Independent college search website thebestschools.org chose the top online program in each state; Mizzou was selected as the best online institution in Missouri.

The website's editors indicate their selection was based on a combination of academic excellence, faculty strength, reputation, awards and the number of online degree programs offered. The group previously listed Mizzou among the 30 Best Online Colleges for 2014 when additional criteria, such as teaching methods and tuition were factored in.

"Providing access to Mizzou for those who can't relocate to the Columbia campus is integral to our land-grant mission," said Kim Siegenthaler, Mizzou Online director. "Faculty in Mizzou's schools and colleges are actively working to develop courses and degrees that meet the growing demand for high quality, well-respected online education."

Sarah Smith-Frigerio, graduate adviser for four distance master's programs in journalism, won the Excellence in Teaching with Technology Award for staff support. She also teaches in the program.

"Sarah has the aptitude to inspire, guide and mentor students through independent and creative thinking. She serves as a mentor, collaborator and consultant to other faculty and teaching assistants by helping to enrich the scholarship of teaching and learning," says Melissa Ingram, Mizzou Online senior program coordinator, who nominated Frigerio-Smith for her ability to engage students both in and out of the classroom. "She is a positive example for faculty and staff across campus to help them cultivate an approach to using technology to enhance teaching and improve student learning."

Smith-Frigerio oversees the advising for MU's online master's of arts journalism degree programs in health communication, interactive media, strategic communication and media management.

The university's annual Excellence in Teaching with Technology Awards recognize the extraordinary efforts of faculty, staff, teaching assistants and graduate instructors involved in using educational technologies to meaningfully improve teaching and learning at Mizzou.

All 2014 Excellence in Teaching with Technology Awards recipients include:

  • Graduate/Professional Teaching Award — Marilyn James-Kracke, Department of Medical Pharmacology & Physiology, School of Medicine
  • Undergraduate Teaching Award — Sarah Bush, Division of Biological Sciences, College of Arts & Science
  • Graduate Instructor/Teaching Assistant Award — Jessica Klockow, Department of Chemistry, College of Arts & Science
  • Staff Support Award — Sarah Smith-Frigerio, Graduate Program, School of Journalism

A celebration luncheon for the winners and members of the award selection committee will be scheduled later this fall.

As the new academic year started at the University of Missouri on Aug. 25, Mizzou's students — on-campus and distance alike — once again created record first-day enrollment figures.

With 90-plus online degree offerings to choose from, 2,245 distance students currently are working toward certificates and bachelor's, master's, educational specialist and doctoral degrees. In addition, 5,793 MU students already are enrolled in one or more of the 994 classes offered through Mizzou Online (nearly 800 of which are taught completely online).

Read more about Mizzou’s record numbers of first-day enrollments for the 2014-15 academic year.

Ranking more than just the prices of tuition, Edudemic.com recently compiled a list of the most affordable online colleges in the United States, taking into account both cost and quality, among other indicators. Each school was then stack-ranked by the sum of the weighted scores. The University of Missouri ranked No. 8, with a total ranking score of 686.

The organization started with the U.S. News and World Report "2014 Best Online Bachelor's Programs" list (in which Mizzou ranked No. 48 out of 209 schools listed in the results and then re-analyzed that pre-filtered group of schools by assigning a score to each school, using the following "major factors of affordability":

  1. retention rate: the percentage of freshmen that continue on to sophomore year
  2. graduation rate: the percentage of freshmen that acquire a diploma in a designated period of time
  3. resident (in state) price score: a measure of the relative price per credit hour of education for an in-state student
  4. nonresident (out of state) price score: a measure of the relative price per credit hour of education for an out of state student
  5. breadth of offering score: a measure of the relative number of degree programs offered by the school

For more information about the Edudemic rankings, visit the group's "The Truth About Cheap Online Colleges & Affordable Online Schools" write-up.

The University of Missouri's College of Education is now accepting applications for three new online programs: a graduate certificate in positive psychology, an M Ed in English education and an M Ed in mathematics education.

"Our goal is to offer curricula in unique and meaningful ways that improve teaching and leadership," said Daniel L. Clay, dean of the College of Education. "Providing access to more online graduate programs enables students at all levels to advance."

Positive Psychology Certificate
The 15-credit-hour graduate certificate in positive psychology is a personal and professional development course series focused on the science of well-being and flourishing, which aims to enhance the effectiveness of people in helping professions, leaders in business and government, and those transitioning careers.

"We are excited to have built one of the first education credentials stemming from the field of Positive Psychology," said Cory Elfrink, adjunct instructor in the Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology. "The track will enhance the capability and marketability of professionals involved with life/career coaching, teaching, managing, organizational consulting and more."

Applicants should submit their materials as soon as possible in order to be ready for classes that begin Aug. 25. The GRE is not required for this graduate certificate.

English Education M Ed
The master of education in learning, teaching and curriculum with an emphasis in English education is intended for certified teachers who focus on writing, language arts, media, reading or literature.

