Pajama Ph.D.s


E-Learning Offers Advanced Degrees Entirely Online

E-learning is booming: You can currently get a college degree online at more than 400 different institutions based in the United States alone, according to a U.S. News & World Report e-education database. This means you can complete all of your degree work—not just some of it—without ever physically setting foot inside your degree-awarding campus. An even larger number of schools are combining some face-to-face studies and campus visits with e-learning coursework.

Several Washington-area universities are incorporating this trend in a major way—and one of them, the University of Maryland’s University College, is winning awards for its innovative online efforts. Serving the region’s well-known penchant for higher education, these cyber-savvy institutions also offer many advanced degrees, some in new and highly specialized disciplines such as bioinformatics or water-resources planning.

You can do all of your academic work by telecommute and earn undergraduate degrees at the George Washington University in the District and at the University of Maryland’s University College in College Park, Md. You can also earn a Ph.D. while clad in your pajamas at both George Washington and Maryland, as well as at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., Virginia Tech and Strayer University.

George Washington University D.C.’s George Washington University has 25 programs, both graduate and undergraduate, that offer degrees online.

Somewhat surprising, many of the GW programs are in clinical health or other areas that require laboratory-based learning or other hands-on work. In all such cases, according to the university’s admission’s office, students are able to use an approved nearby “affiliate” clinical laboratory or other study site, and if there is no already approved and convenient location available, you even have the option of finding one yourself.

The GW undergraduate offerings are all housed in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences and include clinical laboratory degrees, several in health management, and one in emergency services.

Graduate offerings feature master’s degrees in education, business studies or health sciences. Examples include fully online degrees in special education or end-of-life care as well as studies in business project management or tourism. In addition, GW offers one online doctoral degree in nursing practice.

Johns Hopkins University You can receive a number of Johns Hopkins biotechnology graduate degrees online through the university’s Engineering and Applied Science Programs for Professionals (EPP), including a master’s degree in bioinformatics.

Just this fall, Hopkins began offering a fully online master of science degree in environmental planning and management, focusing on water resources, in collaboration with the university’s Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering.

Meanwhile, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health offers a master’s program in public health where 80 percent of the coursework can be taken online after a two-week on-campus orientation. The university also requires all online students to take an “Introduction to Online Learning” course.

University of Maryland The University of Maryland’s University College (UMUC) is a national leader in online coursework for both its master’s degree programs and graduate certificate programs.

In 2005, UMUC’s master’s of business administration program won the Sloan-C Award for Most Outstanding Online Teaching and Learning Program, and in 2004, UMUC was recognized by the International Council for Open and Distance Education for the “highest possible excellence in the fields of open, distance, virtual and flexible learning.”

Maryland’s University College offers 22 undergraduate bachelor’s degrees online and 14 master’s degrees, with more than 90 undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs fully online. There’s also a management doctoral degree that’s largely online with some residency requirements.

The separate University of Maryland at College Park also offers several advanced degree or certificate-granting distance education programs through its Office of Professional Studies. Among the choices are graduate certificates in food safety risk analysis and public health informatics, or a master of life sciences degree designed for science teachers at middle and high schools.

Virginia Tech Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has developed a new master’s degree program in agricultural and life sciences that is offered entirely online. Students can also obtain advanced degrees in health promotion, information technology, instructional technology, ocean engineering and political science.

Several notable Virginia Tech online offerings feature videoconferencing degrees in biomedical engineering, medicine and veterinary science that are offered in cooperation with the Wake Forest University School of Medicine and the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.

Also notable in this online education world is the university’s devotion to business, science and technical education. Virginia Tech specializes in online graduate-level certificates in the liberal arts and political studies, with the liberal arts certificate covering issues such as justice, authority, the individual, diversity and globalization. (Virginia Tech does not offer any complete undergraduate degree programs through its distance learning initiatives.)

Strayer University Strayer University specializes in business degrees and professional studies provided both online and at “brick-and-mortar” campus locations throughout the United States. Its online programs for the D.C. area include an undergraduate degree in international business studies.

Advanced online degrees include seven master’s of business administration degrees, with concentrations in marketing, human resources or the hospitality industry. Other master’s degrees specialize in accounting, information systems, as well as advanced degrees in education and health management or public administration.

Strayer not only offers degrees online, but graduates of its online programs get their own Web-based graduation ceremony accessible worldwide. Strayer’s 2007 “Virtual Commence-ment” includes the orchestra march played at graduations, “Pomp and Circumstances” degrees conferred by name announcements, and a commencement speaker.

Online degrees and graduations are revolutionary, according to Al Gore. The recent Nobel Prize winner spoke last February at a virtual graduation ceremony for the American Inter-Continental University Online, in which Gore told the students that they were pioneers of an information revolution that is supplanting the industrial one.

About the Author

Carolyn Cosmos is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat.