IU East’s first distance education graduate to receive diploma at tonight’s commencement

May 15th, 2009

Jerrell Spotwood’s short walk across the stage during Indiana University East’s 38th Commencement Ceremony at 6 p.m. will begin with a big first step – all the way from New Jersey.

Spotwood is the first IU East graduate to take most of his third and fourth year courses online, finishing with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies. IU East has been offering online courses for a number of years, including upper level courses in communication studies. Spotwood was able to piece together the necessary courses from a number of programs to complete the degree requirements.
Spotwood had completed an associate degree, and chose a bachelor’s in Communication Studies to help him acquire the skills to follow his dream of working in television and screenwriting.

Spotwood reported that he spent months researching distance education at approximately 50 other universities before deciding on IU East.

“I choose IU East because I was looking for a traditional, reputable university that offered upper level communication courses at a distance,” Spotwood said. “I learned the courses consisted of online lectures, group assignments and forums which assured me that I would not miss out on a quality education, but that I would be interacting with classmates and professors via the Web.”

As an online student, Spotwood said he found the courses challenging and enlightening.

“I will tell students that they will find themselves maturing after every assignment. A significant misunderstanding of online learning is that it is easy. I have heard this from people who have not taken online classes. It is my pleasure to inform prospective IU East online students that the only thing difference from an online course and a course taught on campus is the commute to the school.”

Although Spotwood has been a virtual student at IU East, he did visit the campus once before.

“After I started taking courses at IU East, I felt a sense of belonging to the university and the state. I had professors who challenged me over and over and an academic advisor who helped me grow personally and academically. Therefore, I had a sense of obligation to meet and thank the faculty of IU East,” Spotwood said.

“The most memorable part of my visit was actually arriving on campus and seeing all of the IU East banners hanging along the entrance to campus. I thought: wow, this is it, I’m here! I will never forget the hospitality of Hoosiers.”

Jerrell Spotwood has one more memorable visit in store as he arrives at the Tiernan Center to be awarded his diploma in person.

“I feel that my IU East education helped to point me in the right direction in life and without it, I would still be searching for a way.”

The experiences of students like Spotwood with online courses led IU East to seek approvals for the entire third and fourth year of three bachelor’s degree programs: business, communication studies and English, with a specialty in Technical and Professional Writing. Those programs were officially approved last fall.

While IU East’s core mission will continue to be a regional one, serving residents of east central Indiana and west central Ohio, the campus expects online enrollment to grow and now enrolls students from 20 different states.

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