Colorado Christian University is expanding their popular Master of Arts in Counseling (MAC) program to now be delivered online. This means those outside Colorado, or in isolated locales within the state, will soon have access to a CACREP (Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs) accredited Master of Counseling program.
“We’ve wanted to meet this growing need for some time,” explained Dr. Dale Piper, the MAC program director. “There’s a large demand for such training. We think this will make faith-based education a possibility for people in remote areas or those without a faith-based university nearby.”
Recently, CCU made the same type of move by offering the MAC program in Grand Junction – which lies near areas that are federally designated as underserved when it comes to mental health. “It’s the same driving force to increase availability,” said Piper.
Designing the seven semester program has allowed the MAC faculty to intentionally examine pedagogical tools and how content is delivered in every class. In fact, for the past several years, with an eye on the online option, course reviews have included the question of how the class could also be delivered online.
“The review process has been incredibly helpful – and has benefited in-seat classes, too,” said Dr. Candace McLain, an assistant professor for the program. “And we believe online classes will meet the needs of some individuals even better than in-seat, such as those who process internally and are reflective or introspective learners.”
While online classes became mainstream years ago, technology continues to allow for increased student-teacher interaction – and professors are finding that the creative use of available tools allows for a real “human touch.”
An example is the use of embedded audio comments in papers. “Rather than a student seeing a red mark, she can hear the tone of our voice when we correct a sentence,” noted Piper. “Technology doesn’t have to remove the human touch. It can enhance it.”
From videos with citation transcriptions to such embedded audio comments, the program will strive to keep the human touch that has been a hallmark of the in-seat programs. Three residential intensives – where students will congregate on CCU’s campus for face-to-face learning – will also help facilitate the communal aspect of learning.
“Those times will be heavily academic and clinical, but they will also stress spiritual formation and allow students to have the feeling of a retreat,” explained McLain.
The Online Master of Arts in Counseling program, which begins in August, kicks-off with one of these intensives to build a community that facilitates learning and spiritual development similar to in-seat cohorts. The cohort model of the program will let the same group of students take each class together – and meet in later semesters to celebrate how far they’ve come and continue learning.
“Counselor education is whole person development,” said Piper. “A counselor cannot ask others to go places emotionally where he hasn’t gone. This program is intended to have that spiritual and personal element, while preparing counselors clinically and professionally.”