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Accredited Online Graduate Program Gives School Leaders a Professional Edge

Northcentral University School of Education marries convenience and academic rigor for administrator pursuing Ed.D.

When Cindy Berck decided to pursue a doctoral degree in education, only one obstacle stood in her way: no such program existed at the time in northern Michigan, where she is director of human resources and grants at Traverse City Area Public Schools.

“I knew I needed an online program,” Berck says. She researched online programs to find one that married convenience with other qualities important to her. She wanted an academically rigorous, accredited program with highly qualified professors, easy-to-use online tools and excellent recommendations from graduates. She found all that and more at Northcentral University, an online university that is based in Prescott Valley, Ariz., but serves students in more than 80 countries.

“I like the fact that it’s self-paced,” she says. “The actual coursework is so well organized and so well thought-out that it’s very clear when you start class what you have to do to complete it.”

One-on-one mentoring is central to Northcentral’s model. By working from her offices at home and school, and via laptop while traveling, Berck completed 42 of the 51 required credits in 18 months. She is starting the dissertation phase of her degree, an Ed.D. with a specialty in educational leadership. “It’s heavy reading and writing, but when I need to move quickly, NCU is very responsive,” she says.

"Being the product of an online experience has been very positive for my work as a school administrator."

Berck says one of the most valuable aspects of the program is the interaction with other learners. “The fact that I now have access to administrators around the world has brought a new perspective and depth to what I can deliver here as a school administrator,” she says.

Northcentral University offers graduate degrees in education, business and psychology in addition to undergraduate degrees. The School of Education graduate program offers a Master of Education (M.Ed.), a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), and a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Education. It also awards a certificate for advanced graduate coursework that doesn’t require a dissertation. The Ed.D. program offers 10 specialties: Curriculum and Teaching; Educational Leadership; Educational Technology and E-Learning; English as a Second Language (ESL)/English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL); Exceptional Student Education; Global Training and Development; Higher Education Leadership; Instructional Leadership; International Education; and Organizational Leadership. The university is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

The task of keeping the degree pro- grams on the cutting edge falls to Dr. Tom Stapleford, director of curriculum and outcomes assessment. He ensures that course objectives and assessments are aligned with each other as well as with the broader goals and mission of the school—and that learners achieve them. “It ensures the currency of everything we do on an ongoing basis,” Stapleford says.

At an online university like Northcentral University, professionals can upgrade their credentials while balancing work and family obligations—without sacrificing academic rigor.

“For the adult learner, there is growing recognition that by coupling technology with the opportunity to work with a mentor one on one, as is the Northcentral model, we can meet different learning needs and learning styles,” says Dr. Dennis Lessard, Dean of the School of Education.

While she studies online for convenience, Berck finds that it gives her a professional edge. “I’m serving as a role model for other learners and teachers in the school district,” she says. “The use of technology is the future of education, and being the product of an online experience has been very positive for my work as a school administrator.”

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