Online program supports virtual education

URIOnline, a program to help students who may not be able to learn in-person, added 22 programs to engage more students into learning and apply what they learned to the real world.

The first program they started with was the master’s in healthcare management program, according to Jill Firtell, the director for URIOnline. After that first program, URIOnline continued to add more that they thought would work well with it. The main focus is to build on the strengths of the University. To build on the strengths, they look at other college modules across the region.

“We kind of set the industry sector and then those are the programs we really pick,” Firtell said.

Firtell said some of the new programs they added were a master’s of oceanography and a master’s of environmental management. By putting these online, they are able to cast a wider net of people and a broader audience, which has caused the program to flourish. Putting these programs online depends on what the strategy and goal is for each program to expand.

Firtell added that URIOnline can encourage students to enroll by connecting to the Student Contact Support Center, a center that guides new students through the application process. Sometimes, students reach out to the center because they do not know what they are looking to do. The center can help them figure it out by having a conversation asking what goals they are trying to achieve.

“We never want a student to just come to us and end up taking a degree that’s not going to favor or benefit them in some way shape or form,” Firtell said.

The support center also connects with URIOnline by guiding students through the application process, Jenn McWeeney, the manager of student contact support said. When someone is an online student, they are not likely going to walk into a hall on campus and ask questions and get the help they need to thrive online to graduate.

“We’re really a stop and shop for the online students who have a navigator through their studies of how to get things done around campus and where to go, as well as that support system,” McWeeney said.

Firtell said that there is a misconception that learning online is a shortcut and the easy way out. She said that people think that they are selling themselves short but actually, they are missing the gift.

“For example, two people are studying healthcare management. Perhaps one of them is a physician and one of them is a nurse. They can come together and bring different perspectives and collaborate and problem solve together virtually,” according to Firtell.

McWeeney added that online learning benefits students who are adults with kids or work full-time. It can be hard for them to carve out time to go to campus for a class, especially with multiple different classes with meeting times in order to earn that degree or certificate.

These benefits allow students to do school work in their own time, according to McWeeney. The program is asynchronous, so all students have to do is meet certain metrics every single week to progress in class at their own pace.

“It’s completely flexible and accessible to the students who aren’t able to have those opportunities on campus,” McWeeney said.

There could be an online program for every major, but that is not their main goal, Firtell said. She added that URIOnline wants to be the best in the professional master’s degree space and bachelor’s degree completion program.

It’s important for students to think about what they’re going to get from their program of choice and what they’ll get out of it, Firtell said. According to her, URIOnline are partners with the students and want to provide the best to them.