SPARTANBURG, S.C. (courtesy smcsc.edu) — Spartanburg Methodist College has always been committed to providing access to a college education to students from a variety of backgrounds. It is a key principle of the founding mission of Dr. David English Camak, who sought to give the working class a path to better their lives. More than 100 years later, innovating new ways to provide access to more groups of students continues to be a part of the College’s mission.
With that in mind, SMC expanded its digital presence and began offering five new online degree programs beginning in academic year 2021-2022.
“Spartanburg Methodist College has always been a trailblazer when it comes to innovative educational opportunities to serve our student population,” said Dr. Toni Bennett, associate provost for online strategy. “Our goal is to serve our students in the manner they want to learn, whether that is on-ground, online, or a combination of the two.
”Dr. Bennet joined SMC in January 2021 to advance the online degree program, which started with the launch of the online associate degree in criminal justice in March 2018. The expanded program adds associate degrees in arts or business as well as a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration. The Bachelor of Arts provides concentrations in either criminal justice, psychology, or business. The B.A. in Business Administration includes concentrations in accounting and finance, economics and finance, marketing and sales, or management and entrepreneurship.
The online criminal justice program proved popular from the start, with 10 students enrolling in the first spring session and averaging more than 25 students each session since. The program has been praised by its students.
“A representative from SMC came and spoke to our department about the online criminal justice program and the ability to work at my own pace really attracted me,” said Corporal Joseph Kellahan, who completed the online associate degree in criminal justice while working around his schedule as a police officer for the Sumter Police Department. “The online program was awesome.”
With the new offerings, Corporal Kellahan intends to continue his education at SMC, pursuing an online bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
Dr. Bennett said students like Corporal Kellahan are the key audience for online degree programs.
“SMC online degree programs are designed to meet the educational needs of working adults so they can realize their dream of earning a college degree anytime and anywhere,” she said.
Online degree programs have grown in popularity in the past several years. More and more working adults and students with other obligations that don’t afford them the time to take courses on campus are seeking out degrees online. SMC’s program was based on its traditional stackable degree program to provide those students the same opportunities as on-campus students.
SMC’s online program is an online degree pathway, which is a bridge program between the associate degree and a bachelor’s degree. It is designed for students who plan to pursue a bachelor’s degree but also provides students with an associate degree first. This opportunity can give them an advantage at work or even help them find a better job while they pursue their bachelor’s degree.
Constructed to allow students to complete their degree at their own pace and on a schedule that fits around their daily obligations, the program is taught in accelerated eight-week terms, allowing students to earn six credit hours per term. With a full course load, SMC online students are able earn up to 30 credit hours per academic year, allowing them to earn their degree as quickly as a traditional student. Other online programs tend to operate on longer terms, which extends the time it takes to earn a degree.
With the launch of the new online degree programs, SMC looks to expand its reach and provide a college education to more audiences. The new programs were well received, with fall enrollment exceeding the college’s initial goals. Dr. Bennett is focused on continuing the success of the launch and making sure the program quality meets guidelines developed by the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions; however, she also has her sights set on some longer-term goals to expand the program.
“Long-term goals for the program include the expansion of our educational options to include microcredentials that complement our degree programs,” she said of the certifications students can receive when they master certain skills in class. “They provide more value and stackable professional options for our students, including continuing education credits, certificates, and corporate training.
”For now, SMC is focused on making sure that its online degree programs provide the same quality education as the traditional, on-campus experience, which includes the Camak Core professional development courses. This core program provides students training in the soft skills that employers are looking for in new employees. From professional communication to applied technology to team leadership, the Camak Core prepares SMC graduates to be contributing members of their new organization right from the start.
The SMC online degree program provides another way for the College to fulfill its mission of providing a high-quality college education to the students who want to achieve their career and life goals.