The University of Missouri’s commitment to distance learners has been reinforced by three more awards for MU’s achievements in online education.

Each year, the Association for Distance Education and Independent Learning (ADEIL) presents a number of awards recognizing excellence in various aspects of distance education and independent learning. MU has garnered three out of four of this year’s awards.

College-Level Course Award

Department of Religious Studies instructor Kate Kelley received the outstanding new college-level credit course award for Religion in Science Fiction (REL_ST 3451W).

Learners in the course engage with literary and filmic science fiction while building a writing portfolio. The course lets students explore the type of science fiction that captures their interest, boosting their intrinsic motivation to dive into the material, write and learn.

Kelley developed and teaches the class. Other contributors to the course are Jerod Quinn, instructional designer; Kay Nullmeyer, instructional developer; and Brad Mitchell, multimedia producer.

Excellence in Support Service Award

Mizzou Online instructional designer Julie Shults received the Excellence in Support Service Award for her outstanding contribution in course development. Shults works in partnership with instructors to develop and revise courses and internships that are pedagogically sound and help students succeed. 

Research Award

Mizzou Online Assistant Director for Research Terrie Nagel earned the ADEIL Research Award for her study, “Academic Achievement and Persistence in Online Self-Paced Courses.”

For her research, Nagel analyzed 11,829 records of students who took self-paced online courses at MU during the 2014–15 academic year.

Nagel ran dozens of multilevel models to understand how students’ gender, academic level, enrollment time and completion time related to their academic achievement and persistence.

The study previously earned Nagel the Winemiller Excellence Award from the Trulaske College of Business at MU.

The ADEIL awards were presented at the 2017 World Conference on Online Learning: Teaching in a Digital Age, Oct. 17-19 in Toronto.

“Terrie, Julie and Kate make all of us at Mizzou Online extremely proud,” said Mizzou Online Director Kim Siegenthaler. “These achievements reflect the commitment to the success of Mizzou’s distance students that our entire staff shares.”

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REL_ST 3451 - W Religion in Science Fiction (Writing Intensive)

Keep at it: Persistence is key to success with self-paced online courses

Online instructor earns book award for Lloyd Gaines history

The University of Missouri is working to help special education teachers apply evidence-based practice to better serve learners with cross-categorical disabilities.

The Department of Special Education in the MU College of Education is now offering a master of arts degree in general special education completely online.

No campus visits are required. Teachers, specialists and other educators can pursue their degrees, as they continue to work full time.

Erica Lembke

The program, one of the first of its kind in Missouri, takes a nuanced approach to special education. “One size does not fit all,” said Erica Lembke, chair of the Department of Special Education. “Students may have a combination of cognitive, emotional and learning disabilities – what we call cross-categorical disabilities.”

Lembke said the new degree program is research intensive. “It will give paraeducators, interventionists, school administrators and other educators a firm grasp of the latest research and show them how to use the best practices that school districts need to adopt,” she said.

Positive behavior intervention supports

One such evidence-based practice is positive behavior intervention supports (PBIS), which helps educators prevent inappropriate behavior by teaching and reinforcing appropriate behavior.

Another best practice in special education is multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS), a process whereby teachers respond to an individual student’s performance with the most appropriate intervention for that student.

The online general special education master of arts option adds to the College of Education’s online master’s offerings in the field of special education, which cover gifted education, autism education, early childhood and autism, and early childhood special education.

“Special education is a critical field of study and there is an incredible demand for qualified special educators,” said MU College of Education’s Kathryn Chval, who is the Joanne H. Hook Dean’s Chair in Education Renewal. “This master’s degree will help equip educators to use research-based interventions and strategies so that they will have a tremendous impact on children, families, schools, and communities.”

Earn your degree in three years

Successful completion of the program requires 33 credit hours. Students can take one or two classes each semester, including summers, and finish their degree in two to three years.

The program is accepting applications until October 1 for classes that begin in January. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution. GRE scores also are required.

Learn more about the online master’s degree in general special education.

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The University of Missouri is working to increase the number of researchers who use a patient-centered and community-engaged approach to their work by launching a new online graduate certificate in participatory health research.

"When researchers, community members, social welfare experts and health care administrators work as partners to conduct research projects, there is an increase in meaningful change and forward progress," said Maithe Enriquez, MU Sinclair School of Nursing associate professor.

