Branching out into online degrees

By Elizabeth Coss and Michael Sheehan

Youngstown State University’s Department of Cyberlearning offers various courses, degrees and certificates — entirely online. 

A variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees are available, ranging from nursing, respiratory care, criminal justice, education and more.

Jessica Chill, the director of Cyberlearning, explained that the department has two primary objectives, to support students in fully-online programs and to assist faculty in building online courses.

Chill said the department has come a long way since its inception, as enrollment in online courses and the number of courses available have increased significantly.

“When I started in 2014, I think we maybe had 200 [students] … enrolled in fully online programs and now we’re close to a little over 1500,” Chill said. “We had at that time also maybe around nine programs … we’re up to a little over 30 now.”

The pandemic also affected the department’s enrollment. Chill said the amount of students taking online courses at YSU has tripled since the start of the pandemic.

“Around 10% of our enrollment were in online or hybrid courses pre-pandemic. Post-pandemic, I just checked the numbers for spring, it was around 30% of our enrollments were in online [courses],” Chill said.

Chill said the department is considering expanding to undergraduate-level certificates too.

“We have several — I want to say eight or nine — licensures, certificates. Most of them are grad level … hopefully, we can branch out and do some undergrad level certifications as well,” Chill said.

The department has certificates available for post-graduate students as well. These include certificates for a family nurse practitioner, in nursing education, a superintendent licensure or a principal certificate.

Unlike a traditional degree, the Department of Cyberlearning doesn’t require an individual to be an enrolled student to obtain a certificate.

The department gauges student interest before adding more degree options. One undergraduate degree in the works is graphic design. 

“We actually utilize program evaluation data to look at student demand for specific programs, competitive intensity,” Chill said. “[We consider] the possibility of salary once students graduate, compensation — we want to make sure that’s all valid before we implement a program. I know one that we are currently developing courses for is in graphic design.”

The Department of Cyberlearning has earned numerous Badges of Excellence from a few different organizations.

According to Chill, YSU’s Department of Cyberlearning was highlighted in the top 10 of Best online MBA programs for 2022. The department also received a top-10 online master’s degree in health care management programs in Ohio. 

Other badges include best online master’s criminal justice program and most affordable master’s degree.

If interested in learning more about the Department of Cyberlearning, visit its page on YSU’s website, or contact Jessica Chill at (330) 941-1526.