Dental Hygiene Class Is College's First Distance-Learning Group to Earn Degrees

Published 06.01.2000


The first students to graduate as a group from a Distance Learning degree-completion program at Pennsylvania College of Technology were awarded their bachelor's degrees in Dental Hygiene recently in ceremonies held in Bryn Mawr.

Of the 11 Dental Hygiene students receiving bachelor of science degrees at Penn College's Distance Learning site at Harcum College, four graduated summa cum laude and six graduated magna cum laude.

Deborah A. Wilson, dean of the School of Health Sciences, and Kathleen E. Morr, assistant to the dean of the School of Health Sciences and director of the College's Dental Hygiene program, conferred the degrees. Penn College President Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour greeted the graduates in a videotaped message.

"Your accomplishment is significant," Dr. Gilmour told the group. "You will be the first graduates from our Distance Learning program, and you have earned your bachelor of science degree in Dental Hygiene. We are grateful that we can provide that opportunity for you in your own location, where you can continue your employment and earn your degree at the same time.... We are exceptionally proud to call you our alumni."

While other students have graduated from Penn College using Distance Learning credits, this is the first group to start together, complete course work at the same location and finish together as a class, said Fred T. Gilmour, director of Instructional Media Services at the College.

"This is the first of what we think will become a continuing trend at Penn College " the ability for more working professionals to complete a degree in a format that is convenient and flexible to accommodate a busy personal and professional schedule," he said.

The students in the Distance Learning Dental Hygiene program all are licensed dental hygienists seeking to further their education and expand employment opportunities. Morr said the bachelor's degree enables the graduates to obtain jobs in a variety of corporate settings, including pharmaceutical and dental-supply companies, and insurance firms, among others.

"It gives them much broader employment opportunities," she said.

Students in the program earn Penn College credits toward their degree. Attending part-time, the students finish their degree requirements in two years, taking advantage of a mix of Web-based, CD-ROM, videotape and video-conference instruction, Morr said. The Dental Hygiene degree-completion program also is offered at Distance Learning sites in Dauphin, Luzerne and Montgomery counties.

Noting the excellent academic performance of the inaugural graduating class, Morr said Distance Learning students typically are "highly motivated" and "very organized." She said Distance Learning places additional demands on instructors, who must be technologically savvy and pay close attention to students' response times. Despite the technological challenges posed, the program is running smoothly, Morr said.

"It clearly documents that we can deliver a quality program to a group of professionals that otherwise would not be able to earn a bachelor's degree," she said.

In addition to Dental Hygiene, Penn College offers three other degree-completion programs through Distance Learning course work: Applied Health Studies, Automotive Technology Management and Technology Management (Business Emphasis). By 2001, Morr said, the College hopes to offer the Distance Learning Dental Hygiene program to individual students − regardless of their location − through Web- and e-mail-based instruction. They need only have the appropriate computer hardware and software.

Tuition for Distance Learning programs is the same as for conventional course work, and textbooks are shipped to students by the College Store. Tests are administered by instructor-approved proctors.

To learn more about the Distance Learning programs at Penn College, call the Admissions Office or the Office of Distance Learning toll-free at 1-800-367-9222, or visit the College's Web site.