The online graduate degree also can be used by professionals in other industries. "The program will help people in several types of careers, such as professional editing, corporate training, public relations or technical writing positions," said Roy Fox, faculty coordinator.

Admission applications are due Oct. 1, and classes begin January 2015. The GRE is required for admission.

Mathematics Education M Ed
Certified mathematics teachers who want to advance their knowledge and careers can now earn a master’s degree in mathematics education completely online from the Department of Learning, Teaching and Curriculum.

"The program can be tailored to any grade level," said Sam Otten, faculty coordinator. "Each student will have their own advisory committee to help plan courses that meet their individual goals, such as focusing on equity and diversity in mathematics education or teaching math with technology."

Admission applications are due Oct. 1, and classes begin January 2015. The GRE is required for admission.

Online graduate students pay in-state tuition regardless of where they live.

For more information about these and other online graduate degrees and certificates from Mizzou’s College of Education, visit online.missouri.edu/ed-degrees.

In today's ever-growing, online-educated job candidate pool, Mizzou is setting its distance graduates apart by equipping them better as students, with more access to mainstream-campus programs and resources, as the Columbia Business Times discusses in its July 24 "Degrees from a Distance" online feature.

Mizzou tied for the No. 18 spot out of 69 programs rated nationwide as offering the "Best Online Bachelor's Programs for Veterans," in the 2014 U.S. News and World Report Best Online Programs for Veterans rankings, released on May 20. In addition, Mizzou ranked No. 19 of 21 schools considered to have the "Best Online Nursing Programs for Veterans" and No. 36 of 44 in "Best Online Education Programs for Veterans."

Now in its second year, the organization's annual rankings for online education programs geared best towards meeting veterans' needs covers online bachelor's degree programs, as well as online graduate degree programs in business, computer information technology , education, engineering and nursing.

"MU was one of the first schools in the nation to create a full-service, one-stop shop to help our veterans transition from the military to academics," says Carol Fleisher, director of the MU Veterans Center. "Whether they're studying with us abroad, at their homes or on our campus, MU cares about our student veterans, and we're honored by their commitment to pursuing their education with us. They bring tradition, focus, experience and a positive attitude that complements MU's core values. So we are intent in making their academic careers successful."

In 2008, Mizzou became one of only four universities in the nation to have a dedicated Veterans Center. The center facilitates MU's student veterans transitioning in to academia from active-duty or retired military. "MU has provided distance education to non-traditional students for more than a century and was an early adopter of online learning," says Kim Siegenthaler, director of Mizzou Online. "Since the University offered its first online course in 1997, Mizzou has worked to bring more educational options to our country's veterans, especially those who simply cannot be on any campus to attend class. In just the past year alone, we've launched three new online bachelor's programs that are particularly well-suited for students with various military backgrounds, and MU will continue to develop online degrees and certificates that fit veterans' career interests, experience and training."

According to the U.S. News website, there are several reasons why institutions providing online education programs rank differently when it comes to a military audience. (See Why U.S. News and World reports ranks schools for veterans.) "Like other students, veterans and active-duty service members gain most from distance education that is affordable, accessible and reputable. The 2014 Best Online Programs for Veterans rankings measure these factors in consideration of benefits available specifically to people with military experience."

To be considered academically qualified for the veterans ranking, regionally accredited schools not only had to already have performed well enough on a multitude of factors to be counted in the 2014 Best Online Programs ranking, but they also had to meet four federal benefit criteria, which are significantly important to the military community. Then, based on its overarching "2014 Best Online Programs" position among the corresponding disciplines, U.S. News further ranked each veterans-friendly program numerically in descending order. Less than 20 percent (197 out of 998) of the online degree programs that reported data to U.S. News about veterans benefits currently offered for distance education programs are included in the "2014 Best Online Programs for Veterans" rankings. Only two other Missouri schools made the rankings for bachelor's programs, both private institutions.

For more detailed explanation of the U.S. News Best Online Veterans Programs rankings, see the organization's methodologies section. For more information about the MU Veterans Center and its services, visit http://veterans.missouri.edu/.

Nearly 250 online students are joining this week the 274,000 living alumni who proudly count themselves graduates of the University of Missouri. Mizzou’s spring 2014 online commencement ceremony celebrates the accomplishments of those students who have completed their education at a distance.

“These graduates all have exhibited tremendous commitment to achieve their degrees, especially as many have had to juggle hours of course work with full-time jobs, family and other commitments," says Kim Siegenthaler, Mizzou Online director. "We created the online ceremony to honor these students who have made their education a priority despite the challenges. And we hope that the graduates will forward the commencement link to their supporters so that many of their friends and families can also celebrate this life accomplishment."

This semester’s online graduates range in age from 22 to 59 and come from 28 states and China. 150 of the graduates are from Missouri.

