The Department of Graduate Studies in Education has received university approval for a new doctoral program and now waits for accreditation.
Dr. Donnie Snider, dean of the College of Education and Human Services, Dr. Bruce Scott, chair of the Department of Graduate Studies in Education (GSE), and Dr. Stephen Johnson, dean of the Graduate School, developed a proposal for a doctorate in education in organizational leadership in October which was presented to the Graduate Council in later in the month.
The program will be the second doctorate degree offered through ACU aside from the Doctorate of Divinity offered through the Graduate School of Theology.
“We’re basically a master’s level institution, so to add a second doctorate is a big deal,” Snider said.
After being approved by the Graduate Council, the proposal moved to a full-faculty vote. The result of the vote was 76 percent in favor of the addition.
“Internally, we’ve passed on the operational side and the academic side,” Snider said. “As far as the university is concerned, every step in the process is complete.”
Now, the prospectus of the proposal is in the hands of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
“The last big hurdle for us is SACS, and we’ll get that done,” Snider said. “It just may take time. You don’t hurry SACS.”
Snider and Scott said they allowed three to four months for SACS to review the prospectus in case SACS came back with questions about the prospectus which could delay the process.
“They’ve got 13 states plus anybody that’s international that receive accreditation,” Scott said.
In the mean time, the department has begun meeting to discuss course development and a new learning management system.
“A committee has been formed to find a new learning management system,” Snider said. “They’re in the process of negotiating the cost of the company now. They need an LMS to design the course.”
In previous years, OpenClass and Blackboard have been used as campus-wide learning management systems.
“We will know by the spring semester what platform they can design in,” Snider said.
After the new LMS is announced, course construction will begin.
“We know basically the program will be approximately 60 hours,” Scott said. “There will be some research-based courses, some about organizational leadership and some about an elective cognate the student will choose.”
Faculty within the department are also discussing course expectations and necessities.
“We’ve been meeting together with faculty to come up with what learning outcomes we want from these courses and what textbooks are going to be used,” Scott said.
Despite the ground they have already covered, there is still a ways to go before the program is ready to launch.
“The other big thing they’ve got to work on, too, is on the back end of this which is the dissertation – all the procedures and processes for that and who’s going to handle that,” Snider said.
Another concern will be finding professors to instruct the online courses.
“Ultimately, we’ve got to decide who’s going to teach the courses,” Scott said. “A good percentage of courses will probably be taught by current faculty.”
Snider said if the program expands, though, they will consider hiring adjunct faculty.
“We can handle the course load internally, but if this thing scales out to hundreds and hundreds of students, we’re probably going to have to hire someone,” Snider said. “That’s the good thing about being an online department; we can hire adjuncts from all over the United States and the world. We’re not just limited to just adjuncts in Abilene.”
Though the program will be new, there is plenty of experience behind the proposal.
“We’ve got a lot of experience with this,” Snider said. “We’ve been designing and teaching online for seven years. We’ve been teaching online for almost a decade.”
At the high point, the master’s program contained about 240 students in 37 states, Snider said.
“Will this be a little new with a doctorate, yeah, but content is content and courses are courses,” Snider said.
Snider and Scott hoped the doctorate program would be open by the second session of the spring semester but now anticipate it beginning next fall.