ASC counselor education online program receives accreditation

(08-28-2009)

In its third year, the Adams State College online counseling masters degree program was recently accredited through the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP).

Dr. Susan Varhely, chair of the counselor education department, said the site visit in November, 2008, was "very positive" and the accreditation team was "incredibly complimentary" and impressed with the online program. "They said we are leaders in online delivery for counselor education."

According to the website http://www.cacrep.org/, CACREP is an independent agency recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation to accredit master's degree programs in career counseling, college counseling, community counseling, gerontological counseling, marital, couple, and family counseling/therapy, mental health counseling, school counseling, student affairs, doctoral degree programs, and counselor education and supervision.

The seven-semester program offers all classes online combined with an intensive week on campus each summer. According Varhely, the accreditation committee recommended the program be known as an Online Plus Program, "The time spent on campus is an important aspect of the program."

Dr. Don Basse, professor of counselor education and manager of the program, has been contracted as a consultant by outside universities. He said: "We believe this in an appropriate method for graduate students to receive their masters in Counselor Education," Basse said. "It has been a natural process from starting with distance education program twenty-five years ago, when the automobile was the only way to teach off campus. As technology has advanced we've changed our program offerings along with it." Assisted by Dr. Laura Bruneau, assistant professor of counselor education, Basse was in charge of the self-study in preparation for the accreditation visit.

Students have applied for the program from as close as Alamosa and as far away as Hawaii, Mexico, Italy and the Middle East. "Receiving degrees online is the wave of the future," Varhely said. "The program fits the needs of spouses/partners of enlisted personnel. Even if they are transferred to another base across the world, the program will not be interrupted."

Graduate student Amber Gaglione lives in Italy where her husband is stationed. "In my eyes, the program is high quality." According to Varhely, the faculty teaching the online classes includes all their own full-time professors as well as adjuncts with doctorates and instructors with extensive clinician experience.

Some courses interact live with the students. Dr. Rex Filer, professor of counselor education uses Wimba, a provider of collaborative learning software applications and services to the education industry. In addition to the real-time online classroom experience, professors use real-time to counsel their students. "The work can become overwhelming," Varhely said. "The students receive a lot of attention from the professors. Online teaching is more flexible but it is more time consuming."

"Because of the email, I can type back-and-forth with my professors and probably receive answers quicker than in a traditional classroom setting," Gaglione said. Students in the program are encouraged to provide feedback. Varhely said she encourages "open door communication" and responds immediately to concerns.

The program graduated their second cohort in the spring of 2009. Even without intensive marketing the program is a popular choice for those looking for a master's in counselor education. This year, three more cohorts were added. "Our next step is to launch a marketing effort to promote the program," Varhely said. "We do not want to become complacent."

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