By Alyson Peabody, Staff Writer

Earning a degree from USM’s online program offers flexibility in a hectic world.

Paul Cochrane, Director of the Center for Technology-Enhanced Learning, said that online learning is a tool for students who are balancing their education with work and family responsibilities. Online programs reach students outside of a convenient driving distance to the Lewiston, Portland and Gorham campuses. This cuts down on driving time and travel expenses.

Twenty-eight programs are offered to earn degrees, minors and certificates. An online degree is regarded the same as a degree earned on campus. The courses are just offered through Blackboard rather than in a classroom. The technology requirements are that a student must have a desktop or laptop, reliable internet connection and word-processing software, like Microsoft Word or Google Docs.

Out-of-state students are currently enrolled in online programs. Some online programs have been offered fully online since 2008. Cochrane anticipates more online programs being offered over the next two to three years. Currently, many students that live locally blend their learning experience by taking some courses in the classroom and others online.

“In many programs, we also see that when faculty offer an online version of a course alongside a classroom-based version, the online course will often fill much more quickly,” Cochrane said.

The USM faculty that teach courses in the classroom mainly teach courses online, too. This guarantees a similar quality experience for students learning online.

“For graduate programs, I anticipate that we will see more online programs,” Cochrane said, “but also more blended and low-residency programs.”

A new low residency program for a Master in Social Work will have its first class this summer. The course will be primarily online with two to three on-campus sessions every semester. This allows students who do not live locally to participate while still having opportunities to engage in person with their classmates and the faculty.


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