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Interview with Dr. James Smith of Louisiana Tech University

Here’s a highly informative interview with Dr. James Smith.  Dr. Smith is the Louisiana Tech University Director of Continuing Education, and Global_Campus and eLearning Interim Director.  We discuss the unique educational opportunities for distance learners offered by the university. 

Paul: How long has Louisiana Tech University offered online classes?

Dr. Smith: Dr. Dennis Minor, now deceased, offered the first online course at Louisiana Tech University in 1995. It was in technical writing. Tech is by no means new to technical writing online.

Paul: Could you please tell us what prompted Louisiana Tech University to establish a Global Campus?

Dr. Smith: The rural nature of our setting, the long distances from the university itself, the need to offer professional development opportunities for a largely rural population, continuing involvement with military personnel seeking certifications and degrees, and the ability to serve an increasingly diverse population of non-traditional students.

Paul: Colleges and universities employ various web portals like Blackboard, WebCT, or Moodle for delivering coursework to distance learners. For online courses, what is Louisiana Tech University using for its online courses?

Dr. Smith: Blackboard.

Paul: I’ve noticed that classes on the university calendar are arranged on a quarterly basis, but semester hours are awarded. Can you please elaborate on how this works?

Dr. Smith: Several decades ago, Louisiana Tech was requested by its governing board to pilot a quarter system that retained semester hour credits. This arrangement was a huge success with students and has continued through today. This system arranges course meeting times into segments equivalent of semester hours, usually around 45 clock hours of direct instruction per 3 semester hours credit.

Paul: In my opinion, Louisiana Tech University offers distance learners a truly outstanding selection of health information administration/management degree programs. Aside from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, what other organizations accredit these programs?

Dr. Smith: Our health information programs have maintained continuous accreditation for almost 3 decades. The Bachelor’s degree program is one of the only programs on the LaTech campus to receive academic commendation from the LA Board of Regents. The programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Health Informatics and Information Management (CAHIIM).

Paul: Could a student who earned the Associate of Science in Health Information Technology from Louisiana Tech University apply credits from that associate’s degree towards the Bachelor of Science in Health Information Administration that is also taught by the university?

Dr. Smith: Yes. We have a progression program designed to assist students in doing just that! The program is designed to meet the needs of our current students, our returning graduates, and the needs of students graduating from the 270 accredited associate degree programs nationally.

Paul: How long have the health information and technical writing programs been offered online by Louisiana Tech University?

Dr. Smith: The electronic graduate certificate in technical writing has been available since 2005. It was first funded by a 2004 Board of Regents SELECT Grant.

Paul: Have you received any feedback from graduates of these programs?

Dr. Smith: Quotes from a student in the graduate e-cert program in technical writing:
” Even with a degree and 20 years of experience in technical communication, I saw benefits from the very first course. The classes include people with a wide range of backgrounds, the instructors encourage discussion and cooperation, and the online format is much more convenient than traditional evening classes.” Bill Randall, New Orleans, LA

Quotes from three students in the health information programs:
 “I waited a long time before deciding on a Master’s degree program. Tech’s program was challenging and rigorous. I selected LA Tech because of the reputation of the undergraduate programs and the faculty. Other Master’s programs included campus visits or didn’t seem to meet my needs.” The faculty were great and they were with me every step of the way.” I felt connected to them. Almost as if I was on campus. It was an easy decision to attend graduation on campus. I’m so thankful that I selected LA Tech.”

“I would have never progressed from the associate degree program to the bachelor’s degree program if the program had not been offered at Louisiana Tech. Upon graduation I reapplied to enter the Master’s degree program. I’m proud to be a Louisiana Tech graduate and I’m proud to be a part of the 1st graduating class of Master’s students. We made history for the profession! Thanks Louisiana Tech!”

“Louisiana Tech made it possible for me to complete my degree and balance work and family. I am a Registered Health Information Administrator now and I owe it all to the ingenuity of the faculty and the university.”

Paul: The Louisiana Tech University Global Campus website mentions a Graduate Certificate in Dynamics of Domestic and Family Violence. Is this program still in development or may prospective students start applying for it now?

Dr. Smith: Student may apply to this program. Information regarding the program is linked on four pages of the Global_Campus website; certificates, adult program, programs, and professional development pages.

Paul: Let’s say for instance that I currently live in Virginia, but am interested in earning the Graduate Certificate in Technical Writing and Communications. How might my location affect me in this case?

Dr. Smith: It should not. You will apply to the graduate school at http://www.latech.edu/graduateschool/ and your information will be processed. If accepted, you will receive a letter, just like anyone else, and your advisor will be the program coordinator, Dr. Tamara Powell in the English Department. She will assist you in registering for courses at a distance and advise you regarding what courses are available for you to take each quarter. When you successfully complete the program, she will verify your accomplishment and put your paperwork through to the registrar. Like most students at Tech, you will register and take care of financial considerations through our B.O.S.S. system. Your textbooks are available online through the Tech bookstore. Like all Tech students, you will have a real person to assist you through every step of the process. Your advisor is simply a phone call or email away.

Paul: How is tuition charged to those students who live outside of Louisiana and take only online classes through Louisiana Tech University? In addition to tuition, are there any other fees charged for online classes?

Dr. Smith: Currently, online students pay no out of state fees (based on number of hours taken each quarter) or additional online fees.

Paul: Can you share with us if Louisiana Tech University has any additional online degree opportunities under consideration other than those currently listed on the website?

Dr. Smith: YES. We are in the process of developing additional courses, programs, and certificates for online delivery.

Paul: Are the online programs taught by Louisiana Tech University eligible for GI Bill reimbursement?

Dr. Smith: Yes. All our online courses have been approved through the VA for application toward degree programs and for GI Bill reimbursement. That is a function of each University’s Veteran’s Affairs Liaison (ours is JuaNita Hinton – jhinton@latech.edu )

Paul: What advice would you have for distance learners who are thinking about applying to Louisiana Tech University?

Dr. Smith: “As a student at the Louisiana Tech University Global_Campus you will be part of one of the finest comprehensive public research universities in the nation. You will find dedicated faculty, staff, and administration who will work with you to achieve your goals for a quality online education without the barriers of time, location, and even without leaving your employment.”