Presenters: Chris Lantz, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs; Nate Miner, Assistant Dean for Finance and Resource Management; Sheri Shaw, Assistant Dean for Student Success; Danielle Eastup, Coordinator of Academic Affairs Operations; Rachael McLoud, Student Success Advisor; Mark Forbes, Student Success Advisor
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The University of North Carolina Wilmington’s (UNCW) College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) has established itself as a state and national leader for serving underserved populations interested in high-demand healthcare professions through its innovative Online, Accelerated Program (OAP). The OAP model delivers select high-quality CHHS degree programs in a flexible carousel model to adult learners, including working professionals, degree completers, military-affiliated students, and others who seek the convenience and accessibility of online degree programs at a highly competitive price point. UNCW’s RN-BSN degree conversion program was the first to be delivered in the OAP format and is now ranked 8th in online bachelor’s programs by the U.S. News & World Report. The model was designed to be scalable to address unmet or underserved needs in the healthcare system; specifically, the portfolio of programs now offered through the OAP has expanded to include Exercise Science, Masters of Science in Nursing (Nurse Educator concentration), and soon the Masters of Healthcare Administration.
The OAP is an integrative platform for campus stakeholders to provide an innovative, three-pronged, support structure including unique business processes, transformational pedagogical practices, and high-touch student support services. Stakeholders include offices of the registrar, student accounts and billing, counseling, financial aid, graduate school, distance education, instructional design, information technology and business management. While all three elements of the OAP program are essential to the program’s success, the student support services structure is truly transformational in online education. The structure is a physical and virtual “one stop shop” designed specifically for the adult, online learner, as a way to reduce barriers to degree attainment. These services provide online students assistance outside normal hours, without the difficulty associated with contacting multiple offices or individuals across a university campus. For working adult learners in demanding careers, this is a value-added component which is priceless as they attempt to fit education into their already busy lives.
Once accepted, students are assigned an advisor who manages individual student needs including, but not limited to, guidance in degree completion, transcript evaluation, submission of substitution/waiver requests, student registration, persistence monitoring/intervention, and notification of important deadlines, program updates, and institutional events. Students also receive a personalized orientation, assistance in accessing academic resources, and online tutoring. Due in large part to the success of the student support structure, programs delivered in the OAP format have achieved an overall student persistence rate of 88%, and a US News “student engagement” score of 96/100 and a 5th overall ranking for its innovative support of online students. More importantly, the OAP has transformed accessibility to higher education for adult learners while enhancing the overall quality of patient care in North Carolina. Since its inception in 2012, UNCW’s OAP has helped over 1,200 working professionals achieve their goal of obtaining a college degree, with over 1,500 students actively pursuing their degree today.