Online Education Offers a Flexible Experience

The 2013 Commencement program welcomes 140 students who have taken classes through Webster's online program. Graduates discuss how the flexibility of online education aided their success.

ST. LOUIS, May 8, 2013 - Job transfers, family needs and work obligations can make it difficult for some students to complete their master's degree. Fortunately, technology is stepping in to make the process a little easier through online education. 

David Rogers, Malene Cortelius and Steven Moya are just three of the 140 students graduating from Webster's online programs attending the St. Louis commencement ceremony on May 11, 2013.

“I began coursework at the home campus but demands from my full-time job kept me from being able to make it to class,” said Rogers who is graduating with an MBA. “I withdrew from the course and didn't take classes for almost two years while I worked in a very demanding job. I realized that online classes could give me the flexibility to learn. I would not have been able to regularly make it to a classroom in any single city over the past three years. Over this time, I have finished my degree entirely through online classes.”

Webster University first began offering online courses and programs in the fall of 1999.  The online program now offers 19 graduate degrees, five undergraduate degrees and five certificate programs.  Three undergraduate degree completion programs will be added to the program this summer.  During the 2012-2013 academic year, about 9,200 Webster students took at least one online course. While some take a mixture of online and classroom courses, more than 4,000 of these students take only online courses.

The flexibility of online courses was an important factor to Malene Cortelius who is earning a master's degree in communications. Cortelius completed both a bachelor's and master's degree in Denmark before moving to Princeton, N.J. Not knowing how long she was going to be staying in the U.S., she looked exclusively at online programs after deciding to obtain an additional master's degree in America.

“Only online programs can facilitate the needs of a globalized workforce,” said Cortelius. “I completed my studies while living in Princeton, Copenhagen, and Zurich. Who would have known that life would take me to three countries while working on my MA at Webster University in St. Louis?”

Steven Moya is receiving a master's degree in procurement and acquisitions and was able to continue working on his degree even while in Iraq serving in the U.S. Army.

“I was deployed in Iraq through several classes and at times I would have to plan two to three weeks ahead based off my military mission in order to do my part in class discussions and or complete assignments,” said Moya.

“We know that this flexibility is a necessity in today's working world,” said Elizabeth Stacey, manager of student services in Webster University's Online Learning Center. “Students need a program that fits into their professional life and directly relates to the work that they are doing. Our students are able to learn with others from around the world and have that necessary global interaction while still being able to be at their office the next morning.”

David Rogers said that the flexibility allowed him to tailor his class selection and schedule to best fit into his career.

David Rogers“I was able to take management classes when I assumed supervision of a team,” said Rogers.  “I took a statistics class when my work demanded more knowledge of data interpretation and I was able to take the most labor intensive classes when I knew the workload in my job would be lighter.”

While the materials that students learn is the same as in a traditional classroom, the online process is different from what most students are accustomed to. Course work is organized in a web-based program by weeks and it is the student's responsibility to log in, complete the assignments and tests and take part in the classroom discussions.

“There is a stigma of a social void with online learning and that is totally not true,” said Moya. “I found that the other students posted meaningful discussions and we were able to really delve into the different aspects of the subject being studied.”
Malene Cortelius
Malene Cortelius said that the online learning environment wasn't a difficult transition to make even though she'd previously only studied in a classroom setting, “Although online learning was new to me, in today's world, everyone communicates using electronic systems and the online system at Webster University works like any other. I quickly got  used it.”

“In an online learning environment the student must be proactive. The student must take full responsibility for learning,” said Rogers. “Education in any form is a personal endeavor. Whether you're being lectured to in a classroom or you're watching videos and studying a textbook in an online course, the responsibility is always on the student.”

In addition to the knowledge that students gain from higher education, there are additional financial benefits. A report from the State Higher Education Executive Officers said that those with a graduate degree have a median income of $68,064, about one-third more than those with a bachelor's degree.

“I work in the nonprofit sector and after a few months into my degree, I obtained another position that was a 28 percent increase in pay,” said Rogers. “I am confident that my MBA played a large role in that. I consider my MBA to be a toolkit.  It has equipped me with the tools to be successful in my career.”  

These students and more than 140 others will be attending the third annual reception honoring graduates of online programs on Friday, May 10 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Commencement takes place on Saturday, May 11 at the The Muny in Forest Park.