Online learning opens doors, previously closed, to a diverse population of students
By Anne Broeker, Comm ’96
Dr. David Schejbal began his new post as chief of digital learning this past summer with no trepidation. Upon arrival, he quickly began talking with Marquette leadership and faculty to construct a roadmap for the future of digital learning at Marquette that helps advance Beyond Boundaries, the university’s strategic plan.
Armed with a history of success in building large-scale continuing education and digital learning programs at the University of Wisconsin–Extension system and a passion for making education accessible, he says he sees an intrinsic connection between the Marquette’s commitment to Milwaukee, the Jesuit tenet of cura personalis and the opportunities for socio-economic advancement that digital education can provide.
Partnering with Dr. Shaun Longstreet, associate provost for educational development, the two have been working across campus to develop an innovative and forward-thinking strategic plan to grow online education that keeps Marquette’s Catholic, Jesuit mission front and center.
“Marquette has a long history of welcoming students who previously didn’t have access to education, going back to its early history of opening higher education to German and Irish immigrants. Marquette was also the first Jesuit university to enroll women,” Longstreet said.
“Expanding online education is a continuation of offering a Marquette education to a new population of students,” Schejbal added. “In the United States, most students enrolled in online classes are often older than traditional students. Many have families are working and desire to either continue their education or further their education. School has to fit into their lives. With online learning, we are helping to make it seamless.”
Marquette first began offering online courses 25 years ago in the College of Nursing and what was then the School of Education. Currently, approximately 1,500 Marquette students are enrolled in online courses in any given semester, and the university has built approximately 300 courses across the curriculum. Longstreet and his team have been working with faculty in almost every college to build innovative, media-rich and engaging online courses.
Learn more about the broader online education marketplace in the infographic below.
Schejbal and Longstreet have now been charged by the president and provost to work with deans and faculty to grow online offerings and to provide opportunities to students who might otherwise have significant barriers to a Marquette education.
While Schebjal works with deans and professors and taps into market-driven research to determine the sorts of online courses that are most in demand, Longstreet works with faculty on instructional design, diligently ensuring that Ignatian teaching principles are woven into the coursework.
“Ignatian pedagogy is reflected in Marquette online offerings,” Longstreet said. “Our team works with incredibly innovative faculty to build transformative learning experiences with an emphasis on engagement and frequent critical reflection. Students are encouraged to think about what they are learning, what it means to them personally and as professionals, and how to use what they are learning to be men and women for others.”
Another important factor is making sure that distance learners feel connected to campus. Longstreet and his team work closely with on-campus departments such as Student Services, Athletics and Campus Ministry and others to ensure that online learners feel connected to the Marquette family.
Currently, there are five master’s degrees offered online: Master of Arts in Christian Doctrine, Master of Science in Corporate Communication, Master of Business Administration, Master of Science in Supply Chain Management, and Master of Science in Healthcare Analytics.
In the fall 2019 semester, a Bachelor of Arts in Strategic Communication will be the first undergraduate degree offered completely online. Additional master’s offerings will include a Master of Science in Healthcare Administration and Healthcare Leadership.
While developing online courses requires some upfront costs, these programs also have the potential to generate substantial revenue. To make sure that online programs pay for themselves over time, robust market research is conducted to find out which programs are most in-demand.
Schejbal and Longstreet have personal as well as professional interests in seeing Marquette’s online offerings grow.
“I am a first-generation high school student, I am the only person in my family with a degree. Access to education is extremely important to me. Marquette’s mission of lifting people through education has always strongly resonated with me. Increasing opportunities to a broader range of learners with the flexibility that online education can offer is very exciting.”
“As someone with a Ph.D. in philosophy, I see education as an essential ingredient to social mobility in the U.S.,” Schejbal said. “Access to education is critical in a democracy.”