Florida State University is a Research 1 institution that offers bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs. FSU uses a variety of methods to increase access to its programs, including off-campus sites, interactive video, computer-based instruction and web-based distance education. With the advent of the Internet and the World Wide Web, FSU has focused its distance learning initiatives on web-based instruction, most particularly complete online programs.
FSU has a number of online degree programs, which are the focus of its participation in the Demonstration Program. At the bachelor's level, FSU has developed degree-completion (2+2) programs in computer science, software engineering, information studies, interdisciplinary social science, and nursing (RN to BSN). These programs allow anyone with an associate's degree to complete their bachelor's degree completely online. At the graduate level, FSU offers three online degree programs: Master's in Information Studies, Master's in Instructional Design with emphasis in Open and Distance Learning, and Master's in Criminology & Criminal Justice. A new master's degree in Risk Management and Insurance is due to begin summer 2002.
FSU has built upon the British Open University model regarding two elements of its distance-learning program. These are: the use of teams for course development and a system of online mentor support for cohorts of remote students within a course taught by a lead faculty instructor at FSU.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accredits FSU. A recent site visit concluded that the substantive changes resulting from the 2+2 program are in compliance with accreditation guidelines.
All participants who joined the Demonstration Program in 1999 were given waivers of the 50% rules. FSU has these waivers, but is unlikely to need them. FSU may initiate variable starting points in addition to the regular semester structure, to provide more flexibility for students. If this is implemented, FSU may be granted the 12 hour rule waiver.
Financial Aid Issues/Alternatives
FSU proposed to experiment with offering non-term based courses for distance students. This would give students the option of completing at their own pace. Along with this, FSU proposed to have variable starting points in addition to the regular semester structure. This has never been implemented and it is unclear when students will be offered this flexibility.
The Cost of Attendance for the distant learner at FSU takes into consideration tuition/fees, books and supplies, travel, and personal expenses. However, since the student work is conducted primarily from home, the budget allowances for those expenditures are the same as the allowances for the commuter students. Within this assigned budget, there should be enough to cover any technical expenses including cost of computer or upgrade. Other cost factors shall be handed through special circumstance adjustment.
Additional Goals for Participation
FSU seeks to provide distance education students with online student services allowing remote students to participate in all university online administrative and technical services and systems that are the same as those provided to the on-campus student. FSU has made their smart card (FSUCard) available to distance learners, which allows student aid to be delivered electronically. Electronic delivery of financial aid is being evaluated.
In addition, FSU is engaged in a re-engineering project with the ultimate goal of designing fully-integrated systems that will react to the student's status as generated by the registrar.
FSU is also examining whether the use of mentors and other strategies are instrumental in encouraging distance students to remain in the program. Furthermore, use of mentors enables greater monitoring and archiving of student interaction with the website, with the instructor, with the mentor, and with other students. A long-range goal is to exceed retention rates for comparable online programs at institutions worldwide. Data describing student satisfaction and performance following the completion of the first two academic years of supported distance learning indicate success in retention, student success (grades of C- and higher) and student satisfaction.
FSU's bachelor's degrees are fully articulated with all associate degrees offered by Florida community colleges. In the 2+2 programs, the community colleges will share responsibility for providing student support services. The 2+2 program is used as a marketing tool for community colleges since students can earn the AA locally and continue on, locally, to earn a BS in selected programs.
Other Relevant Information
FSU's financial aid office is a participant in the Quality Assurance Program.
Demonstration Program Cohort
Florida State University joined the Distance Education Demonstration Program in July 1999 as part of the initial cohort.