"Former U.S. Surgeon General David Stacher has said that this type of research methodology holds the key for getting to the root cause of health disparities," Enriquez said.

The new online graduate certificate in participatory health research will create more health care professionals who are able to not only improve outcomes in their clinical settings, but also influence health care policy, Enriquez said.

In-demand skills

The 15-credit-hour program is designed for professionals in social work, nursing and public health who want to acquire research skills to expand and grow their careers.

 Students in the online program will apply research methodologies that health care systems and health research institutions value most:

  • Community-based participatory research (CBPR) – a partnership approach to research in which various stakeholders contribute expertise and share decision-making.
  • Patient-centered outcomes research (PCOR) – a methodology that involves health care consumers and caregivers, helping them communicate and make informed health care decisions together.
  • Clinical effectiveness research (CER) – the direct comparison of health care interventions to determine which work best for which patients.

Enriquez said the graduate certificate can be taken in addition to a student’s current graduate program of study in medicine, public health, nursing, social work or other areas. In-service professionals who seek to enhance their skills also can enroll in the certificate program.

“Students are going to pick up valuable skills and expertise in community-based, patient-centered and clinical effectiveness research,” she said. “They also can grow their professional networks while continuing their education, which is something all licensed health care professionals are required to do.”

Four MU academic units are working together to offer the course work for this online graduate certificate: the School of Medicine’s Department of Family and Community Medicine, the School of Social Work, the School of Health Professions and the Sinclair School of Nursing.

Academic requirements

MU is now accepting applications for the online graduate certificate in participatory health. All course work is 100-percent online: no campus visits are required. Students who take two classes each semester can finish the 15-credit hour program in one year.

Applicants must have completed a bachelor’s degree to be admitted to the program. GRE scores are not required for application. Apply by July 15 to begin course work in the fall semester, which starts August 21.

Learn more about the online graduate certificate in participatory health research and how to apply

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Most people who have attended the University of Missouri are familiar with the Gaines Oldham Black Culture Center or have heard of Lloyd Gaines, the first African-American to apply to the MU law school, which denied his application.

Until now, however, few have been aware of the legal battles Gaines and the NAACP waged to guarantee equal rights decades before the civil rights movement gained steam.

Earlier this year MU political science professors Bill Horner and James Endersby received the 2017 Book Award from the Missouri Conference on History for their book, Lloyd Gaines and the Fight to End Segregation.

Published by the University of Missouri Press, the book is the first to focus entirely on the Gaines case (Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada) and the vital role played by the NAACP and its lawyers. The authors position the Gaines case as the first in a long line of decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding race, higher education and equal opportunity.

Read the full story here: Book Details Legal Struggles of Lloyd Gaines

In addition to being an author, Horner is the director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Political Science. In his capacity as a teaching professor, he teaches three self-paced online courses:

POL_SC 1100 American Government covers the Constitution, civil liberties and voting behavior, among other topics. POL_SC 1100 fulfills the state law constitution requirement at MU.

POL_SC 4120 Politics and the Media looks at the role of mass media in the political process, primarily the politics of media control, political news and advertising, and the effects of information on election campaigns, political institutions and policymaking. POL_SC 4120W is writing intensive.

POL_SC 4150 The American Presidency examines the evolution of the presidency, with particular emphasis on constitutional and political roles played by chief executives in shaping public policy.

You can enroll in these and other self-paced courses for the summer (until July 10) or fall semester either as an undergraduate or post-baccalaureate student.

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If you want to help individuals, families and communities access education and other shared resources, consider an online degree in the growing field of family and community services.

Family and community services professionals work with children, youth, adults and families in social service agencies, educational settings and faith-based institutions, as well as military support agencies.

The University of Missouri offers an excellent online master’s in family and community services that helps students understand family, interpersonal and community dynamics so they can deliver services and manage resources effectively.

Ashlie Lester

We’re especially proud of program faculty members like Ashlie Lester, assistant teaching professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Human Development and Family Science.

Lester recently received a Faculty Excellence Award from the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance. The award recognizes Lester’s leadership in redesigning a key graduate-level course, Foundations and Principles of Family and Community Services.

