Two graduate programs at Buffalo State—a master of science in adult education and a master in music education—are among those included in the Open SUNY+ partnership announced by SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher in October. Both programs are offered completely online, one of several criteria that must be met for programs to be among Open SUNY+ programs.
While all online SUNY programs are part of Open SUNY, programs that are Open SUNY+ Partner Programs include a set of seven signature elements, which are based on national standards for ensuring quality and success in online learning. Those elements include personalized student services; engaging learning experiences; comprehensive faculty support; a robust technology environment; institutional commitment to quality assurance; assessment of program effectiveness; and strategic commitment to growth.
"Personalized service for students follows the concierge model," said Melaine Kenyon, director of instructional technology and Buffalo State’s coordinator for Open SUNY+. "Students have 24/7 access to technology support and online tutoring. Because the programs are totally online, they are flexible enough to meet the needs of people who are working full time. And all the coursework is accessible, which benefits students of all learning types as well as students with diverse learning abilities."
Victoria Furby, associate professor of music and director of Buffalo State’s Chamber Choir, is the coordinator of graduate music education. The Mus.M. degree is designed for in-service music teachers who have already earned their initial teaching certificate. Coursework includes the study of music history, theory, and education as well as elective coursework and a master's project or thesis.
"We were excited at the opportunity to be part of Open SUNY+ because its purpose is to support online program initiatives," said Furby. "We will do some individual and group conducting classes through video chat and Skype." The program, which started in fall 2014, attracts music teachers from across New York State.
The adult education M.S. program prepares its students for careers as educators or trainers in community service agencies or human resource departments. Susan Birden, chair of the Adult Education Department, said, "We started teaching online in 2001, and our whole program went online in 2004. In 2009, we dropped the campus-based courses largely because more students were interested in the online courses."
Most classes have from 16 to 20 students, enabling faculty and students to work closely together. "We are very hands-on with our students," she said. "Some students say that they never want to take a face-to-face to course again because they get more attention from their professors online."
Open SUNY+ also offers faculty members a chance to collaborate and to integrate SUNY offerings across campuses, according to Birden. "There are some real positives to online learning," she said.
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