CSU online horticulture degree shows remarkable growth Email
Tuesday, August 11, 2020 01:00 AM

Online courseThe official launch in fall 2017 for the Colorado State University (CSU) online Bachelor of Science degree in horticulture enrolled 25 students, and the first student graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the online program in fall 2018. As of spring 2020, enrollment in the online program was 102.

In less than three years, online enrollment has grown to 23% of total enrollment in the bachelor’s in horticulture program, including traditional, on-campus students.

Behind-the-scenes prep
Paperwork and preparation for the program began in 2013. CSU has stringent requirements for online degree programs—they need to accomplish identical learning objectives to the traditional on-campus programs (though some on-campus students take online courses).

Jennifer Bousselot, Ph.D., assistant professor, department of horticulture and landscape architecture (HLA) currently teaches in the HLA program. In fact, all classes she instructs are online.

It took time for the program to be set up and approved. “For the department, to approve the online degree program, faculty had to be convinced that the effort to create the program was worth it—meaning enrollment would support it. Preparation also included ensuring development of online classes from not only the HLA department but also from any department with prerequisites or required courses for the horticulture BS degree,” says Bousselot.

In addition, the university had to be convinced that instructors could effectively teach hands-on skills without having the labs and facilities which are on-campus for traditional students. To accomplish learning objectives for labs, kits were designed for online students that they are required to buy from the bookstore.

“In effect, the students create ‘labs’ in their own homes using the kits to learn about propagation, photosynthesis, plant hormones and more. They collect and submit data as required for the course,” Bousselot adds.

Several required courses contributing to degree requirements are offered through other departments. For those with labs, kits have been developed for courses offered through departments such as soil science, botany and zoology.

Degree completion is doable and affordable
A large part of the success of CSU’s online degree program is based on its partnership with Front Range Community College (FRCC). Students enrolled in the online bachelor’s program come with credits, many with an associate degree from FRCC. An agreement between FRCC and CSU allows the FRCC associates degree in applied science to be counted as two years toward CSU’s bachelor’s degree. This means students pay lower tuition at FRCC for the early courses and can transfer credits to CSU to complete their degree.

A flexible way to earn a degree
Most online students work and/or care for others and appreciate the flexibility of pacing their classes to align with the rest of their commitments. The good news is there is no time requirement to complete the degree as long as a student stays enrolled in at least one course.

On the other hand, since classes are accessible year-round, the opportunity to complete the degree more quickly is a viable option.

Prospective students should be aware that some employers and municipalities will pay or reimburse employees for up to 6 credits per semester toward employee development. And employees may even see a pay increase or promotion when they have completed their degree!

This article appeared in the July/August 2020 issue of Colorado Green.

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