "cohort" approach, which has groups of students meeting for the same classes through the entire program. Library support is available online, by phone or by fax. And degree programs typically take 18 to 24 months to complete.

According to Grubb, the cohort approach allows students to get to know each other and create both professional and personal networks. It provides a "sense of collegiality that most evening class students don't usually get." Plus, he says, "When they sign up [for a] cohort group, their courses are guaranteed." The school's most popular programs include the MBA program, as well as the Master of Science in Management. Indiana Wesleyan also offers the opportunity to complete a Bachelor of Nursing or Master of Education. Other offerings include: associate degrees in business, undergraduate degrees in accounting, business administration, business information systems, management, marketing and nursing.

 

Mount Vernon Nazarene University

Mount Vernon Nazarene University's Adult and Graduate Studies offers two master's degrees in business: Master's of Business Administration and Master's of Science in Management.

"Most people are familiar with the MBA, and for those working in finance or economics, the MBA is a logical choice for professional advancement. However, individuals without a business undergraduate degree are often, over time, promoted into management positions," says Laura Steenbergen, Southern Ohio regional director for Mount Vernon Nazarene University. "The Master of Science in Management degree may be the solution for those with no formal management education. It provides advanced training in business without requiring as many number-crunching courses, focusing instead on organizational management."

 

Northern Kentucky University

"Many people don't realize that they can get a graduate credential without having to complete an entire graduate degree," says Carole Beere, associate provost for outreach and dean of graduate studies for NKU. "Graduate certificates can provide that extra credential and require far fewer credits than a degree."

NKU offers new graduate certificate programs in addition to its graduate programs in business, business informatics, computer science, industrial/organizational psychology, and public administration (to name a few). Each graduate certificate program offers a specialized course of study that can be completed quickly and on a part-time basis, resulting in a career enhancing credential.

New master's and graduate certificate programs in health informatics are scheduled to begin in autumn 2007, which might be of particular interest to those working in information systems or health care. Other certificates of interest to business professionals include: corporate information security; secure software engineering; industrial, organizational, or occupational health psychology.

Beginning in the fall of this year, the College of Business will offer certificates in finance, entrepreneurship, international business, marketing, and project management. These certificates are ideal for someone with an MBA seeking an area of specialization. These certificates will also be available to those who do not have an MBA, provided that they take additional course prerequisites.

 

Miami University

Miami's MBA program now focuses on an accelerated, experiential track that integrates all essential components of the business enterprise. The 14-month timeframe is a big draw, but students also enjoy the program's ongoing internships, its international consultancy, and the accessibility of faculty members.

"I am profoundly impressed with what I have witnessed thus far in our new program," says Farmer School Dean Roger L. Jenkins. "I am convinced that we have developed an MBA program that truly prepares early-to-mid-career professionals from varied backgrounds to be highly effective leaders who understand how to optimize operations throughout the value chain."

Miami's regional campuses also offer convenient options for students who aren't near Oxford. The university's Degree Power Schedule allows students to earn associate degrees in two years with classes designated for Tuesday and Thursday nights.

The Saturday Select hybrid program has face- to-face classes filling half the contact hours and an online component for the other half. Because these are organized in eight-week sessions, a student can take two Saturday courses for eight weeks, two for the next eight weeks, and complete four courses in a 16-week semester. This way, students can earn an associate arts degree in as little as two years. To the relief of many working adults, a broad range of subjects are also taught completely online. Both the Middletown and Hamilton campuses have very strong offerings in the evenings to meet students' needs.

According to Cathy Bishop-Clark, an assistant dean at the Middletown campus, the varied course options are a must. "Miami University's regional campuses are very committed to the needs of the adult learner," she says. "Because of so many life circumstances, adult learners need different kinds of formats and delivery systems. They often need weekend and/or evening classes, classes in a compressed mode, online courses or hybrid courses."

 

University of Cincinnati

UC offers more than 600 academic programs, from a new doctoral program in systems biology to an online cosmetic science program, a Master of Statistics and an Engineering/MBA ACCEND program.

Clermont College offers new associate degrees in marketing management and multi-skilled health technology as well as simulation and gaming development.

"Demand for graduate education has been growing steadily over the past two decades at approximately 2 percent per year, fueled by an increase in the number of women pursuing graduate degrees, and the need for highly specialized skills in today's economy," says Neville G. Pinto, vice provost and dean of UC's Graduate School. He notes that "Demand has been strongest for advanced health science degrees, with double-digit annual increases in enrollment in recent years."

 

Xavier University

Xavier's MBA program now features off-site education for students in Deerfield Township. Roger Bosse, interim director of the Office of Graduate Services, notes, "The MBA program will be overhauling and enacting what they hope will be a cutting edge curriculum program during fall 2007 semester which will meet the needs of MBA students well into the future."

In fact, there are plenty of changes on the horizon for Xavier's MBA program. According to Jennifer Bush, Xavier's executive director of MBA programs, the curriculum has been revamped with input from members of the program's executive board and industry leaders, asking them what were most important skills for people entering the field. The program also took cues from benchmarks at the top business schools in the country.

School officials went to each industry and asked them what they thought was most important for people entering that field.

"The result is new foundation courses, including a stronger emphasis on strategic management and development, as well as project management. International business is now a required class. "We're tapping into our Jesuit heritage and looking more into ethics," Bush says, noting that classes will stress the importance of business and ethics intertwining.

Xavier's MBA program is also offering new electives, such as health care marketing, customer relationship management and banking. Bush also points out the school's "vibrant" women's association.

Plus, XU's Department of Education has gone through a reorganization process and is now the School of Education with four departments as its backbone. And the graduate education program is completing its first full year of offering courses in a blended format in which half of the course takes place in a face-to-face regular classroom environment and half is offered through an online component.

Over the course of this academic year, these courses have increased in enrollment by at least 50 percent each semester.

 

Wright State

Coming this fall, Wright State's Raj Soin College of Business will offer the South Dayton MBA program, which will stress the link between business and technology. Monica Snow, director of marketing, business and international relations for the college, points out that the program offers the same faculty and core courses as their main campus program. This program features the cohort format and can be completed in eight quarters. Currently accepting applications for the spring only, Wright State is also trying to start a fall session.

Pending approval from the Ohio Board of Regents in late April, Wright State will offer a Masters in Information Systems this fall. This program will be split between online courses and five weekends of on-campus education.

The university already offers another master's that can be completed in the same five weekend/online format. The logistics and supply chain management degree culminates in a project students complete for their employer tangible return on investment.

Masters of Accountancy and Master's of Science degrees in Social and Applied Economics are also available. Students can complete the M.B.A. on the main campus at their own pace.