Success Story - BSU Center for Extended

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Success Story—BSU Center for Extended Learning—Online Experience
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Storytelling, firsthand accounts, and quotes are engaging, memorable, and influential methods of
communication. The following article has been provided to help you tell a more powerful story
about BSU and its strategic initiatives.
You can use the following story or sections of the story verbatim or as an inspiration for your
communication pieces to accurately and consistently convey BSU’s brand. For best results, please
be sure to carefully choose stories that are geared to your specific audience(s).
BSU Office of Communications & Marketing
(218) 755-2041
email address
http://www.bemidjistate.edu/offices/communications_marketing/marketing/toolkit/docs/bsu_stories.
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A few years ago, Gina Drellack was a single mother, struggling to make ends meet on a school paraprofessional’s
wages. Yet this past fall, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty applauded her as a success story in his Fall 2008
State of the State address. That’s because in just 2 1/2 years, she transformed her life and her career by earning a
teaching degree online. Gina achieved this by studying part-time via Bemidji State University’s DLiTE program,
through BSU’s Center for Extended Learning.
DLiTE Stands for “Distributed Learning in Teacher Education,” and it’s a part-time, online teacher licensure
program for elementary and middle school—preparing candidates for grades K-8 certification and meeting all
Minnesota Board of Teaching requirements. BSU also has an online FasTrack teacher licensure program for
secondary and middle school (and several K-12 licenses).
Opening doors to new students
Gina’s story is typical for many of BSU’s online learners. She is part of a growing population of “non-traditional”
students who want to obtain a degree and improve their earning potential or make a career change, but who
typically have children, homes, and jobs that prevent them from becoming full-time students and living on
campus.
If BSU had not offered an online option, Gina, who lives 50 miles from campus, would not have been able to
attend BSU, or any other on-campus program. “For me, personally, online [study] was the only option,” she says.
In fact, approximately 90% of BSU online students live more than 60 miles from campus, and 71% of BSU
FasTrack students work full time.* Gina says the program was ideally designed for a working parent like her.
Rather than quitting work and facing going into debt or even welfare to go to school, Gina says, “I got to keep my
job, and it allowed me to keep my family as a priority…I was furthering my education, bettering myself, and
improving our family situation.”
BSU’s role in a statewide initiative
Helping people like Gina further their education is now seen as a way to improve Minnesota’s workforce and
economic climate. To that end, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty introduced an initiative by the State of
© 2009 Bemidji State University
4-1-2009
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Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities to have 25 percent of all credits generated by
MnSCU institutions come from online course offerings by 2015. Bemidji State University is above the state
average of 9.2 percent, generating approximately 13 percent of its registered credits through online courses.
Creating connections
For many, the notion of online learning conjures up images of an impersonal, diminished learning experience.
However, Gina says the opposite was true. Students in online classes meet face-to-face twice a semester at the
Perpich Center for Learning in the Minneapolis area. For Gina, these meetings helped connect her to her
classmates and facilitated online class discussions. She maintains, “It wasn’t just this blank [discussion] board
where we didn’t know anybody…Being in a cohort, it was the same people all the way through, so you really got
to know each other…and you felt more connected.”
The rest of the BSU online coursework includes all the same elements of a traditional class, only in an online
environment, including lessons, group projects, tests, and class discussions. Being able to contribute fully to
group projects (via Google docs) and class discussions was key for Gina. “You can post messages, and you can
read other people’s messages at your leisure and answer them on your time…you’re simply not pinned down by
the clock at all.”
Preparation for the real world
But what about the all-important classroom training required for an education degree? The DLiTE program
requires students to connect with mentor teachers in their local communities. This gives many BSU online
education students an edge, according to Gina. By already being out in the community, ”We had more experience
in the classroom by the time we got to our student teaching than many on-campus students did.”
Gina was able to parlay her degree into a full-time media specialist position within her school, and says that,
thanks to her BSU degree, “Life is good.” She is impressed with the way BSU’s Center for Extended Learning
staff and DLiTE faculty and administrators worked closely with her throughout her studies, and how the program
includes coursework on job searching.
During her interview process, and since taking her job, Gina has found most people receptive to and interested in
her online education. She’s even become a mentor to students in her school pursuing online courses. “I’m
fortunate to be in a district that embraces the direction that technology is taking education. They’re not afraid of
it…online education, at this point, is a very legitimate avenue, and I believe that more and more people,
administrators, and community members just understand that it is very valid.”
Looking back, the best parts about the online learning experience for Gina were “The independence, while being
part of a group…the ability to let it fit into the rest of my life–I was able to continue with my life, instead of,
‘Stop–do this–and then go back to life.’”
Her advice for prospective online learners? “Take it seriously, keep up with the assignments, make it a priority,
and work it in with the rest of your life.”
About Bemidji State University
Bemidji State University, located in northern Minnesota's lake district, occupies a beautiful campus along the
shore of Lake Bemidji. The University enrolls nearly 5,000 students annually and offerings include more than 65
undergraduate majors and 14 graduate programs encompassing the liberal arts, interdisciplinary studies, and
© 2009 Bemidji State University
4-1-2009
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professional fields. The University is a member of the Minnesota State College and Universities System and has a
faculty and staff of nearly 600. University signature themes include environmental stewardship, civic
engagement, and global/multicultural understanding. For further information about the University, visit our web
site at: http://www.bemidjistate.edu.
*Source: Bemidji State University Survey Results, 2008.
© 2009 Bemidji State University
4-1-2009
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