If the idea of attending grad school classes at home while wearing pajamas is appealing, read on. Western Oregon University offers several online master’s degree programs that can completed on students’ own timeline and in the comfort of their own home. The dress code is up to them.
One of WOU’s most popular online grad programs, said Graduate Programs Marketing Coordinator Amber Deets, is the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT), which comes with initial licensure. It allows people who are not already educators but who want to instruct at the middle or high school level to get their license.
“We run two or three cohorts of 15 to 20 students at a time,” Deets said. “That one is really popular for people who are looking for a career change.”
The MAT program technically is classified as a “hybrid” format, meaning it involves a combination of online courses and campus visits. However, Deets clarified, the campus visit part is just a once-monthly trip to Monmouth to meet with an adviser. The courses are all online.
For current teachers and school administrators, the online program of choice is the Master of Science in Education in Information Technology. It’s for people who already have their licenses but want additional education and a deeper understanding of how to incorporate technology into the classroom. It also helps that they may get a pay raise as a result of having a master’s degree.
“That program is very popular because it’s applicable to a lot of different fields,” Deets said. “You don’t have to be a teacher to want better and more adaptable skills in changing technological world.”
The M.S. Ed. in Information Technology program is overseen by Professor Mary Bucy and Associate Professor Greg Zobel. The duo earns high praise from grad students who appreciate their support and strong communication. Deets said she hears positive feedback from Info Tech students all the time about how having Bucy and Zobel as a resource makes the online education experience less isolating.
In fact, feeling isolated from one’s classmates and professors is a major factor in the online-only education format. Although some students prefer to just do their own thing, many others are proactive in building relationships with members of their cohort. The M.S. Ed. in Information Technology program includes a two-week session in the summer that takes place on the WOU campus. It’s optional and usually involves a lot of electives, but the summer session lets students, who may be teachers and have the summer off, to get to know their classmates while also exploring the info tech field.
Another hybrid program, the Master of Arts in Interpreting Studies, includes a two-week session on campus as well, but it is required rather than optional like the M.S. Ed. in IT.
The only College of Liberal Arts and Sciences online-only master’s program at WOU is the Master of Arts in Criminal Justice, which is designed mainly for people already working in related fields. Deets said the program generally attracts police administrators, social services workers and other working professionals whose jobs require a masters or who feel they need more education.
Kyle Deets, the chief operations officer at Catholic Community Services (CCS) and Amber Deets’ husband, graduated from the master’s program in criminal justice in 2016. He’d earned his undergraduate degree at WOU in 2003, and after years in social services, he felt his COO work would benefit from additional education.
“What I wanted was almost a nonprofit administration and leadership type of a curriculum,” Kyle Deets said. “Looking at the classes, (WOU’s criminal justice program) looked like it was a lot of that. It had a lot of organizational leadership and organizational culture type stuff, especially in the second year. I really felt like I was getting what I needed for my current job.”
The online-only format suited Kyle Deets perfectly, allowing him to take one class at a time. CCS was supportive, giving him a few hours a week to devote to coursework. He said he could not have completed the master’s degree if it had an on-campus format, and he carved out time to meet with some members of his cohort because the connections were important to him.
“I did get together in person with some of those groups,” he said. “It was encouraged to do that when it made sense to. I developed some relationships in my cohort. I sat at graduation with a few people. You have to take the initiative. It’s not handed to you.”
When he reached out to professors in person for help, he always found them welcoming and supportive, he said, even though he was an online student. Kyle Deets advises anyone considering an online-only master’s program to take advantage of available resources.
“The engagement of it is their responsibility,” he said. “If they stay engaged and make sure they are connecting with the professor and the rest of their cohort, they can do well. If they don’t ask for help and do it all in isolation, they are not going to make it. Use the professor and the cohort as a resource.”
CCS recently added a leadership training program to its offerings that Kyle Deets leads. He said he applied a lot of the principles he learned at WOU to the curriculum. So, although a criminal justice master’s degree might not seem an obvious fit for his current job, it worked out well for him.
“There is so much in the (criminal justice) field,” he said. “It’s not just being a cop or a being a parole officer or being a corrections officer. There’s so much you could go into with the track of criminal justice or the graduate program. I applied organizational culture and leadership stuff to help me do my job now.”
WOU’s tuition rate for most master’s programs pencil out to about $22,000 plus fees. Because tuition is paid by the credit ($479 each this year), students can control their costs each term by taking the number of classes they can afford.
Online-only students must have a computer, a reliable internet connection, videoconferencing capabilities and access to a printer.
Each master’s degree program has its own application requirements. Those, along with much more information, can be found on at wou.edu/graduate.