The online ceremony consists of video remarks from campus officials, much like the on-campus commencement exercises taking place this week. The virtual graduation experience features speeches by several campus leaders, including Mizzou’s new Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, Vice Provost for e-Learning Jim Spain and Vice Chancellor for Graduate Studies Leona Rubin.

At the site, well-wishers can leave congratulatory notes for individuals or groups of online graduates in the guest book, visitors can read inspiring messages written by others, and graduating students can even post pictures of themselves in the photo gallery.

Friends, families and supporters of MU: Congratulate the graduates by posting in the guest book.

For more information about the on-campus graduation ceremonies please visit the Registrar's commencement page.

Kim Siegenthaler has been named director of Mizzou Online, after serving as interim co-director for the last three years. Siegenthaler has held primary administrative responsibility for program coordination and marketing units in her interim position and played a major role in the merger of MU Direct, the Center for Distance and Independent Study and Extension Marketing to create Mizzou Online in 2011.

"It is an exciting time to work in distance education and at Mizzou," Siegenthaler said. "I feel privileged to lead Mizzou Online as we continue to enhance the support we provide distance programs and students."

In the past three years, Siegenthaler coordinated a collaborative effort to establish new policies and procedures for identifying, tracking and enrolling distance students; assessing tuition and fees; and reporting on distance students and programs to internal and external audiences. She also formed the Mizzou Online Recruit, Engage and Retain Team to focus on distance students.

"Distance education at Mizzou has come a long way in recent years," Siegenthaler said. "Numerous offices around campus have supported efforts to mainstream distance education into the University and many academic units have launched new distance programs. I look forward to continuing the momentum we are experiencing."

Prior to her stint as interim co-director, Siegenthaler spent one year as assistant director of MU Direct.

"We are excited to have Kim lead Mizzou Online," said Jim Spain, vice provost for undergraduate studies and e-Learning. "She has been a valuable contributor as we have transformed distance education at MU. We are appreciative for the leadership she has already provided and anticipate great things ahead for Mizzou Online."

Offering more than 90 University of Missouri graduate and undergraduate degrees and certificate options, Mizzou Online has seen significant growth in enrollment, along with an increase in degree programs offerings in the past three years. Recently, Mizzou Online was recognized with the Strategic Innovation in Online Education Award from the University Professional and Continuing Education Association.

"The search committee screened more than 30 great candidates from private and public institutions all across the nation," said Leona Rubin, associate vice chancellor for graduate studies and co-chair of the search committee. "Ultimately, we selected five outstanding candidates to interview on campus and meet with campus stakeholders. After very thorough evaluation and feedback from all stakeholders, the committee overwhelmingly felt that Kim was the best fit for Mizzou and the best candidate for the task of leading Mizzou Online into the future."

Before coming to MU, Siegenthaler spent seven years as the director of continuing education and alumni relations at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, where she directed the development, delivery and evaluation of a variety of online and on-site continuing education offerings.

Prior to that, Siegenthaler was a faculty member at Appalachian State University for eight years and at Texas State University for four years. She served as academic program director for three years at both Appalachian State and Texas State, with additional responsibilities related to curriculum development, program development, recruitment and program accreditation.

Siegenthaler holds a bachelor's degree from Baylor University, a master's degree from the University of Oklahoma and a doctorate from the University of New Mexico. She also holds a Master's of Divinity from Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond.

Lawrence H. Ganong, University of Missouri professor and co-chair of MU's Human Development and Family Studies department, was awarded the 2014 Friend of the Great Plains IDEA Award. Ganong, along with Maurice MacDonald, of Kansas State University, received the award for guiding a new online program and inspiring faculty commitment to human science degrees of the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (Great Plains IDEA). The honor came at the Great Plains IDEA annual meeting April 7, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo.

The two men have worked together and led department chairs involving three inter-institutional human sciences programs of the Great Plains IDEA: Youth Development, Family Financial Planning and — a new offering — Family and Community Services.

"Ganong and MacDonald have managed to lead with a sense of mission and dose of humor that has contributed greatly to the recent success and growth of the entire GPIDEA," said Charlotte Shoup Olsen, Kansas State University faculty teaching for the alliance Youth Development program.

Oklahoma State University faculty Glade Topham, who participates in alliance Family and Community Services programming, said: "Larry and Morey brought experience and wisdom to the process that quickly earned the respect of team members. …Both men are self-effacing, unassuming and gentle and effectively utilized humor throughout the process. These characteristics allowed them to prevent and quickly diffuse tension on challenging issues while bringing the group to unanimous agreement on the important issues."

The University of Missouri participates in four of the eight Great Plains IDEA human sciences programs and four of the 10 agriculture programs. There are 20 member institutions in Great Plains IDEA. Students enroll in one alliance university as a home institution. Students then take online courses from any of the universities in the alliance offering their program of study.

For more information about the award, contact Carol Gould, executive director Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance at cgould@ksu.edu, or 785-532-6848.