The course is one of the first classes students take in the family and community service master’s. It provides an introduction to the field of family studies as well as related professions that involve working with individuals and families in communities.

If you have a bachelor’s degree in social and behavioral sciences and want to work with children, youth, adults and families in community agency settings, the family and community service online master’s may be the degree for you. Apply by July 1 for fall admission.

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Mizzou educators receive awards for online course design, Wednesday, May 17, 2017, in Columbia, Missouri, from Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies Jim Spain and Mizzou Online Director Kim Siegenthaler. From left: Spain; Carmen Beck, ET@MO instructional designer; Steve Ball, Nutrition and Exercise Physiology associate professor; and Siegenthaler.

More than 40 percent of Mizzou students took at least one online class as part of their schedules in academic year 2016. That percent is expected to grow at Mizzou and at universities nationwide in the coming year. Related to the increase in adoption of online learning is a growing focus on quality and outcomes in online learning.

To that end, MU recognized this week two members of the University of Missouri community for their efforts in designing high-quality online courses.

The awards were presented May 17 as part of MU’s annual Celebration of Teaching, at which the Mizzou community comes together to recognize educators for their unique approaches to teaching.

This year’s awards for Outstanding Online Course Design went to Steve Ball and Carmen L. Beck.

“The dedication and creativity demonstrated by Mizzou’s faculty and instructional designers in both in-class and online courses is unmatched,” said Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies Jim Spain. “Successful learning outcomes for our students is our focus regardless of how the class is delivered.”

“It is a privilege to work with educators like Carmen and Steve,” Spain said. “Their enthusiasm and innovative thinking — and that of so many others here at Mizzou — help us provide all Missourians the benefits of a world-class research university. We could not fulfill our mission without them.”  

Ball is a State Specialist and Associate Professor of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology in the College of Human Environmental Sciences. His award recognizes his work in designing the online course Introduction to Exercise and Fitness.

Carla Beckmann, Senior Coordinator of Student Services and Records in the College of Human Environmental Sciences, nominated Ball for the honor. “It was and is very important to Dr. Ball that the presentation of online sections be appealing, meaningful and relevant to the students enrolled in the sections while giving the student the feeling of a classroom experience,” Beckmann wrote.

“Dr. Ball’s commitment to providing a learning environment to students is evident by the care he takes in creating the best possible online course. He accomplishes this by using technology with a personal touch,” she wrote.

The second course design award recipient, Beck, is an instructional designer at ET@MO. Her award acknowledges her work on the online course Introduction to Materials Engineering, which Beck designed alongside Angela Jeffrey.

Beck was nominated by Assistant Professor Heather Hunt in the Department of Bioengineering, who teaches the course.

Hunt noted that, by working on the course design with Beck, she “learned so much about best practices in educational technology, as well as teaching in general. … I became a better teacher, a better listener, and a better self-evaluator, because of [Beck’s] work.”

The awards are sponsored by Mizzou Online, which is dedicated to supporting distance students and expanding distance education at MU.

Mizzou Online Director Kim Siegenthaler thanked Ball and Beck for their outstanding contributions to MU. “We recently celebrated the commencement of more than 500 MU students who earned their degrees online,” she said. “That outcome is allowing more than 500 people to move ahead in their lives and careers thanks to online learning, and thanks to exceptional educators like Carmen and Steve.”

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Robin Harris

Even heroes have heroes. In the Sinclair School of Nursing, one woman many look up to is Robin C. Harris, assistant teaching professor and director of the Sinclair doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program.

Harris recently received the Graduate Professional Council Gold Chalk Award for Excellence in Teaching. You can read about all the awards here: Best of the best.

This award is the most recent of many for Harris. In recent years, she has been nominated for the Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching, selected for the Greater Missouri Leadership Challenge, and presented with the Central Region Excellence Award from the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA).

Harris’ achievements reflect the excellence of the Sinclair School’s DNP program. The DNP also is accessible online, so practicing nurses can earn their doctorates while fulfilling their clinical responsibilities.

Students can choose from six areas of study:

  • Adult-gerontology clinical nurse specialist
  • Family nurse practitioner
  • Family psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner
  • Nursing leadership and innovations in health care
  • Pediatric clinical nurse specialist
  • Pediatric nurse practitioner

If you’re a nurse-hero and want to learn from one of the very best in the business, look into an online DNP from the Sinclair School of Nursing today.

