The Next Generation of Health Professionals, Learning With Next Generation Tools

A Careful Start

“Although we knew there was a critical shortage, we weren’t sure we even wanted to go online,” says Dr. Charles Gulas, Dean of the College of Health Professions at Maryville University in St. Louis.

“We didn’t have the technical expertise to move academic programs online,” he says. “But we knew we wanted to offer online students the same quality of excellence our on-ground students were already getting.”

So, Chuck says, they partnered with Pearson—and the Maryville faculty started to walk through what online learning could be.

What would it look like? How would faculty and students collaborate? What are best practices?

“Faculty members were able to ask every question they needed to ask,” Chuck says. “Some jumped in quickly, while others needed a bit more time to work out their skepticism.”

Today, Maryville offers a host of online degree programs to nearly 3,000 students in almost every state.

serving_a_need‘Go to the Need’

“There’s a real need for health professionals across the country,” Chuck says. “Especially here in Missouri’s rural areas.”

“Plus, many of today’s adult learners simply can’t commit to an on-ground learning experience,” he says.

Maryville seeks to provide online programs that help students fill these professional positions.

“We’re able to help students in zip codes with no access to best-in-class learning,” says Dan Viele, Dean of the School of Adult and Online Education at Maryville. “We’re serving a need.”

Dan says higher education enrollment is shrinking across the country. But at Maryville, online offerings are the exception to the rule.

“Last year,” he says, “our online enrollment grew by eight percent.”

Making Sure There’s a Next Generation

“From the beginning, we’ve been after quality,” says Chuck.

“We’ve managed to do that through a deep partnership with our faculty,” Dan says. “Whatever the learning environment, it’s critical that a faculty member is committed and engaged in the process.”next_gen

“These educators are so committed to the next generation of health care professionals,” Chuck says. “They want to do everything they can to make sure this generation is developed and educated well.”

Success Beyond the Classroom

Dan spent 12 years in the classroom teaching accounting before moving into the tech world and higher ed administration.

“When I first left the classroom, I really missed the one-on-one, in-person learning experience,” he says.

Today, Dan is teaching online students accounting when he can fit it into his busy dean schedule.

“Now I realize we’re actually able to help many more students get the education they need,” he says.

Adapting to New Student Needs

“I think we’ve been so successful with online learning because we’re flexible with student needs, nimble with program offerings, and responsible with our teaching,” Dan says.

Prospective students can “attend” informational webinars when they’re unable to come to campus.

“We’re using a top-of-the-line video studio to help our faculty members enhance their teaching,” Dan says.

“We’re doing everything we can to push the technology to build the next generation of engaging content and learning activities for the next generation of students.”

Learning Content That Evolves with Students

“I remember one online stick_withstudent enrolled in our Master of Science in Nursing Program,” says Chuck.

“She was a single mom, working on a Tribal reservation in Oklahoma, she had no higher education options, and her community was in desperate need of primary care professionals,” he says.

Chuck says this student struggled with the classes for a time. She wanted to quit.

“But it was her online classmates from near and far who rallied around her,” he says. “They helped her see that these degree programs are more marathons than sprints—and they convinced her to stick with it.”

An Indicator of Success

“Many of our online graduate programs require hours and hours of ‘preceptorship’ work with certified, on-site mentors,” Chuck says. “It’s a tough process.”

“Still—for our most recent graduation—300 Master of Nursing Science online graduates came to campus to walk in the ceremony,” Chuck says.

“For me, that’s the principal indicator that we’re doing a good job.”