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Commencement ceremonies at the University of Missouri this weekend, May 12–14, celebrate the achievements of Mizzou’s new graduates. They also acknowledge the dedication and perseverance of graduates, including those who have earned online degrees and certificates from MU.

Christine Mathews

“Each one of us made the choice and sacrifices necessary to carve out special time to refocus our minds on higher order thinking and concepts,” says online graduate Christine Mathews, execMBA ’17. “We were constantly testing our thinking and the management of our most precious resource — our time.”

Mathews’ remarks are part of MU’s May online commencement celebration. In her address, Mathews encourages her fellow graduates to preserve the fortitude that carried them through their online studies.

“If each of us rethinks our structuring of resources a little bit, we can find a way to maintain an attitude of lifelong learning, weaving that into our life balance going forward,” she says. 

Spring commencement honors roughly 5,400 Tigers graduating in the spring or summer ’17 semesters. More than 500 of them have earned online college degrees or certificates. Roughly 72 percent of those online graduates are receiving master’s or educational specialist degrees or doctorates; 20 percent are receiving bachelor’s degrees; 8 percent, graduate certificates.

Members of Mizzou’s online class of ’17 live throughout the United States and as far away as Korea. They range in age from 21 to 66.

Dean Kristofer Hagglund of the School of Health Professions also delivers a commencement address as part of Mizzou Online’s virtual commencement ceremony. In his remarks, he joins Mathews in thanking family members and friends for the support they gave their graduates.

“It’s important that the family and friends understand that being a distance student is not easy. It takes commitment and time away from things that matter,” Hagglund says. “We consider our graduates’ family and friends part of the Mizzou family as well, because together we reached this important day.”

Mizzou Online Director Kim Siegenthaler praises the graduates and echoed Mathews’ gratitude to the MU community. “MU professors, advisers, staff and so many other people are dedicated to ensuring that distance students experience the same quality educational experience as students on campus,” Siegenthaler says. “And it’s a treat for us, as faculty and staff, to get to work with distance students who are often midcareer and have such different viewpoints to share in classes.”

Mathews’ and Hagglund’s graduation season remarks appear on Graduates can use the site to share photos, and their friends and families can write congratulatory notes in the online guest book.

For more information about the on-campus graduation ceremonies, please visit the Registrar’s commencement page at

Researchers at the University of Missouri are helping land managers understand how to use controlled fires to reach forest management objectives.

Benjamin Knapp

In a new MU study, published in Forest Ecology and Management, MU researcher Benjamin Knapp examined forest fire data collected since 1949 from the University Forest Conservation Area in southeast Missouri. The data showed how varying frequencies of controlled burns resulted in different forest structures.

Read more about the study here: Prescribed forest fire frequency should be based on land management goals

MU has always sought to provide accessible educational opportunities. One way it does so is through the online delivery of courses and programs like the master’s degree and graduate certificate in agroforestry.

These graduate study programs from the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources can help you advance your career in the rapidly expanding and globally acclaimed field of agroforestry.

Graduates of the online programs can go on to help landowners diversify their income, improve soil quality and increase biodiversity.

If you want to advance your career in agriculture, food science, conservation, forestry or geoscience, look into MU’s online master’s degree in agroforestry and online graduate certificate in agroforestry.

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Terrie Nagel

Persistence and steady progress are the keys to success in self-paced learning, according to a recent study by Mizzou Online Assistant Director for Research Terrie Nagel.

The study, titled “Academic achievement and persistence in online self-paced courses,” has earned Nagel the Winemiller Excellence Award.

The Trulaske College of Business at the University of Missouri presents the award annually to MU students, faculty and staff who demonstrate outstanding data-based quantitative reasoning.

Original studies like Nagel’s represent one more way Mizzou Online helps distance learners succeed.

For her research, Nagel analyzed 11,829 records of students who took self-paced online courses at MU during the 2014–15 academic year.

Nagel ran dozens of multilevel models to understand how students’ gender, academic level, enrollment time and completion time related to their academic achievement and persistence.

“All of us at Mizzou Online are proud of Terrie’s well-deserved award,” said Mizzou Online Director Kim Siegenthaler. “The entire staff here is committed to the success of Mizzou’s distance students.”